Nicky Kealy, Guide Dog Owner and Branch Chair tells us about our Carlow Branch
My name is Nicky Kealy and I am the current Chairperson of the Carlow Branch of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Our Branch was founded in 1985 by the late Irene Dillon who was well known locally for her compassion and care of animals and especially her dogs which she loved.
She first came into contact with Simon Higgs, a former training instructor at Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. At the time, Carlow had seen its first Guide Dog working in the town. Through Simon and Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, Irene got the chance to rehome a dog that unfortunately wasn’t suitable to become a Guide Dog. She was forever grateful for this opportunity and cared for this dog very fondly.
Irene lived in the centre of town and her house was well known to people as there was always a collection dog box and Guide Dog material displayed for people to see and this remained the case right up to her passing.
Due to declining health in the early 2000's, Irene took a step back from the Branch and I took over as Chairperson. We also had Marie Walsh as Secretary, who was also one of the founding members. Marie still is involved with us in fundraising projects.
Pat Dunne is now our Treasurer and served as Chairperson for a period before handing the reins back to me.
Fundraising is about having fun and a laugh and after been challenged as a dare, I dressed up in appropriate attire and walked the Womens' Mini-Marathon in 2005. In 2003, along with my cousin and some others, I did a parachute jump at the Irish Parachute Club in Offaly. This was a great experience and also helped to raise much needed funds.
We have primarily been based in the Carlow town area over the years but new people are always welcome to join us from any part of the county. We now have a social media presence with our own Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Carlow Branch Facebook page and, up to recently, we have held fun activities such as table quizzes and have been invited to have stands at local events and show-cases.
At present, there are 4 working Guide Dogs in the Carlow town area and 5 working in the county. We have also a number of families that have Assistance Dogs for children with autism.
We have a great team involved including Laura and Shane Horahan, Pat Dunne – Treasurer and his wife Anne, Guide Dog Owner Karen Corcoran and her husband John, Marie Walsh and my mum Bridget!
The support we get from businesses and from the people of Carlow is wonderful. Our future as a local Branch here is certainly a positive one and we look forward to more people getting involved as the more members we have, the more awareness we can bring to the community about Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Thank you to everyone in our Carlow Branch who do so much to support us changing lives.
Pictured are Nicky with Guide Dog Phoebe accepting a cheque from neighbour Catherine Kelly and her sister Teresa Horan of Cath & Co. who raised €1,000 through donations received for handcrafted face masks. Thank you so much Cath & Co! This donation will go along way to helping us train dogs just like Phoebe. We are delighted to receive your support.