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From Ballymena to Carnlough - 10-year-old Lewis goes on the march for Guide Dogs NI

Shauna Loughran

Reporter:

Shauna Loughran

BALLYMENA boy Lewis Johnston is putting his best foot forward to raise money for Guide Dogs NI, by walking all the way from Ballymena to Carnlough.

Lewis will be joined by his dad Shane and the pair will be setting off from Dunclug Primary School, where he is a pupil, to The Bridge Inn.

Lewis plans to complete the walk on September 2 and mum Laura will be cheering him on with family and friends.

The big hearted 10 year old was inspired to take on the challenge after being in town and seeing a woman walking with her guide dog.

Lewis was intrigued at how the guide dog was carefully leading the lady safely through all the obstacles a town centre presents for those who are visually impaired.

He told the Guardian this is when he decided he wanted to fundraise to help “give people a better life.”

The energetic youngster isn’t daunted about taking on the 17 mile venture and has even roped his dad Shane and his aunt Charlene into the charity walk as well.

Lewis said he was looking forward to what he estimates will be a five to six hour walk, as the trio set off at 9am.

Mum, Laura, said: “When Lewis came to us and said he wanted to do this, we weren’t really surprised.

“He is always very considerate of others and I think seeing this lady with her guide dog really moved him.

“It is such a good cause because you never know what is going to happen and you never know if you may need one yourself some day.

“It costs so much money to train a guide dog and Lewis just wants to help in his own small way.

“He has become really interested in the Guide Dogs organisation and he has so many questions.

“We would love the opportunity for Lewis to meet a guide dog owner.”

Dad, Shane, said: “I think fair play to Lewis!

“It is a great idea and it’s for a great charity.

“We have already left sponsor forms and collection boxes in a number of local businesses, including Ladysmith Pets who generously donated.

“Lewis’ grandad said he might even walk part of the way with us! We are all very proud of him.”

Carla Smyth, Community Fundraising Development Officer at Guide Dogs NI, said:

“A huge thank you to Lewis for taking on this challenge in aid of Guide Dogs NI.

“When you consider it costs around £56,000 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement, it's clear why fundraisers like this are so important to our charity.

“We wish him all the best on September 2!"

Guide Dogs has been transforming the lives of people living with sight loss in Northern Ireland for over 30 years.

The charity has been developing and delivering more services to help blind and partially sighted people to get out and about on their own terms.

Across Northern Ireland it is estimated that around 9,000 blind and partially sighted people rarely leave home alone.

Guide Dogs work is funded entirely through voluntary donations. 70% of their income is through legacies left in peoples wills and through an army of volunteer fundraisers, local businesses, local organisations, charitable trusts and foundations.

Funds are also generated from people like Lewis, who selflessly give up their time to really get on board and helpl raise vital money for this vita service.

To donate to Lewis’ walk you can visit the justgiving link by searching laura-johnston16, or you can contact his mum Laura on facebook and she would be happy to supply sponsor forms.

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