Celebrating the life-changing work of the charity, Guide Dogs
All eyes were on the prize as the first award presented at the Guide Dogs Annual Awards 2017 was chosen by viewers of ITV This Morning. Presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield appeared on stage via a large screen as they opened a golden envelope in front of a celebrity audience to reveal that Louise Jenkins was the winner of the prestigious Inspirational Guide Dog Owner Award.
The award-winning live magazine show featured films of the three finalists, in the week prior to the awards ceremony, to recognise those who have made exceptional achievements or who have overcome significant challenges in the last year.
Fourteen years ago, Louise Jenkins was a busy mum with teenage daughters. Then, aged 40, her world was turned upside down after a spinal cord infection permanently damaged her sight, causing blindness in one eye and tunnel vision in the other.
Louise, from Llandysul in Wales, says: “I realised no one else was going to change anything, it was up to me.”
Getting a guide dog was as life changing for Louise as her sight loss. She quickly returned to her independent and confident self. She retrained at university and now manages a drop-in centre for people with mental health needs. As well as working full-time she also provides home care for her husband and looks after her parents who also have complex health needs, travelling the 160-mile journey to their home by train.
The Guide Dogs Annual Awards ceremony took place at the Hurlingham Club in London on 17 May 2017.
Louise was presented with her award by This Morning celebrity doctors, Dr. Ranj Singh and Dr. Zoe Williams, who also hosted the awards ceremony part of the evening, and Guide Dogs’ very own superstar of the daytime show – puppy in training, labradoodle – Luna.
Guide Dogs has worked closely with This Morning over the last couple of years as the show’s viewers have followed puppies Clover and Luna on their journey to become working guide dogs.
Stars who graced the red carpet included reality star and actress Jess Impiazzi with her mum Debbie and her guide dog Kacey, TOWIE heart-throb Pete Wicks, former stars of Made in Chelsea – Lucy Watson and James Dunmore, England Olympic hockey champion Sophie Bray, Soprano Laura Wright, KISS FM DJ Pandora Christie and Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell. Further video messages of support came from Peter Andre, Natalie Pinkham, Wendi Peters, Lydia Bright and Debbie Douglas.
The Guide Dogs Annual Awards is a great way to raise vital funds and celebrate the work of the charity Guide Dogs and honour the passion and determination of everyone who makes its life-changing work possible. Among those being honoured for their amazing achievements at the award ceremony were guide dogs and their owners, My Guide partnerships – which partner a trained sighted volunteer to help someone who is blind or partially sighted achieve their goals; and many of the fantastic people and organisations that support the work of the charity. Every hour, another person in the UK loses their sight. Guide Dogs is there to make sure they don’t lose their freedom as well.
Commenting on the Guide Dogs Annual Awards 2017, Steve Vaid, Guide Dogs Acting Chief Executive, said: “It is always a highlight on the calendar when we get the chance to hear heart-warming stories and celebrate the incredible achievements of the people we support and those who help support out charity’s life-changing work. Whether it’s getting out to meet friends, fulfilling career ambitions or helping others, Guide Dogs make sure there is enough support so that no one is left out of life because of their sight loss.”
The full list of winners is below:
Inspirational Guide Dog Owner Award, as chosen by This Morning viewers
Presented to Louise Jenkins (aged 51, Llandysul, Ceredigion). Louise’s positivity and determination inspires everyone she meets. When she suddenly lost her sight 14 years ago it made her realise that she had to fight for the life she wanted. She has since dedicated her time to helping others and challenges herself daily with new adventures and experiences.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/83aq2gP128I
My Guide Partnership Award
Awarded to Hollie Pemberton (aged 93) and David Oliver (aged 70), both from Preston Lancashire. Hollie thought she would be housebound when she lost both her husband and her sight, relying on weekly escorted food shopping trips. But thanks to David the great-grandmother of two can still enjoy trips to the museums and stately homes that she loves.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/4NC7A2khBJo
Beyond the Call of Duty Award
Won by Dianne Woodford (aged 49, Beverley, Hull) and guide dog Darcy. “Super-dog” Darcy is one in a million. Without any extra training, Darcy is able to help Dianne manage her diabetes and epilepsy by sensing when her blood sugar levels are low or when a seizure is imminent. This amazing skill gives Dianne and her family the confidence to get on with life, knowing that she is safe.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/M2X0VxxEjDw
Life Changing Partnership Award, sponsored by Specsavers
Presented by Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, to Kimberley Burrows (aged 28, Manchester – at University of Leeds) and guide dog Tami. Bullied through school, Kim found her time in education isolating. But after meeting an inspirational guide dog owner Kim decided to reach out to Guide Dogs. With newfound confidence and Tami by her side, Kimberley is now pursuing her dream of becoming a professional illustrator.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/LQ6xm9cJap4
Awarded to Blackpool Transport. When guide dog Tim injured his nose on a local bus, Blackpool Transport took it upon themselves not only to make sure it would never happen again, but to also improve sight loss awareness on transport all around Blackpool. The resulting changes have vastly improved travelling in the area for people with sight loss.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/kZRtZwEmj1k
Breaking Down Barriers Award
Won by Karl Lloyd, Liverpool City Council. Karl’s passion and commitment to end refusals from taxis goes far beyond his job role. He takes personal responsibility for every complaint and is changing Council processes and driver training to try and eliminate refusals completely. His determination and support brings a huge relief to guide dog owners in Liverpool.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/nYd_8ozT3dk
Young Persons Achievement Award
The final award of the evening was won by Lucy Edwards (aged 21, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham). Despite having to cope with losing her sight at just 17, law student and YouTube sensation Lucy has reached out with her experiences and wants to show the world what someone with sight loss can do. But none of it would be possible without her guide dog Olga by her side.
Winner’s video: https://youtu.be/wAGmc8TT2jw
Find out more about Guide Dogs for blind people and how you can support the charity’s work at www.guidedogs.org.uk.