Lord Mayor’s charity is going to the dogs!

Having spent the past 10 years playing a vital part in helping Guide Dogs Cymru train its team of canine saviours, Cardiff Lord Mayor Graham Hinchey and his wife Anne knew exactly which charity should be at the centre of their fundraising year.

“Between us we have fostered around 26 guide dogs in that time and we know at first hand how vital they are to helping people with sight loss regain their confidence and play an active part in society,” said Cllr Hinchey, who took up his official role following the May council elections.

“So, as passionate supporters of the work that Guide Dogs Cymru does, we had no hesitation in making it the official charity for my year in office.”

As a guide dog fostering couple, he and Anne take in to their home dogs that have been judged suitable for the exacting training needed before they can be handed to a new owner. It’s their job, over the four or five months of the process, to give them a loving home, take them to their training sessions and play their own part in getting them used to the settings and situations they will encounter when their vital work begins.

“It can cost up to £55,000 to train a guide dog and a foster couple like us can save the charity money on kennel fees but we get a lot out of it too as we’ve loved having them around the house and sharing our lives,” said Anne, the charity co-ordinator.

Their target during this mayoral year is to raise as much money as possible for the charity. “One person with sight loss can have as many as eight dogs over the course of their life,” she said. “Some people think they are funded by the Government but virtually all of the costs are funded by charitable donations.

“Our plan is to make a big contribution to the work done by Guide Dogs Cymru but the first dog we hope to fund will be called ‘Diffy’ in honour of all the people from ‘the ‘Diff’ who made it possible,” she said.

“Someone loses their eyesight every six minutes in the UK,” she added, “so there’s always a waiting list and often it is young people and teenagers who are most in need – in the UK there are 26,000 people under the age of 18 with sight loss at the moment.”

To help the fundraising efforts, Cllr Hinchey and his wife have recruited two ‘donation dogs’ which are stationed at the Central Hub and Library in the Hayes and at Cardiff Castle and they have also established a JustGiving page:

“We have some official functions planned for this year which will help raise awareness of the cause,” he said, “but with Covid behind us people are getting out and about again so if, for example, you’re having a non-uniform day at school, a dress-down day at work or a sponsored walk, please consider making a contribution. This is a great opportunity to involve your local community and support a great cause. A guide dog really is life-changing for someone with sight loss.”

Kerry Bevan, head of service for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “We are overjoyed that Graham and Anne have named Guide Dogs as their chosen charity during this mayoral year. This relationship will raise awareness of Guide Dogs’ services to support those living with vision impairment in Cardiff and throughout Wales. We look forward to working with the new Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and helping them to achieve their goals.”