THE MEMORY of a murdered Wearside teenager is bringing hope of a new life for blind people across the North East.
John Chipp had just turned 18 when he was murdered by taxi driver Christopher Weldon in March 2004 as he made his way home from a friend’s birthday party.
Family and friends have been raising funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind in memory of the Castletown teenager ever since.
John’s mum Ruth, a nurse, said: “We wanted to do something positive on the back of something so tragic and unnecessary.
“We started to raise money in lieu of flowers from his funeral and set up the John Chipp Tribute Fund.
“John used to attend Sunday School as a child, and got to know a lady there who was a puppy walker for the Guide Dogs. He was always very interested.
“He was a dog lover and even talked about a career as a dog handler in the police force.”
John’s dad George, a former miner, is a keen pigeon fancier and two racing pigeon auctions and a variety of fund-raising evenings were organised, which raised more than £10,000, enough to name two guide dog puppies at a cost of £5,000 each.
“One was named Chippy and the other Leighton. Both of these dogs are still working,” said Ruth.
For the last two years, the fund’s supporters have been taking the plunge in the Boxing Day Dip.
“Hylton Castle Seniors football club approached us as they wanted to raise some funds in John’s memory,” said Ruth.
“John used to play for the team and there are still some of the players there who knew him well and went to school with him.
“We first did the Boxing Day Dip in December 2009 and funds raised from that left us £900 short for naming the next puppy.
“We, therefore, decided to do it again and this time successfully raised £2619.50.
“We were all delighted.
“Twenty per cent of that goes to the Lions, which will be used locally, and the rest to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
“We have been informed that we can name a puppy are waiting to hear whether the name Ziggy will be acceptable.”