Blackpool Tower will be lit up yellow and dark blue this week to help celebrate the 90th birthday of the Guide Dogs charity.
It all started in 1931 when two intrepid women who had heard about assistance dog training in Europe and America started Guide Dogs from a lock up garage on the Wirral.
Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond trained the first four dogs, who were paired with veterans of the first world war blinded by wounds or gas.
The dogs – Flash, Folly, Judy and Meta – gave those men immediate independence and that was the start of the charity so instantly recognisable today.
Members of the Guide Dogs Fylde Coast group
Local Guide Dog users and supporters are also marking the 90th anniversary by taking part in informal ‘Glo-walkies’ on Blackpool Promenade to help celebrate and raise money.
The Fylde Coast group has also had a fundraising stall in Houndshill shopping centre, one of their first public events since Covid restrictions were lifted.
Guide Dogs North West spokesman Shirley Morgan said: “We are having buildings lit for us around the UK and the Tower will be lit for Guide Dogs on Thursday October 7 – part of a month of celebrations and hopefully a very clear reminder of what Guide Dogs does.
“We have many guide dog users on the Fylde coast, but the charity supports adults and children with sight loss in many ways. Help from Guide Dogs doesn’t only come with a cold wet nose!
“Lockdown had a huge impact on Guide Dogs. Like most charities, it saw a drop in community income, but the important task of socialising puppies and training guide dogs was also slowed, meaning that waiting times for a guide dog have increased.
“Now the charity wants to get back on track and hopes that the GD90 logo on the Tower on Thursday will be a powerful reminder of the work it does, not just in the North West, but throughout the UK.”
While many aspects of its service have changed dramatically over 90 years, some things remain the same. Shirley added: “The impact of being told that you are losing your sight is the same as it was 90 years ago – frightening and isolating. That’s why our reason for being here is still the same; we want people with sight loss to live the life they choose.
“It’s why we work with local authorities and transport providers to ensure that the needs of those with vision impairment are considered when it comes to redevelopment. Guide Dogs has been lobbying for more robust rules around the use of e-scooters, especially on pavements, and for more awareness around the rights of guide dog users to access shops and restaurants.
“In our 90th anniversary year we really hope to forge new links across communities to spread the word about what Guide Dogs does, perhaps through our speakers who visit schools, or by inviting groups to visit our regional Guide Dogs Training Centre at Atherton.
“Our Fylde Coast supporter group is also on the look out for new members and would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved.”
Gill Studden from St Annes is co-ordinator of the Guide Dogs Fylde Coast group and hopes many people and dogs will take up the Glo Walkies challenge during October. The Glo Walkies route is North Pier to The Sandcastle Waterpark, in either direction and co-ordinator Gill Studden is eager to get as many people involved as possible..
She said: “We welcome runners, walkers, toddlers, pram pushers, dog walkers, wheelchair and mobility scooter users and if you want to dress up with Glow items that’s great.
“Having a month to complete the challenge means you can choose the weather and fit it around your own schedule. Some of us will walk on Friday October 8, beginning at North Pier at 7pm.
“You don’t have to register but please take some photographs at the start and finish and share them with us at our Fylde Coast Guide Dogs Facebook page. We have a Justgiving page for donations and sponsorship too. It’s great being out and about again after all the restrictions of lockdown – come and join us!”
Details at www.glo-walkies.org.uk
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