Opposition Leader Luke Foley walks in a park with his family

Thirty-four years after Opposition Leader Luke Foley last ran up the gruelling “Heartbreak Hill” in The Sun-Herald City2surf, he is pulling on his jogging shoes one more time to take on the 14 kilometre course to raise funds for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

Having worked as a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT telemarketer from 1988-1991, the organisation is close to the Member for Auburn’s heart. “Some colleagues put it to me that I run in the City2surf this year and I have always thought I should give it a go again. I wanted to prove to myself that I’m not past it physically and the added incentive is raising funds for a good cause.”

Mr Foley said he immediately thought of Guide Dogs when deciding on which charity to support. “I have an affinity with Guide Dogs and respect the work they do in offering services free to clients,” he said.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the leading provider of orientation and mobility services that enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently.

The Opposition Leader worked as a telemarketer when he was studying at university selling wine and household products over the phone. “It was a great team of people to work with. I worked afternoon and evening shifts for three-and-a-half years,” he said. “After a while you built up your own client base, but you had to resist the temptation to call regulars and keep making cold calls.”

He said telemarketing was quite a new technology at the time and the public were very receptive to hearing his voice on the other end of the phone.

“With less than two per cent of our funding coming from the government, Guide Dogs is dependent on the generosity of the people of NSW and the ACT,” said Leila Davis, Guide Dogs’ Fundraising Manager. “We are very grateful for Mr Foley’s support in the City2surf,” she said.

Training for the City2surf with some light jogging and walking, Mr Foley, who last took part in the event in 1981, said he liked the notion that the race is suitable for all fitness levels. “It’s a great day out and not competitive at all,” he said. “If you want you can even walk it.”

In the lead-up to the event on Sunday, August 9, Mr Foley has set a target to raise $500 for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. “The more people that know about Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, the greater their impact, so please also spread the word by sharing my page with your friends and family,” he states on his Everyday Hero fundraising page.

With an estimated 280,000 Australians having uncorrectable vision loss (in 2014), 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT, there is growing demand for Guide Dogs free services particularly given these figures are predicted to increase by more than 20% by 2020.

“Each year our highly trained instructors work with more than 4,000 people of all ages to help them achieve their mobility goals,” Ms Davis said. “Programs are tailored to meet the lifestyle needs of each individual, and most training is delivered locally, in the person’s home, community or work environment.”

Mr Foley will be supported in the City2surf by colleagues from the Labor Party. He hopes in the future to participate with his children, who are not yet old enough to take part.

“I urge anyone who is yet to register, to think about supporting the work of Guide Dogs,” he said.