Tony Moroney is living proof you should never judge a book by its cover.
You may not think it’s possible but this man, who is 99 percent covered in tattoos, has just raised $100,000 for HeartKids – a charity that provides support for children with Heart Disease and their families.
Tony – also known as Top Hat Tony, has spent majority of the last five years standing on the streets of Woodford with a can, using his unusual appearance as a way to fundraise.
“Most of the money has come from Woodford, the town has gotten right behind me,” he said.
“People can’t miss me as I usually walk around without a shirt on. There’s a bit of a shock in seeing me”.
The 50-year-old’s generous quest began in 2010 when he met a four-year-old boy named Benji, who had already had four open-heart surgeries in his lifetime.
“This kid had hardly had a chance at life and it was nearly snatched away from him,” Mr Moroney said.
“I had to do something for him”.
So he started an EveryDay Hero page, got himself a trusty tin and hit the streets.
And while his tattooed body often helped with his efforts, it also hindered them.
“I get called a lot of things – I had one bloke call me an ‘oxygen thief’ because of the way I looked… I was at the local markets rattling the can asking for donations,” he said.
“I was quite taken aback by that, but if I didn’t have these tattoos I’d just be another Joe on the street, people wouldn’t give me a second glance.
“Now I’m not just an average Joe anymore… I’m someone people want to stop and talk to and have a look at”.
And with a body suit that cost more than $100,000 and hours of sitting under the needle, he expected to get a few strange looks.
“It’s a good icebreaker. I’ve had people come up and give me money for a photo. I love having my photo taken and helping people. It gives me a really good feeling,” he said.
Unfortunately Tony’s goodwill and generosity hasn’t spared him from his own ailments. He developed a heart problem of his own just a few months after he started fundraising.
“My heart is playing up… I’ve had nine minor attacks and two big ones. I didn’t have… it’s hereditary,” he said.
“It’s a frightening thing to have hanging over your head”.
Despite this he’s put his own health on the backburner to do something for his community.
“These are children we’re talking about, they haven’t had a chance to grow up. I’ve had a life”.
Tony is also juggling to care for his wife full time, who suffers from fibromyalgia (chronic muscle pain).
“It’s like an arthritis to all the muscles in the body,” he said.
The couple has lived off a pension since 2002.
“We’ve raised more money for HeartKids than the money we’ve received from the pension itself,” Mr Moroney said.
But the pair don’t mind doing it a bit tough as they know life could be a lot tougher.
“Annie (Tony’s wife) thinks what I do is wonderful, she’s behind me 110 percent.
“I’ve had days where I’ve nearly thrown in the towel because of a few comments people have made and the way I’ve been treated but she always says ‘think of the kids’,”
“I’ve had some incredible highs and some major lows, she snatches me out of the down times”.
One of the highs for Tony was being crowned Moreton Bay Regional Council’s Citizen of the Year, earlier this year (2015).
And while he wasn’t chasing recognition he did like seeing the impact his fundraising efforts had for HeartKids.
The Queensland Branch is set to publicly thank him later this week.
“Annie and I both worked out we were put on this world to help people, and that’s what we do,” he said.
If you’d like to help Tony raise money for HeartKids at his Everyday Hero page here.
Information on HeartKids can be found at www.heartkidsqld.org.au.
Morning news break – July 8