Each week we send a MONDAY MOTIVATION our amazing #TeamLOOK runners who are busy training and fundraising ahead of London Marathon on 23rd April, 2023.
We are so thankful to them for taking on this commitment and hope our training tips and Meet… post help to be motivated for the week ahead as they put in the work training and asking for sponsorship.
If you would like to encourage them by making a donation to #TeamLOOK, you can go to this quick & easy donation link and please put “For the LOOK marathon runners” in the comment: www.justgiving.com/look/donate
Charlotte began to lose her sight at the age of 7 and was diagnosed with Startgardt’s, a degenerative eye condition. Her parents, Gareth and Jennifer Bowen, found there was little support for Charlotte and LOOK was founded in response. Connection with other families and carers looking after children with visual impairment (VI) helps build confidence. Charlotte lives in Hereford and has been Director of LOOK since 2015. She is a positive and dynamic project manager with a big heart and a background in training, youth work, and media production. Charlotte is registered blind and, with LOOK, has a vision for a world where all blind and VI young people are included and can fulfil their potential.
Meet Elin & Lucy
Elin was born with a genetic condition and lost a lot of her vision during her teenage years. She is registered blind and Lucy is her guide dog. Elin grew up in North Wales and now lives in Cambridgeshire. When Elin was a child her parents were connected with other parents of VI young people through LOOK, and the charity helped fund an expensive piece of magnification kit for Elin to use in school, and supported Ein to participate in an Erasmus-funded volunteering project in Belgium. Elin became a LOOK Mentor, and has now been working for LOOK for five years, first in events and now in the Mentor project team.
Lucy is Elin’s second guide dog (Jazzy, now retired, lives with LOOK Director, Charlotte). Elin has been a guide dog user since 2015 and personally finds it the easiest way for her to get around and be independent. Lucy accompanies Elin to the office, but also to work events around the country, including trips to the LOOK HQ in Hereford, to Mentor training residentials, and school workshops. Elin says: “Lucy’s chief responsibilities are guiding me when she’s in harness, and being available for cuddles when she’s not!”
Elin’s dad, and her Access Assistant, Emma, have both run the London Marathon for LOOK. This year, Elin’s personal trainer, Vicky, is on #TeamLOOK. Elin started running with a guide runner last year, so maybe we will be able to persuade her to run the London Marathon next year…
A message from Elin: “Thank you to all the runners and their supporters for helping us be able to offer mentoring to VI young people – there was nothing like this available when I was losing sight as a teenager, I’m so glad we’re making it available now.”
Meet Kombo (and Warwick)
Kombo, and his guide, Warwick, are running London Marathon 2023 to raise money for LOOK. Kombo was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the UK when he was 11 years old. He
was fully sighted for most of his life. Sport has always been a big part of his life. He broke many school records in sprinting, long jump and high jump. He played in the football and basketball teams and started working as a personal trainer when he was 16, before going on to study physiotherapy at university in Manchester. At the end of his first year of university he lost his vision. A shunt was into his head to drain fluid, which restored some vision, but not to how it was before. At first Kombo struggled to find other visually impaired (VI) people his age. Groups he went to were mostly elderly people. A breakthrough was going to the Royal National College (RNC) for the Blind in Hereford where he studied massage therapy. In 2018 Kombo became a Mentor for LOOK, and last year he was involved in LOOK’s youth activity week at Jamie’s Farm, helping VI young people who are struggling with their home and school lives. Kombo also volunteers at Worthing Sight Support, giving massages. Kombo is running the London Marathon for LOOK to help more VI young people to thrive.
Kombo is running with his guide, Warwick. For 11 years Kombo has been keeping fit through bodybuilding. He would love to have enjoyed running but did not have the right guide. Last year Kombo joined his local Parkrun and through that met Warwick. Since December they have been training together three times a week. On 23 April 2023 they will run the TCS London Marathon for LOOK.
Joanne lives in North Wales. She is visually impaired (VI) and through her lived experiences understands the need for charities like LOOK to help VI young people to feel well supported and to thrive. Jo recently joined the team at LOOK as Project Assistant, helping the #TeamLOOK London Marathon runners, who are busy training and fundraising. She also supports the Mentoring project, and with answering Family Support enquiries. The team of 26 runners who are busy training and fundraising for LOOK. Jo is on hand to offer support, and will be organising the welcome party for runners after the finishing line at Horseguard’s Parade. Jo says: “I love my job and enjoy signposting children and young people with the support that our fantastic services at LOOK can provide. A huge part is to listen to parents or young adults and understand their feelings with an empathetic approach to help them navigate through the world of VI.” In her spare time Jo loves getting out into the great outdoors, walking her dog, and spending time with family and friends.
Jane is the Parent Support Officer at LOOK. Jane’s daughter, Chloe, was born profoundly deaf and severely sight impaired. Jane says, “If I stop and remember that time I still can feel echoes of the shock and sadness. I knew I could not go back to work as my job now was to help Chloe learn everything she needed to with such limited sight and no hearing.” Jane had worked in theatre in communities, prisons, and education settings, before moving into working in disability arts development. Throughout her working life, Jane’s drive has been to give marginalised people a voice.
Chloe is now 14 years old and is now a residential student at New College Worcester. Chloe has a Buddy Dog called Sapphire. “Chloe is a wonderful girl with a unique attitude and sense of humour that comes from how she experiences life.”
Jane’s husband, Neil, has hearing loss and a degenerative eye condition. He ran the London Marathon for LOOK in October. Neil and Jane will be in London on 23 April to cheer on the LOOK running team. Jane is a determined, open, compassionate person with a strong understanding of the social model of disability. She runs the fortnightly LOOK Parent Support Group, a free online space for parents and carers of VI children and young people.
“Our voices and those of our amazing children and young people should grow louder and make the change that is desperately needed for true inclusion in our world. If our support makes a difference then I know I have done a good job.”
Lacey is an intern at LOOK. She is 28 years old and was born completely blind with no light perception. She has a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a rare type of inherited eye disorder that causes severe vision loss at birth. It is the most common cause of inherited blindness in childhood, and is found in two to three out of every 100,000 babies.
Lacey studied Special Needs & Inclusion Studies at the University of Wolverhampton and graduated with first class honours. Lacey was first introduced to LOOK at a Wellbeing and Yoga Weekend, and she is now doing a nine-month internship at the LOOK office in Hereford. Lacey is assisting with the mentoring project team, events, young people calls, and local family events. Lacey is a Braillist, and she uses the Braille equipment in the office. She is also part of the monthly LOOK Book Club and most enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi, and is a big Harry Potter fan – “because these are easy worlds to re-write myself into”. Lacey read audiobooks and uses Apple voice-over, but wished she read more books in Braille “to be able to make my own interpretation rather than that of the narrator.”