Ex-England and Middlesbrough footballer Dave Thomas received a delightful surprise this week from Guide Dogs personnel, volunteers, and the charity’s newly-appointed CEO, Andrew Lennox.
The occasion marked the celebration of surpassing £100,000 in funds raised in tribute to his guide dog, Hannah.
Dave, who has glaucoma, has fundraised relentlessly since he began his journey with Guide Dogs in 2015. He began with long cane training and was eventually partnered with his guide dog Hannah in 2019 – all through the team in Newcastle.
Dave began his fundraising journey by collecting signed football shirts and auctioning them. He exceeded all expectations by collecting a signed shirt from every single club.
Since then, he has continued fundraising and raising awareness for Guide Dogs by sharing his own story of sight loss. As well as donations from fans, many of Dave’s former clubs have also shown their support including Burnley FC, who held a dinner in aid of his fundraising, and Everton invited him back to Goodison Park where he appeared on the pitch at halftime.
David has also donated all royalties from his autobiography ‘Guiding Me Home and Away’.
The £100,000 he has now raised has allowed him to name his 20th puppy Annie, who he was also able to meet on his visit to the Guide Dogs Newcastle training centre in Gosforth, where Guide Dogs staff and the charity’s newly appointed CEO were also waiting in the wings to help celebrate the occasion.
“It’s incredible how much Dave has raised over the past few years for Guide Dogs, and it’s an honour to be able to meet him today to thank him personally. It costs over £55,000 to fund a working guide dog over its lifetime, so it really will make a real difference to supporting people living with sight loss.”Guide Dogs CEO Andrew Lennox
Over 20 staff and volunteers attended the event including Dave’s wife Brenda, who has also been instrumental in Dave’s fundraising endeavours, and guide dog puppy Annie’s Puppy Raisers. Dave was also presented with a commemorative book of all the pups he has named.
“What a fantastic surprise to be met by all these people today! I was already looking forward to meeting guide dog puppy Annie, but this is an extra special treat.Dave Thomas
“Back in 2015, when I was waiting to be matched with Hannah, I was completely blown away by the support I was given by Guide Dogs. Every hour, someone in the UK starts to lose their sight and it’s important to me to help support this amazing charity make a life-changing difference to other people living with sight loss, like they did for me.
“It’s very special to have been able to name so many puppies thanks to the generosity of so many friends, family, and supporters and I very much hope Annie has an incredible future ahead of her as a guide dog. Today has been a day my wife and I will never forget.”
If you would like to find out more about Name a Puppy please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/nap or call Guide Dogs on 0800 781 1444. The charity relies on the support of the local community: without your time and donations, Guide Dogs would not be able to provide their life-changing services.