Kath Mulligan - Volunteer

Kath talks her way towards the £1m mark for Guide Dogs

The chatterbox that came good!

When champion Guide Dogs fundraiser Kath Mulligan was at school she was frequently told by her teachers that she was a ‘chatterbox’ who would do well to talk less and pay closer attention in class. However, after nearly 40 years of volunteering for Guide Dogs, Kath’s communications skills have stood the charity in good stead.

Kath Mulligan with JoelKath helped create the Oxford and District branch, formally known as the South and West Oxon branch. To-date, this group of volunteers has raised well over £800,000 to help Guide Dogs with its life-changing work; helping blind and partially sighted people get out and about independently.

“It’s all about communications,” explained Kath. “I’m very much a ‘people person’ and I love talking to people and taking an interest in their lives.

“This combined with a winning smile, persistence and a willingness to write to everybody and anyone who might be willing to support Guide Dogs is what has really paid off for me.”

It all began in 1974 when Kath and her children encountered the Guide Dogs stand at the Middlesex County Show. At the time Kath’s husband, John, was a serving RAF SNCO and they lived in services accommodation at RAF Uxbridge. However, despite this logistical challenge the opportunity for her and her family to become puppy walkers was too strong to resist.

Their first puppy, Austin, was an instant hit when he treated her youngest son, Richard, as a surrogate litter mate. After a couple of years as puppy walkers the family was asked to take on a German Shepherd bitch that proved to be an outstanding dog. So much so that she was selected to be a brood bitch and as a result Kath became a brood bitch holder.

Kath came close to giving up her involvement in 1977 when she went back to work. However, John had retired and so they were able to continue looking after the brude bitch. At this time Kath decided to stay on as part of a new Bicester-based support group for Guide Dogs volunteers. This 10-strong group quickly gelled and surprised everyone, including themselves, when their first fundraising event, a Christmas bazaar, raised £5,000.

Branch status quickly followed with Kath as Secretary – a post she held for 13 years. She then moved to chair the group which she still does today.

“Over the years there have been some memorable moments.” Kath continues: “Our branch here in Oxford has always been quite a small, tight knit team of friends. We all get on really well together and are very much singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to fundraising. “The branch was always one of the feature floats in the Lord Mayor of Oxford’s parade through the city and we have enjoyed wonderful support from businesses such as Morelands Brewery.” However, Kath’s most memorable donation came when she and the branch’s Community Fundraiser, Pam Mills, received a routine call from an elderly lady in Thame. She asked to meet them both at her modest bungalow and promptly handed over a cheque for £200,000. It transpired that the lady was the widow of an eminent drug chemist who had invented a drug that’s used the world over as a blood thinner.

Summing up Kath said: “Working within a fund raising branch like Oxford has been, and continues to be incredibly rewarding when you see the real life-changing difference that a guide dog makes. You just can’t describe that feeling when you see a new partnership in action for the first time and know you’ve made a major contribution to bringing a blind or partially sighted person and guide dog together! I strongly encourage anyone who is considering volunteering to get in touch with their nearest Guide Dogs Mobility Team.”

To find out more about the work of guide dogs and how you can get involved visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus or call 0345 1430224.

Calls to our Mobility teams will cost 3 pence per minute plus your telephone company’s access charge.