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Retired nurse aged 99 takes on kayaking challenge to thank the NHS

Elaine Gray fundraises for Bristol’s Children Hospital by doing laps of Lake Decoy in Newton Abbot, Devon, months before her 100th birthday

Elaine Gray fundraises for Bristol’s Children Hospital by doing laps of Lake Decoy in Newton Abbot, Devon, months before her 100th birthday

A retired nurse is raising money for the NHS by kayaking miles around Devon, at the age of 99.

Elaine Gray, who was a staff nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in the 1940s and then worked at the National Blood Transfusion Service, still loves swimming in the sea and paddling her kayak and canoe.

Raising money for Bristol Children’s Hospital

In the spirit of Captain Tom Moore, who raised money for the NHS by doing laps of his garden during the pandemic as he approached his 100th birthday,

Elaine Gray fundraises for Bristol’s Children Hospital by doing laps of Lake Decoy in Newton Abbot, Devon, months before her 100th birthday

Elaine Gray in her kayak Picture: Mark Passmore/APEX

A retired nurse is raising money for the NHS by kayaking miles around Devon, at the age of 99.

Elaine Gray, who was a staff nurse at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in the 1940s and then worked at the National Blood Transfusion Service, still loves swimming in the sea and paddling her kayak and canoe.

Raising money for Bristol Children’s Hospital

In the spirit of Captain Tom Moore, who raised money for the NHS by doing laps of his garden during the pandemic as he approached his 100th birthday, Ms Gray – who turns 100 in October – kayaked laps around Decoy Lake in Newton Abbot as part of her latest challenge.

Ms Gray, who has already raised thousands of pounds for the NHS, is fundraising for Bristol Children’s Hospital, after her eight-year-old great-grandson Reme Forte became gravely ill and needed surgery.

‘While I still can, I want to give as much as possible,’ she said. ‘One of my great-grandchildren had a serious operation in 2021 and I would like to help Bristol Children's Hospital to show our gratitude. We are exceptionally privileged to have the NHS and I feel we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to those who dedicate their lives to the care of others.

‘My legs aren't as strong as they once were, but I can still power through with my arms and do my bit. I've been a water baby all my life – I just love to be in or on the water as much as I can.’

Well known for her fund-raising feats

After completing her nursing training, Ms Gray worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital as a staff nurse until 1948. The following year she began working with the National Blood Transfusion Service, including running the blood donation drive in Torquay from 1949 for more than 40 years.

Her daughter Sara Beall said she is well known because of her exploits.

‘Everybody who knows her calls her a legend,’ she said. ‘She still swims in the sea, she kayaks on the sea and until recently did a lot of walking.’


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