A GOOD samaritan who clapped key workers into Basildon Hospital for 40 consecutive days was left overwhelmed when socially-distanced crowds paid tribute to him as he started “work” for the final day.

Colin Wilkinson brought joy to hospital staff by clapping for them every morning and helped put up a rainbow banner on the roundabout outside Basildon Hospital, supporting the NHS.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Mr Wilkinson’s marathon show of support came to an end today, but he was lost for words when countless residents showed their appreciation and Mayor of Basildon David Burton-Sampson presented the hero with a precious gift.

“It felt like I was walking on a film set,” said Mr Wilkinson, a 65-year-old born-again Christian who lives in Lee Chapel South.

“I knew there was going to be a few people to say thank you, but I was blown away.

“A few people stood on the roundabout with me, including my daughter, which was the loveliest thing.

“It was an unbelievable experience and I can’t believe the impact this has had. It has finally hit home what it means to people.”

Since lockdown was enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic in March, key workers across the country have worked around the clock in an attempt to save countless lives.

Mr Wilkinson was keen to hail those at Basildon Hospital.

“Someone said I am a star and I will take that, but the NHS workers are the real heroes in all this,” added Mr Wilkinson.

“The Mayor of Basildon made a point of saying in his speech ‘the NHS workers were heroes before and now they are superheroes’. I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

“Dani Mayo and David Bates, the chaplains at the hospital, have played a massive role as well and I want to thank them personally.”

A wooden cross with a blue ribbon stating ‘Thank you, Colin’ was presented to Mr Wilkinson by Mr Burton-Sampson this morning.

The gift was made by Gavin Stansell after his wife Kim, a close friend of Mr Wilkinson, wanted to create a lasting memento.

“I will cherish that wooden cross,” admitted Mr Wilkinson.

“The memories are what I will hold with my forever.”

Mr Wilkinson received a huge amount of support from hospital staff and residents over the course of the 40 days.

His efforts were also shared by thousands on social media.

Mr Burton-Sampson was honoured to present Mr Wilkinson with his gift.

He said: “One of Colin’s close friends had created a beautiful wooden cross on behalf of the NHS workers and residents of the borough.

“Colin cheered everyone up and it was a great way to say thank you for his unbelievable service at such a difficult time.”

Having applauded the key workers travelling into Basildon Hospital for close to two months, Mr Wilkinson’s well wishes were reciprocated.

Mr Burton-Sampson added: “It was really beautiful to see so many of the hospital workers coming out to thank Colin.

“There were socially-distanced crowds either side of the road and they were so appreciative of what Colin has done.

“The NHS workers have been our superheroes throughout this crisis but there are so many heroes who have done special things to help us through this.

“The effort Colin has made to get over to the hospital every morning is fantastic.

“He has given the workers the impetus to go and do what they have been doing to help save lives.”

Basildon Hospital’s lead chaplain was keen to praise Mr Wilkinson for his dedication to thanking key workers every morning for 40 days.

Ms Mayo said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by Colin’s dedication and commitment these last 40 days.

“He’s been welcoming and clapping our staff day in and day out. We’ll all hold Colin in our hearts in these days to come, as he’s been a light in the darkest of moments.

“We’re really grateful for how he has supported us here at Basildon.”