Mayor's Blindfold Walk

Mayor doing blindfold walk with a guide dogSevenoaks Mayor's Walk 27th February 2014 - Organised by Sevenoaks Branch Chair, Marion Clayton

I joined Guide Dogs just 4 years ago as a fundraiser on the Sevenoaks Committee. After two meetings the Treasurer resigned for personal reasons and I took over the role. At that time I knew very little about how Guide Dogs worked, but I wanted to get involved in helping to raise money for such a good cause. I have enjoyed helping to organise events to raise money and felt good to see how Sevenoaks grew and diversified away from the usual fundraising ideas. There is a brilliant team, and when I took over as Chairman last year, I wanted to get more "joined up" and get the whole story. My focus had previously always been on raising money, but after last Thursday I feel we as volunteers should be doing more to educate people about the value of Guide Dogs.

The Mayor's Blind Fold Walk was the first event where raising money was not the main aim. The aim was to raise awareness. The Mayor talked about this at our Christmas supporters evening and I took the initiative from there.

I spoke to the Mayors office and agreed a date. Cassi Moss, The My Guide Ambassador, was my next inspiration, and said that she would arrange the Guide Dog's staff and training dog for the event. I felt that I must have a start and a finish, so Waitrose was the obvious choice as last year they had held a My Guide level 1 training session in their store, so we already had a relationship there.

I asked them if I could "take over" part of their restaurant for a place to meet, which they were happy to agree to. I then thought of the end - and as Waitrose's tends to get busy at lunch time, I arranged a bar in the local pub- the Chequers.

I thought of fundraising as a secondary thing on this occasion - so we arranged to get the license from the local authority. We only raised a small amount, but think more importantly, we made quite an impact in the town as I had asked three guide dog owners and two puppy walkers to join the walk. I did not want it to turn into a circus, but wanted us to be noticed.

The Mayor and his wife, walked a route blindfolded around the town centre incorporating being Sighted Guided by Cassi Moss- My Guide Ambassador, using a long cane with Rachael Newton Mobility Instructor, and walking with James Booker- Guide Dog Mobility Instructor and Badger, an advanced training dog. They both got thoroughly stuck in to the walk, and hopefully had a thought provoking experience of what it might be like to be blind or partially sighted.

I cannot describe the buzz that I got from doing this. It was such a successful morning, the weather was kind to us, the Mayor and Mayoress were brilliant and such good sports. I am sure that we will not only get media coverage, but the people of Sevenoaks will be more aware of Guide Dogs and the work we do. Waitrose have asked me to send photo's as they are putting a piece about supporting the event in their Company Newsletter.

I so enjoyed doing something other than raising money. It was so rewarding to think that we as a Branch have made an impact on the public, by showing how valuable the dogs are, and what they can achieve.

Marion Clayton- Sevenoaks Branch Chair


Sevenoaks Mayor's Walk 27th February 2014

Rachael with the Mayor doing a blindfold walk using a long cane

Blindfolded Mayor crossing the road using a long cane

Cassi guiding a blindfolded Mayor