How Not To Organise A Fundraising Event

I went to Letterkenny on Saturday afternoon for the ‘go walkies’ fundraiser for guide dogs. The idea is simple; people go for a short walk, and are encouraged to bring family members and dogs if they want. The events took place over the last few weekends around Ireland. Most people love walking and do it all the time, so you’d imagine it would be a popular, easy way to raise money. That wasn’t the case in Letterkenny. Myself, O.J and the four other people I brought were the only people there!

I don’t want to go into too much detail about this event because I didn’t organise it. The people who did probably did their best on the day, and they were very friendly and appreciated the fact that I travelled 40 minutes with my family and my guide dog. . On the other hand, I didn’t want to not write about it and pretend it didn’t happen. That wouldn’t have been right either, and I hope people can learn from what went wrong.
The only input I had was to volunteer to assist with any newspaper articles or local radio interviews if needed. They never happened and there was almost no publicity of the event. Even if there was, I think é15 per person was too expensive. People don’t have much money, and even if they did, I think charging that just to do a walk wasn’t fair. I think people really need to be more considerate when organising fundraising events these days.

I want to organise a fundraiser for Irish guide dogs before O.J retires. I’d love something a bit different, but haven’t come up with an idea I’m happy with yet. I might consider organising a ‘go walkies’ event in my local town next year. It will be cheaper, and I guarantee there’ll be lots of people there to walk, with or without their dogs.

Seven Years, Seven Funny Things

This day seven years ago, 22nd June 2007, I met O.J in Cork for the very first time. Hard to believe it’s so long ago now. I’ve written about it
here. So much has changed since then. O.J has made so many things possible, and has given me so much freedom.
Apart from being a great worker and great company, O.J is probably the funniest dog I know. Here’s seven things he does regularly that always make me laugh.

1. Mr. Sensitive: WhenO.J is lying beside me, his paws have to be touching me in some way. He lies on my feet or wraps his paws around my leg, especially when we’re on the bus. He will even do this to whoever happens to sit beside us. He walks to the left of everything, and I have to explain why to every new person we walk with because they think he is very strange. He’ll walk me into a puddle, just so he can walk himself around it.
2. Demanding attention: O.J randomly comes over to be petted, and if I’m doing something and ignore him, he will nudge my elbow and lift it up until I pet him. It’s impossible to type when he starts doing this, so I usually just end up laughing at him and giving him a big cuddle.
3. welcoming visitors: Anyone who comes to our door usually gets O.J’s bone, (and whatever other toys he can find) in their face. If There’s no toys around, he’ll try and pick up something else. Thankfully he’s learned that the cushions are not for playing with.
4. Play biting: If you talk to O.J and pet him for more than a couple of minutes with his harness off, expect lots of play biting and silliness. He is very gentle and it never hurts. He just can’t seem to keep his mouth closed!
5. Sniffing: O.J cant resist stopping to sniff, even often when he is working. I correct him, and two minutes later he does it again. He’ll sometimes turn his head slightly to the side while walking, and grab a piece of grass to eat.
6. Noisy dog: O.J loves to bark, and even if you tell him to stop, he’ll close his mouth and still try to bark, so it sounds hilarious. He groans when he’s lying down or stretching, barks in his dreams, and has recently howled a few times in his sleep. Sometimes he whines if he’s excited, especially if he sees the beach, or if I show him his lead without the harness and ask him if he wants to go to the beach. Otherwise, he’s a very quiet dog!
7. Such a chancer! When O.J is trying to do something he shouldn’t, he can move so quietly, it’s scarey! He loves taking other dog’s beds, and he’d eat any food if he had the chance. If he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll do it as slowly as possible. There’s been times where I’ve told him to go to bed maybe three times, and on the third time, he’ll go and have a drink of water on his way to bed, as if he really needed it. He does things in his own time, nobody else’s! Today when we were out for breakfast, he attempted to eat a napkin, leaving it in pieces on the floor. Recently when we were out for dinner he chewed a beer mat. He positions himself so close to the thing he wants that sometimes you don’t even realise he’s up to something.

I had hoped to take O.J to the beach today, but it didn’t happen. Instead we went for a few walks. One of those was the walk back from my parent’s house, which was the first walk I ever did with O.J in Donegal. It’s still one of his favourite places, and mine too.


