Blind ride to raise funds for guide dogs

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
Johanne Froggatt
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ
TANDEM EFFORT: Blind Foundation member Johanne Froggatt and her husband Gary are competing in the Marlborough Grape Ride to raise funds for the Red Puppy Appeal.

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Johanne Froggatt remembers the last book she ever read.

She remembers the colours of the beaches and the sea in the Marlborough Sounds. She remembers what her 18-year-old daughter looked like as a baby.

But she has never seen her now 15-year-old son.

Froggatt is blind, but can make out light and dark.

"It's not what I'd call usable, but it's good to tell when the kids have left a light on."

She inherited a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and lost her sight gradually in her late 20s.

Froggatt had enough sight when her daughter was born to see what she looked like, but her sight had deteriorated by the time her son arrived.

"For some it's late developing and fast, for others it's early onset and very slow - and I was that," she said.

"I often say to people, I'd rather have deterioration like I've had than be born blind, because there are so many things that I'm so thankful I've seen."

She now relies on her treasured guide dog Winnie to get her from A to B. After being a Blind Foundation member for many years, she now works for it fulltime.

In a bid to give back to the foundation, Froggatt, her husband Gary and two friends are now training and fundraising for their part in the Marlborough Grape Ride.

The event is a 101 kilometre cycle ride through wine country, bush and coastal scenery, which the duo will do on a tandem bike.

She has set up a page on crowdsourcing site Everyday Hero for donations.

All funds raised will be donated to the Red Puppy Appeal.

The average waiting time for a guide dog is about 12 months, but she hopes her efforts can speed the process along for even one person.

Froggatt cherishes Winnie, crediting the dog with helping her breach social barriers.

"When you're walking along a street with a cane, people will step aside and get out of your way. When you're walking down the street with a dog they'll get out of your way and say hello as well.

"Then they'll say: 'Oh gosh you're beautiful'. And I'll say 'oh thank you, but what about my dog?"'

The Blind Foundation's Red Puppy Appeal is from Friday, March 28, to Saturday, March 29.

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