Local Rowallane DUP councillor Billy Walker is to get his head shaved on Saturday 1st February to help raise funds for a guide dog for Ballynahinch girl Sophie Mills.
Sophie (14), a pupil of Ballynahinch High School, is registered blind and is hoping to get a blind guide dog in the not too distant future.
When she was very young, Sophie lost her sight due to albinism and can only see shapes with great difficulty.
“I can make out letters on the computer if I blow them up very large on the software I have but it can be very difficult to read sometimes.
“I am delighted at the support from Billy Walker. Whater he raises will be a great help on the road to raising the £55,000 to train a guide dog. It is a very expensive and long process and there are many people now waiting on guide dogs.
“So my my and family and friends are going to make a big push over the next few months and we are going to try and raise the funds so I can have my own guide dog which will be through Guide Dogs NI. It takes a whole year to train a guide dog.
“I’ve actually visited a number of litters and there is one pup which responded well to me and we get on great. It’s important to be matched to the young dog. I’m now on the waiting list and can’t wait until a dog becomes available. I will be able to get up and about then.”
Rowallene Councillor Billy Walker who has championed a number of charitable causes in recent years, said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to help Sophie out and I hope whatever I earn helps her on her journey to get her guide dog. She is a lovely person and I wish her well. A guide dog would make a huge difference to the quality of her life especially when she is moving into the higher stages of her education and her early adulthood.
“Her family contacted me recently on a couple of issues, which I’ve acted on, one of which was the broken street crossing where the audible buzzer was not working. Sophie could not cross the road safely because of this.
“I hope to raise more than £500 for this fundraiser for Sophie. Every penny counts in getting her over the line on her target. £55,000 is a lot of money for to train a guide dog and it is money very well spent. Sophie will have a fuller life with a guide dog.
“For those who are donating to this fund, please make a cheque out to ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind‘ or pass it on to me personally. My postal address is: Cllr Billy Walker, 12 Grove Park, Killyleagh, BT30 9RR.”
Sophie added: “Firstly, I have had to undergo training using a cane, and that took almost three years. Now that this is complete I can progress to guide dog training when there is one available and I’ve raised the funds for the dog.
“Next year will be a busy year for me too as I will be starting my GSCE’s at the High School in Ballynahinch. So if anyone can help out in the fundraising effort that would be absolutely fantastic.”
Sophie’s mother Marina said: “She is such a kind hearted girl. She is very thoughtful of others. always puts others in front of herself and is always involved in helping out when she can. She leads an active life and loves music having been in the school choir and even sung solos. Sophie just has a heart of gold. I think she would like to work in social work or some job where she is helping people.”