MEMBERS of Antrim and Ballymena Guide Dogs Volunteers gathered last week to say thank you to a local man whose endurance walking feats have raised vital funds for the charity.
The group lined up at Broadway’s new ‘harmony hub’ to applaud Rasharkin’s Brian Doherty for his recent 50-miles (in 13 hours!) walk.
Brian, with just 10% vision himself has helped raise thousands of pounds for Guide Dogs NI by undertaking the mammoth sponsored walk along the North Antrim coast.
Brian was left almost totally blind after being diagnosed with a rare genetic eye disorder in 2010.
“I felt my life was over,” he said of that life-changing moment.
“Here I was approaching middle-age and, all of a sudden, could barely see.”
But, after suffering a period of depression, Brian was determined that his condition was not going to get the better of him
He qualified as a counsellor and now works for a medical practice in Ballymena.
And, despite being told he qualifies for a guide dog, he raises vital funds to ensure others can get that help and support.
He told the Guardian: “I still have 10% sight. There are many, many more people who have no sight at all.
“I’ve done training with a guide dog so that I will be ready when the time comes but I’m not at that stage yet.”
Brian’s latest sponsored walk went ahead in early July and saw around 50 people joined in at very stages of the 13-hour hike.
In the previous two years, Brian’s efforts have brought in almost £10,000 and he is hopeful that his latest walk will be the best fundraiser yet.
But it is not only about raising funds for Brian.
He believes that the charity needs to be highlighted for the vital work it does in providing guide dogs.
“These animals are trained to the highest degree so that a blind person can put their full trust in thedog.
“That is the real key factor. The difference these dogs can make to a person’s life is not quantifiable.
“They are a an invaluable safety tool and a wonderful companion.
“It takes around £56,000 to train each dog so you can see that there is a great need for support from the public,” he said.
Brian concluded: “I would like to thank ecverybody who supported the walk both physically and financially.
“I’d especially thank the Antrim and Ballymena Guide Dog Volunteers for their great support and I have to applaud the ‘route manager’, Terry Hasson for all his behind the scenes work and dedication to the event.
A ‘just giving’ page is in operation allowing members of the public to make contributions online.
Simply do a google search for ‘Just Giving - the docs 50 mile walk’.
Meanwhile, tickets will soon be available for a concert featuring Liam McLaughlin which is due to take place on Friday, August 24 at the Michelin Club. Watch local press for further details.