Optician helping Sunderland patients to take on London Marathon for RNIB sight-loss charity
Katie Blakely, 33, will complete the 26.2-mile course round the capital in aid of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) on Sunday, April 23.
Katie works for the charity as an Eye Care Liaison Officer (ECLO) at the Sunderland Eye Infirmary, as well as the RVI in Newcastle.
She worked as a dispensing optician for seven years and has been in the optical sector for thirteen years before joining RNIB as an ECLO.
This means Katie is employed by RNIB in partnership with the NHS, which the charity says gives invaluable ongoing emotional and practical support to patients who have been given a sight loss diagnosis by a clinician.
Katie, who lives in Ashington in Northumberland, will be running alongside her friend Gina Tye, who also works in the primary eye care sector as a contact lens optician.
The RNIB said Katie and Gina will be supporting the charity’s work in transforming people’s understanding of sight loss and to help raise awareness of the challenges blind and partially sighted people face.
“I’ve worked within the eye health sector for many years which means I’ve seen the impact sight loss can have on people,” said Katie.
"RNIB provides so many great services to patients and there is huge demand for them. I’d like to raise money for RNIB so that the charity can continue the brilliant work.”
At a time when NHS mental health services are stretched to the limit and appointments with clinicians can be very short, Katie says it’s great being able to give people a safe space to talk about how they are feeling after being told life-changing news.
Taking on a marathon can be a gruelling experience, and tests even the best athletes.
But Katie, who is keen on sports and has been running for nine years, is confident she is prepared for the challenge.
She has previously completed the Edinburgh Marathon and trains two-to-three times a week – though adds being in good physical shape is only part of the battle.
“I think the hardest part about the marathon will be the psychological side of it,” she said.
"But the London Marathon has been on my bucket list for ages so I can’t wait to race across the finish line – it’s all for a great cause.”
Over the last few months, Katie has hosted raffles, participated in charity bake sales, and took part in a fundraising dance class, which has resulted in her surpassing her fundraising goal with the support from friends and family.
Chris Perrin, interim challenge events senior manager at RNIB, said: “We are incredibly grateful to have Katie and Gina raise money for RNIB.
"The money raised will help us continue to work towards a world without barriers for the 250 people who start to lose their sight every day in the UK. We wish both of them the best of luck and we’ll be in the crowd cheering them on all the way.”
To sponsor Katie and support RNIB, please donate at: www.justgiving.com/katieandgina.