Friday, November 4, 2022

With less than 6 degrees of vision, our Founder Katie Kelly walked 780km across Spain with her white cane

Bernadette Pilling

After retiring from Para-triathlon with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics (in 2021), her last race, our founder, and 2 x Paralympian, Katie Kelly was looking for a way to close off the previous 7 years in high performance.

When we asked Katie how the walk came about, she described that a close friend, Tracey, was doing the Camino Pilgrimage 'Frances Way' in Spain, and Katie found herself planning to do the walk within months. Tracey guided Katie through every rock, valley and steep climb, and together they walked an average of 25km a day for 33 days. Katie said;

"It as not so much a physical challenge but a mental challenge in letting go and accepting help along the way. I found myself learning those life long lessons on how I have to accept I can't have my independence as I would like it with my gradual eyesight loss. I had to come to terms again, that I am always going to have to seek support from others."

We asked Katie about the most enjoyable moments. She replied;

"The routine of getting up and walking everyday was such a privilege, the daily Bocadillo (Spanish sandwich), and meeting friends from around the world was incredible."
"The most moving day was the famous 'Iron Cross' where people lay a rock for someone they might have lost, or for people at home. It was a very spiritual place. We stayed in a different town or village for 33 consecutive nights and I loved the the kindness and hospitality of the Spanish who would greet us with 'Buen Camino' as you passed through their town."

Katie said she found a renewed confidence in navigating with limited sight, and it reminded her of how we all have to keep overcoming the limitations we put on ourselves and be willing to put ourselves in the 'uncomfortable' to really experience the richness of life.

It was timely then on her return, after a lengthy process of applying for a Guide Dog, Katie's new and first-ever See Eye Dog, Guthrie, arrived from Melbourne. Katie went straight into two weeks of intensive induction. She said;

"Guthrie is beautiful and a lively little 2 year old Labrador. We are very much on our 'L' plates and it is a team effort as we navigate each day. He recently had his first flight to Sydney, and apart from walking down the aisle at one point, he was amazing."

Katie also added;

"I am very grateful for the NDIS and See Eye Dog Australia for making it all possible. The total investment for the See Eye Dog, is $70,000 and I couldn' have accessed this support without the support of the NDIS and the wonderful staff and Dog Trainers at See Eye Dog Australia, including my Trainer Brendan Ainsworth."

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