Heroic Tony Hudgell learns of Lionhearts call from his favourite player Tammy Abraham

Monday 21 Sep 2020
Tony Hudgell with his Lionhearts shirt, after being named in the squad by his favourite player Tammy Abraham

Chelsea fan and celebrated young fundraiser Tony Hudgell was surprised by his favourite player Tammy Abraham to find out about his call-up to England’s Lionhearts squad.

The heroic five year old, who suffered a double amputation of both his legs in 2017, has raised over £1.6m for the Evelina Hospital in London by walking 10km in Kings Hill, Kent earlier this summer.

Tony was inspired after seeing Captain Sir Tom Moore’s achievements during the COVID-19 lockdown and after receiving new prosthetic legs, decided he would practise walking on them each day throughout June alongside his adoptive parents Paula and Mark Hudgell.

By asking friends and family to sponsor him, he had the aim of reaching 10km and raising £500 by the end of the month.

But his story quickly went national and led to a flurry of donations from across the world to smash his target for the hospital, which saved his life as a baby and will continue to help him with his difficulties as he grows older.

 

He was initially treated at the Evelina for three months when he arrived at just a few weeks old, following tragic physical abuse from his birth parents. He was seriously ill and close to dying, before Paula and Mark firstly fostered and then adopted him.

And Tony now finds himself lining up in the Lionhearts squad alongside one of his heroes, Captain Sir Tom as the ninth member to be named.

"We're very proud of him, he's quite a character,” Paula told Tammy, after the Three Lions and Chelsea striker made a recent video call to Tony.

"It's just unbelievable. There's 1000s and 1000s of people out there who deserve this, but the fact Tony has caught people's hearts, he's a national treasure now.

"It's fantastic for him and that's all we wanted him to be, to know he's very loved and very special and an incredible little boy.

"Nothing stops him, he keeps going and any challenge he always overcomes it.”

Tony and his mum Paula wave at Tammy Abraham as he speaks on the call

The Lionhearts initiative, supported by BT, will pay homage to 23 inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation.

Over 60 people put forward Tony for inclusion and our panel of judges agreed on the football-mad youngster being named, with shirt number 19 presented to him at home.

And Tammy admits he’s hoping to meet Tony in person too, either at a future England game or when he visits Chelsea’s training ground following a recent invite from Blues boss Frank Lampard.

“Congratulations to you and Tony, you guys have done a wonderful job and should be so proud,” Tammy told Paula.

“It’s been lovely to meet you and I hope to see you in real life soon, I’d love to meet you and I hope you guys enjoy it and keep going strong.”

The squad so far...

1.Captain Sir Tom Moore – Record-breaking centenarian who raised more than £32million for NHS Charities Together

2. Ranjit Singh – The wrestling coach from Wolverhampton helped organise daily meals for 300 people and the distribution of PPE equipment

5. Betty-Leigh Allinson – Football shirt enthusiast aged five who has raised over £27,000 for a Hertfordshire hospice through a cycling feat

9. Tobias Weller – Nine-year-old inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore to raise almost £150,000 for Sheffield-based charities

10. Joe Wicks - The YouTube fitness coach led the nation and beyond through a daily exercise class for 18 weeks during lockdown.

15. Hassan Akkad – Award-winning film maker who answered a call to be a cleaner in his local hospital before raising awareness of NHS bereavement fund

16. Akbar Khan - Bradford-based volunteer for a charity for people with disabilities who brought their community together during COVID-19 lockdown 

19. Tony Hudgell - Celebrated young fundraiser who raised £1.6m for the hospital which saved his life as a baby

22. Daniel Sukula – Community leader from Bolton who, after being saved from deportation back to DR Congo, founded a centre for disadvantaged youths

By Nicholas Veevers