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Isle Of Wight Blind Veteran Organises Unique 6km Blindfolded Walk For Military Charity

A blind veteran from the Isle of Wight has organised a fundraising walk with a difference to raise money for Blind Veterans UK.

It comes as the national charity for vision-impaired ex-service men and women has turned his life around after sight loss.

Ian Summers, 44, from Shanklin, has organised the ‘Blindfolded Bimble’ in response to Blind Veterans UK’s Armed Forces Month campaign, which calls on people to organise activities to celebrate and commemorate key dates in the month of June while raising vital funds to support its work.   

Ian is challenging walkers to pair up, taking it in turns to complete 3km under blindfold while guided by their partner for the outward or return leg of the walk between Shanklin and Sandown.

Among those joining him on June 9 will be his two daughters who are 9 and 13 years old.

Ian hopes the challenge will give people a small insight into the impact of sight loss.

He said:

“I think those taking part will be surprised how vulnerable they feel when they put on their blindfolds and start walking.

"They will have to really trust their partner to warn them of obstacles and changes in gradient and surface type.

“I’m sure they’ll all be very glad to remove their blindfolds and will remember that for blind veterans like me that isn’t an option — this is why the support given by Blind Veterans UK is so important.”

Ian enlisted into the Army in 2002, at 22 years old. He served for four years with the Second Battalion Royal Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and carried out tours in Iraq, Kuwait and Northern Ireland.

In 2017, Ian lost his sight after he choked at home while eating dinner with his family.

He said:

“My brain was starved of oxygen which has resulted in severe sight loss. A simple everyday activity changed my life overnight. 

“My mobility and speech were severely affected, I had to learn to talk and walk again. I have regained my speech and my mobility is still steadily improving but my sight will never return.

“My sight loss has had a huge impact on my life. Everyday activities like taking a walk, preparing a meal, or spending time socialising with friends or playing with my two daughters became difficult and my confidence reached an all-time low.”

In 2018, Ian began to receive support from Blind Veterans UK.

Discussing this, he said:

“Discovering Blind Veterans UK turned my life around.

"They helped me learn to use a cane so that I could walk safely unaided, provided equipment like a talking microwave to help me prepare food and enabled me to meet and spend time with other blind veterans which helped me to imagine a life for myself beyond sight loss. 

“I’ve also attended themed residential stays at the charity’s centres of wellbeing where I’ve taken part in a range of activities from footgolf to axe throwing. My confidence has been boosted and I’ve been spurred on to spend time with family and friends.”

Ian is inviting people to join him for the ‘Blindfolded Bimble’ on 9 June.

As the walk takes place just days after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Ian is asking each pair to raise a minimum of £80 for Blind Veterans UK.

He concluded:

“I want to ensure that other veterans like me can receive life changing support for years to come.”

If you would like to join Ian for the ‘Blindfolded Bimble’, or if he has inspired you to take on your own challenge to commemorate D-Day80 and National Armed Forces Day, email: [email protected].uk

If you would like to make a donation to support Ian with his fundraising for Blind Veterans UK please visit his Just Giving page.

Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country, but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.

If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch.

Call 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/support

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