WHAT a challenge, WHAT a day and WHAT a performance – please just stop and take a minute to think about this: Last Saturday a group of willing volunteers gave up their time to tackle a challenge with the aim being to increase the awareness and raise funds for “Blind Veterans UK” and “Guide Dogs” – but this was certainly no ordinary challenge:
Meticulous planning over many weeks had gone into this task and everyone who participated or watched the event on Saturday was in total agreement that it was both extremely worthwhile and an experience never to be forgotten and on behalf of the two charities and 1874 Northwich FC we would like to give a huge thank you to all the participants, helpers and sponsors
Tony Rogers was the man behind this event of course and he had been involved over a number of weeks of planning and was first to arrive “with the larks” at Marbury Park to oversee most of the early logistics necessary to facilitate the event. To achieve a marathon it would be necessary to walk 18 laps of the 1.5 mile circuit that Tony had mapped out.
The walkers! – Image: Matt Draycott
Tony takes up the story of the day:
“On a personal note, I didn’t last very long wearing a blindfold, which disappointed me enormously. However, I found the sighted guiding just as traumatic. It didn’t register for the first few laps that I was actually my partners’ eyes and she was completely reliant on my physical guidance, verbal instructions and directions. It took me a while to realise that my role was the more important one, without a trustworthy sighted guide her charity challenge as a blind person would be impossible. This event has achieved so many goals but most importantly, to all who have been part of it, it has opened their eyes to the enormous physical, mental and emotional challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people, it has been a life changing experience that in all probability we’ll never forget.
“So at 07:00hrs fans from 1874 Northwich FC and soldiers from D Company 4 Mercian met at Marbury Park, Comberbach, Northwich to attempt the 27 mile blindfolded charity walk challenge. The event started at 08:30hrs with a total of ten teams, each consisting of a blindfolded walker and a sighted guide. Weather conditions were perfect for long distance walking and the day was full of excitement, apprehension and mixed emotions. Towards early afternoon it was apparent that the enormity of the challenge was taking its toll on the majority of the participants with seven teams retiring. The event was finally completed at 18:30hrs by three teams displaying some amazing personal feats of physical, mental and emotional endurance.
Pte Bob Needham (4 Mercian) completed the full distance sighted and blindfolded sharing sighted guides with Pte David Brinton and L/Cpl Carl Willock.
Lt Matt Styles (4 Mercian) completed the full distance blindfolded from start to finish with his sighted Guide Lizzi Brink.
Margaret Nixon (1874 Northwich) completed the full distance blindfolded from start to finish sharing sighted guides with John Coats and Tony Rogers
We had previously been told that this challenge was impossible but what would be the point of an easy challenge to these guys and gals!? We wanted to highlight the difficulties blind and partially sighted people undertake on a daily basis that has been achieved successfully by ALL who attempted this life changing experience.
Maggie Nixon, John Coates and Tony Rogers, Tim Baker and Jamie Kelly, Lt Matt Styles and Lizzi Brink, Adam Rogers and Lauren Gregory, Pte Dave Brinton, Pte Bob Needham and L/Cpl Carl Willock, Paul Ashley and Vicki England, Phil Burgess and Jackie Foxley, Ashley Rogers and Josh Robinson
With numerous fans, supporters and passers by wanting to be part of this event
Jenna Tidbury and Russ Kennerley, Joan Fairfield and June Collins, Pat and Sandra, Katie and Lynn and many others.
A huge thank you also goes out to all who helped and supported the event throughout the day Paul Stockton, Tony and Marguerite Fallows but the biggest thank you goes to Andrew Lowe (Event Manager) who ensured that everything ran smoothly.
Also Gaynor Monaghan and Tracey Digby (Guide Dogs) who spent the day with us, training, briefing and assisting along with many local Guide Dog owners who made the day more special.
£195 was raised on the day at Marbury Park with a further £147.48 raised with a bucket collection at the Barton Stadium from 1874 Northwich FC and AFC Darwen fans.
By Monday we had reached the iconic target figure of £1,874 with Gift Aid and the funds are still being received.
