Local blind woman raises over £1000 for Guide Dogs
A REGISTERED blind Watten woman has raised over £1000 for Guide Dogs after completing a walk along the Great Glen Way.
Caron Jones (56), of the village's Achingale Place, completed the 75-mile walk on Sunday, just as competitors taking part in the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon were reaching the finish line, so she was pleased to receive a round of applause.
She said: "This achievement means so much to me and has given me one of the biggest boosts of confidence in my ability since losing my sight."
To top it all off, while on the eight-day walk Caron received news that a possible guide dog had been found for her.
She is now all set to go to Orkney on October 14 to start two weeks of training with Upton, a 20-month-old Labrador cross golden retriever.
Caron, who has been on the waiting list for a guide dog since January last year, said: "It is really good news. If all goes well I will then do a further three weeks of training locally in the areas where I normally walk."
The walk from Fort William to Inverness proved "very scary" at times, but Caron was helped by her friend Kath Todd from Forres who acted as her support guide.
Caron, who had to retire from her role as a mental health nurse after sudden sight loss in 2015, said: "There were parts which were quite steep and gravelly underfoot. Some bits were more like an endurance test.
"It was thrilling as well. I met some lovely people along the way, mostly from other countries. I'm just so pleased I did it."
She said a lifesaver towards the end of their journey had been finding an eco-café in woodland at Abriachan where they got a welcome cup of tea.
"My biggest challenge was carrying my stuff on my back," Caron said.
In order to take on the gruelling walk she had to first get fit and lose weight with the help of Slimming World.
Caron, originally from North Wales, lost seven stone in weight before setting out on the walk.
She explained: "I had become very isolated as a result of losing my sight through thyroid eye disease and diabetic retinopathy, and friends from Slimming World motivated me by walking with me and saying hello to me along the way.
"Now I have friends for life, not just weighing-in days."
People have been making donations through her Facebook page – Cai Jones – and she has set up a JustGiving page. So far she has raised £1100, which Caron said was amazing as she had only set out to raise £100.
The average wait for a guide dog is between two and three years, with the lifetime cost of each dog estimated to be £55,000.