Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Charity champ’s tribute to supporter
A Christmas wish has come true for a Lanarkshire charity champion whose fortunes were turned around by Guide Dogs.
Scott Cunningham thought his life had come to an end in 1993 when he lost his sight in the space of three weeks after his optic nerves suddenly died away.
But all that changed in 1995 when Scott was partnered with his first guide dog, Ike, who gave him confidence to complete an HND course and return to employment.
Now, he’s been able to keep the name alive of the kind-hearted woman who raised Ike as a puppy – by naming a young guide dog after her.
“Basically, my world had caved in because there was no future,” explained Scott, of Larkhall.
“There was no real reason to continue on with life.”
When Ike came into his world and gave him a new zest for life, Scott embarked on a fundraising mission as a way of repaying the Guide Dogs charity.
Among the supporters who turned out regularly to back his fundraising events were Anne Brown and her husband Jim – the volunteers who raised Ike.
Anne and Jim looked after Ike for the first year of his life before handing him back to the charity to enable him to begin his formal training as a guide dog.
To date, Scott has raised an incredible £300,000 for the charity, and has donated cash to name several guide dog puppies, including ‘Anne.’
Christmas became truly magical for Scott, when he and his current guide dog, Lincoln, were able to meet up with Anne and her volunteer puppy raisers, Alex and Frances Kemp – a couple who are performing the same role as did the Browns with Ike.
Scott, who was awarded an MBE for his magnificent fundraising efforts, said: “Anne and her husband, Jim, became such good friends after Ike qualified with me back in 1995.
“They put in such an incredible effort with Ike and were very proud of what an active life he gave me.
“Anne and Jim would come along to support all the fundraising events that I organised, all over the country.
“Sadly, Anne passed away two years ago after her brave battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“Naming a guide dog puppy in Anne’s memory ensures that her legacy lives on with Guide Dogs after everything she did for the charity over the years.”
When someone like Scott loses their sight, Guide Dogs’ Glasgow community team, based in Hamilton’s Auchingramont Road, is on hand to provide mobility-boosting services to adults, as well as children and young people to make sure they don’t lose their freedom as well.
Over 360,000 people in the UK are registered blind or partially sighted and, of these, 35,000 are children or young people. In total, more than two million people in the UK live with some form of sight loss.
Guide Dogs’ purpose is to provide lifechanging services for the independence of people living with sight loss, and also for their friends and family.
But it’s been another tough year for Lanarkshire volunteers who fundraise for Guide Dogs, as their ability to meet the public at events and collections has been curtailed due to the pandemic.
In this, its 90th anniversary year, the charity has launched a Christmas appeal with the hope of raising enough money to fund 12 new, life-changing guide dogs.
Pam White, fundraising manager at Guide Dogs, said: “Over the last year, our wonderful fundraising volunteers have been unable to get out and meet the public at collections and events with
their friendly, fundraising dogs who, for many, are the face of Guide Dogs in their local communities.
“While it can be a challenge for our fundraising groups to venture out this December, they still want to fundraise for Guide Dogs. Many of these volunteers are guide dog owners and service users who really understand and value the work Guide Dogs does for them personally, and for so many across the UK.
“We know that our four-legged fundraisers will be particularly missed this year, so our ‘12 Guide Dogs of Christmas Collection’ campaign has been showcasing some of these amazing doggy volunteers virtually to the public over 12 days, on our website.
“Each guide dog could give someone with sight loss the gift of confidence to get out and about safely – whether helping their owner visit family or friends, or to shop for that special surprise gift for a loved one.
“Any donations will help provide lifechanging, practical support not just at Christmas, but all year round.”
Pam added: “From enjoying every magical Christmas moment, to the simple festive pleasures that most people take for granted, our ambition is a future where everyone with sight loss is able to live the life they choose.”
Find out how you can help fund 12 new life-changing guide dogs this Christmas by visiting www.guidedogs. org.uk/12-dogs-of-christmas
Eachguidedogcouldgivesomeonethegift of confidence to get out and about safely