I work in Letterkenny two/three days a week. These are, what my youngest nephew calls “days on”, which I suppose makes sense, since weekends with no work (or school in his case) are days off. It’s a phrase my family use regularly now!
Anyway, today was a day off, and apart from getting up early and doing my shopping in the morning, I had no plans for the rest of the day. The weather was going to be very hot, so I wanted to do something outside. My mum’s students were going sailing, and she rang to tell me there was room on the bus if I wanted to come. I’ve heard about the great work that
do, and I’ve wanted to go sailing for ages, so this last minute decision was a great opportunity.

Sailability provides opportunities for people with disabilities to experience being on a boat. The boats can also take wheelchair users, without them needing to transfer. The staff are so friendly and helpful, making everybody feel welcome, and encouraging them to participate. Our group went on the big boat first, and then I was taken out in a dinghy with one of the staff members. Small boats freak me out more than big ones do, but they were both really relaxing. It was funny to be in the middle of the river Foyle, going under the bridge that we drive over so many times without thinking. I’d love to have had the opportunity to try sailing, but it wasn’t possible with the number of students. I’ll just have to come back another time.

Apart from the Sailability organisation and what they do, I was really impressed by the students that I spent the day with. If you have a stereotypical view of people with autism (which thankfully I don’t), the four boys would make you think twice. They dealt with changing plans, lots of waiting around, following instructions and making conversation with no problems. Like all pupils, they have very different personalities, likes and dislikes, and it was nice to get to know them a bit more. Spending time with them is always great fun. One of them became my new friend today. When he saw me on the bus, he asked where O.J was, because he’s afraid of dogs. When I told him he was at home, asleep in his bed, he was happy, and actually spent time sitting beside me during the day. Although he instantly associated me with the dog, he obviously didn’t see me in any negative way, which was great.

When we got back to the school, a barbecue had just finished, and the students were having
lime-dancing lessons out in the yard. I’m not a dancer, but it seemed like fun!
I got a huge welcome home from the dogs, and spent the evening celebrating my dad’s birthday with dinner and cake.
So all in all, it was a very unplanned, but very good day. Tomorrow is a “day on”, but I can’t really complain.

Because I’m Happy…

I’ve been thinking of a reason to blog for the last few days, and that seems as good a reason as any.

I seemed to spend a lot of time last month feeling tired, thinking about my next dog a lot (even though it’s hopefully eighteen months away yet, and I don’t need to think about it), and worrying about not having a job and not knowing exactly what I want to do.

A friend’s hen weekend was the perfect distraction. We stayed in
this amazing house
for a few days. People came and went, and we had lots of fun. We spent an afternoon at
Jungle NI,
which I’d definitely recommend. I don’t do as many outdoor things like this as I should, but it’s so much fun. The treetop climbing course took me completely out of my comfort zone, especially since my friends made me go first, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. The instructors were so helpful, and encouraged me to try everything. The idea of a blind person up 80 feet high (even though I was in a harness) didn’t phase them at all. I was on a high for the rest of the weekend after that!

Last week we found out that I got funding for another year of disability awareness training from Irish Aid. They gave us everything we applied for which surprised me, but I’m so grateful. I’m looking forward to working on improving the workshops over the summer, and meeting at least twice as many students as we met last year from September onwards.

O.J had a 24 hour tummy bug last weekend in Carlow, which he generously passed on to Orrin. He had his annual vaccination this week, and it was a relief to have a few things checked and hear that the vet was happy. It seems that the st. Bernard we met a couple of months ago might have bruised his ribs a bit, but he’s in no discomfort at all. Since he left the vet, he’s been full of energy and just wants to play all the time. He’s so cute! I took my dad for breakfast this morning, and O.J practically ran the whole way into town. My dad said, ‘Am I getting slow or something, or is that dog getting faster?’ Even the staff in the cafe laughed at his enthusiastic entrance into the building. Dougal has been in a brilliant mood for the last couple of months too. It’s like owning a puppy again. Let’s hope it lasts, because when the dogs are like this, we all have so much fun! We intended going for a short walk the other day, but ended up making it three times longer, just because when we got going, we all seemed to be in the mood to walk. I love when that happens.

Today I spent a few hours helping a couple of people with assignments for a Braille course they are doing. I don’t know if Braille has slightly changed, or I’ve invented my own unique way of writing some contracted words over time. Either way, I think we all learned a few new things.

Finally, I’ve been listening to music again recently. Counting down the days until the new David Gray album comes out at the end of June. My favourite piece of music at the minute is from the new ‘other voices’ series 12 album. It’s called ‘the Finnishline’ and it’s by Colm Mac Coniomaire. I’ve been dying to hear it again since first hearing it in February when he played in Derry. It’s not online, but trust me, it’s magic!
If anyone’s still reading, what music are you listening to these days?