Canine buddies to fore in fun run

In human years he is 56

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 27/04/2012
  	 Aleister O'Donnell
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ

LEADING THE WAY: New Plymouth's Aleister O'Donnell and his guide dog Baye will be out walking the Taranaki Newspapers Port to Park on Sunday.

Aleister O'Donnell
ROBERT CHARLES/Fairfax NZ
LEADING THE WAY: New Plymouth's Aleister O'Donnell and his guide dog Baye will be out walking the Taranaki Newspapers Port to Park on Sunday.

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The coastal walkway will be teeming with joggers, walkers and runners on Sunday but it's guide dogs who will be leading the charge.

This year's 37th annual Port to Park fun run and walk is raising money for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, its members and their canine friends will be out in force to support.

Long-time foundation member Aleister O'Donnell and his guide dog, Baye, will be among the crowd on Sunday but will have to join the race at the halfway point because Baye is suffering from a dodgy knee.

"I don't think he will last the distance and I don't want to make his injury even worse," Mr O'Donnell said.

Baye twisted his knee chasing oranges and lemons last weekend but is on the mend.

The Taranaki Newspapers Port to Park is changing course again this year and for the first time will be a coastal walkway exclusive event.

Taranaki Newspapers general manager Mike Brewer said this year the event would start at Port Taranaki and finish at the East End skate rink to make the course safer for all participants.

"There has to be a good reason for the change and organisers took into account the views of participants and marshals who have raised concerns at the potential dangers of a course that crosses one busy intersection and two one-way crossings," he said.

"We hope a safety-first course this year will attract more participants, because that in turn will enable us to donate more money to this year's recipient charity, which is the Taranaki division of the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind."

Mr O'Donnell said the foundation was thrilled to be receiving a donation and hoped many of the 270 members would turn out.

"Eighty per cent of our membership is over 60 years old so that might prevent some from heading out but there's a group who are quite enthusiastic," he said.

Until July, Mr O'Donnell was chairman of the Taranaki foundation since 1985.

"I was told I was legally blind when I was about 28 years old and have had three guide dogs since and been heavily involved in the foundation," he said.

Eight-year-old Baye has been on the scene for six years in June.

In human years he is 56, only nine years younger than his owner and best mate.

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