I can’t possibly thank everyone in person for all the help and assistance, I couldn’t even name everyone as the list is so long but on behalf 1874 Northwich FC Community Projects Team, Guide Dogs and Blind Veteran’s UK, I would like to say a huge emotionally extremely proud thank you to everyone who has sponsored, supported, contributed, donated, volunteered and participated in our ambitious event” – TONY ROGERS
Finally we end this special report with a couple of personal accounts from Saturday that describe the event, it’s aims and objectives perfectly:
“Yesterday was an incredible “1874 day”. I arrived at Marbury Park just after 7.30am to find Mr Rogers zooming around on a bike, checking that all the route markers were still in place. He’d been there since, well before the streets were aired! I knew that he had everything organised, as I had seen his detailed plan, but I was greeted by the sight of the marquee being erected, soldiers and fans preparing for the walk, the fantastic people from the Guide Dogs for the Blind (my favourite charity) with their dogs, dozens of drinks bottles and a tea urn!
Once everything was in place and after a quick training session with Gaynor, it was time for the off. One by one, the blindfolded person and their partner marched off into the park. The unlucky person who was partnered with me was Paul Ashley! As I was a bit mardy, Paul agreed to put the blindfold on and we gingerly set off. The next couple of hours were unbelievable, emotional and humbling. It reminded us to be grateful that we have our sight. Paul was totally reliant on me, which was worrying as I couldn’t read the map! Luckily Tony’s markers were clear and we found our way round! I had to guide him over the acorns and conkers, around puddles and through mud and leaves. But Paul described in detail how he felt, how strange it was, how his other senses had increased and how he knew we were on an incline even though I couldn’t really see one.
We had to stop at one point as the match referee rang to see if the pitch was ok for the game! I could see that the experience had got to Paul. We were lapped by other people, I think it was because we were gassing too much!!
Then I decided to give it a whirl. And it was an experience that will stay with me. I did joke that I only needed to take my specs off and I was as good as blind anyway, but to walk in complete darkness, with your life in your partners hands, was a little frightening. Well, we were near the lake….he could have pushed me in!
Quote of the day from Paul “grab me where you want Vic”. Say no more!!
Paul and I certainly didn’t walk a marathon but we felt better for taking part. We then had to dash, as we were working in the afternoon….at some game or other! I have so much respect for the others who volunteered their time, including our brave servicemen, to make this such a success. I really want us to reach the £1,874 target so if you haven’t already donated, then please spare a few quid. The challenge has also raised awareness of the difficulties faced by blind or partially sighted people. To Maggie, who kept at it when the rest of us gave in, well done girl!
And lastly to Mr Rogers who has been ‘hard at it’ for weeks, ensuring that the challenge was going to be a success, that as much publicity was attracted as possible, that money and awareness was raised. And he organised it as part of the community/charity side of 1874 Northwich. You’ve done an incredible, amazing job and I am very proud of what you achieved.
Thank you my mate!”
“I would just like to add my thanks and tremendous admiration for what Tony achieved yesterday. The event planning was excellent and it did what it said on the tin, raised awareness (and raised money). I thoroughly enjoyed the day (although my feet are not a pretty sight today and I have only just started moving relatively freely).
As the “blind” person, I think I had the easy task, I am hugely grateful to my guides John and Tony for looking after me and keeping me safe and on the right path. (well most of the time anyway!) their task was by far the more difficult, and I am not sure that I could have kept the concentration levels for that length of time. All I had to do was literally “follow blindly”. For me, the hardest part was when we stopped and I knew I was in a group of people, but not who was around me or whether anyone would respond if I spoke. The inability to make eye contact really hampered my ability or desire to communicate. If I take nothing else from this experience, I think understanding that feeling of remoteness and isolation will stick with me. All in all, it was an excellent event. Thanks to Andy for monitoring the laps, thanks for the very welcome massage after 12 laps and for all the support from everyone throughout the day. Once again thanks to John and Tony for helping me to achieve my personal goal of completing the course, I couldn’t have done it without you both. Let’s hope we can smash the target of 1874.”