Students learn of guide dog benefits

Students at Monaleen National School with Hanna the trainee guide dog and her handler Joan Heffernan. Picture: Mike Cowhey
CASTLETROY students have learnt of the positive impact an assistance dog can make on a person’s life.

CASTLETROY students have learnt of the positive impact an assistance dog can make on a person’s life.

Members of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind joined up with the Castletroy Lions Club to meet students at Monaleen National School and the Castletroy Gaelscoil.

The children met Sharon Davis and her assistance dog Bev, and Joan Heffernan, with her puppy Hanna, who is in training.

They learned that although guide dogs are most commonly used to help blind people, they can also help autistic children, and Bev has really helped Sharon’s son Aidan.

The school visits came after the Castletroy Lions Club sought to foster a stronger link between Irish Guide Dogs, and the local community.

Committee member Kieran Horgan said Lions Clubs worldwide had always held strong links with charities helping with sight problems, so the Irish Guide Dogs tie-up is a natural fit.

Throughout his time on the Castletroy Lions Club, Kieran has helped foster links with charities helping with sight problems.

“The Lions Club has always been involved in diseases of the eye and eye projects. We have collected spectacles [for third world communities], and supported diabetes which can cause blindness. But curiously, there has never been a great linkage between the Lions Club in Ireland, and Irish Guide Dogs,” he explained.

He said the interest shown by the students of the schools was “tremendous”.

“There was a warm reception from the children and teachers, who were delighted to hear first hand from people who had guide dogs placed with them,” Kieran added.

Irish Guide Dogs receives 80% of its funding through fundraising and donations.

With this in mind, this Sunday, June 9, they are arranging a family fundraising walk at the University of Limerick.

Starting and finishing at the Pavilion, near the all-weather pitches, the 45 minute walk is open to all. To take part, telephone 1850 506 300.

Meanwhile, Kieran is working on plans for a ‘Gathering’ of guide dogs in September, where people with guide dogs will meet up for an event, to further publicise the great work done by Irish Guide Dogs.

The Castletroy & District Lions Club will be liaising with other Lions Clubs to make this event a memorable one - and it is hoped that an Irish record might even be broken in terms of the number of assistance dogs in one place!