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27 February, 2015

Doggies defend title

Dog Paddlers team

Cremorne resident who is blind paddles-up to help Doggies defend Dragon Boat charity title

Seventy-one-year-old Cremorne resident and well-known North Shore businessman Bruce Mansell, pictured below, is proof that losing your sight doesn't have to stop you from living the life you want.

Bruce poses for photo before the boat race

This Sunday, Bruce, who went blind a year-and-a-half ago in an horrific car accident, will row with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's 'Dog Paddlers' crew, pictured below, as it defends its charity title in the annual Chinese New Year Dragon Boat competition in Darling Harbour.

Bruce, who uses a long cane to move around independently thanks to free training from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT after the accident, says being part of the team has helped him find a new sporting interest, given he can no longer pursue his passion of racing historic cars.

"I wanted something to help me take my mind off the fact I can longer race cars, and my instructor at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Karen Carrigan, suggested I join their Dragon Boating crew," said Bruce, who founded Chatswood-based printer manufacturer Rapid Machinery in the 1970s.

"I said why not, I used to row when I was at school. While paddling in a Dragon Boat is different to rowing, I am really enjoying it and I'm hoping to start rowing again with a local '8' crew."

Bruce is one of five people in the 22-strong 'Dog Paddlers' crew who are blind or vision impaired. The team has been in training for the past six weeks in preparation for their ninth Chinese New Year Dragon Boat race.

"The team has been concentrating on improving our timing and working as one," says Geoff Koelma, Captain of the Dog Paddlers and Event Coordinator for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

"While of course we want to defend our title on the day, the training sessions have been a great experience, allowing all involved to meet new people and try new challenges."

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind. In NSW and the ACT, there are around 100,000 residents who have uncorrectable vision loss, including 30,000 who are blind, with these figures set to increase by 20% in the next five years.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT relies on the generosity of the public to fund its life-changing services, which include Guide Dogs, long canes and electronic travel aids like talking GPS technology.

For more information about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's services and how you can help, please visit www.guidedogs.com.au or call 9412 9300.