Richard Newberry spends his days cycling through the streets of Tamworth or fishing with his mates since his retirement, but his Guide Dog, Henny, is never too far away.
The former owner of the Tamworth Plaster Works will be part of the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT team attending the AgQuip Field Days from August 18 to 20 to raise awareness of and funds for its free, local services.
The organisation, which is the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people with vision loss to be independent, will have an information and merchandise stand for the duration of the field days.
“We are looking forward to meeting people at the field days, particularly those who have just been diagnosed with vision loss and might not realise the range of services we can offer them,” said Jeremy Hill, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Regional Manager Northern NSW.
“Visiting our stand at AgQuip is a great opportunity to learn how our services can help if vision loss is affecting your ability to get around,” he said.
With the support of Guide Dogs over a number of decades, Mr Newberry, confidently goes anywhere he needs to. He is so passionate about the organisation, which receives less than 2 per cent of funding from the government, that he was a Guide Dogs board member for 15 years.
Born and bred in Tamworth, Mr Newberry started work at the plaster factory straight out of school. “When my sight began to fail, I learnt to use a synthesized computer in the office, at the time management didn’t even realise such a program existed. I eventually purchased the business and only recently sold it,” he said.
Mr Newberry has had three Guide Dogs and received his first in 1991. These days he is often seen around town with Henny.
If he is not with his Guide Dog, you can find him on his bike or fishing. “I only took up cycling four years ago after a friend talked me into a charity ride for the Westpac Helicopter Service. I now ride with him three days a week for 60 to 70 kilometres,” Mr Newberry said.
Fishing on the other hand has been a lifelong passion. “I know where everything is in the boat and often if someone forgets their glasses or the light is fading, I help them with their rod.”
Mr Newberry said he was looking forward to speaking about his journey to members of the community at his first AgQuip.
The Guide Dogs NSW/ACT stand will include branded merchandise for sale to help raise much-needed funds to keep up with demand for its services. This includes the cost of more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train one Guide Dog.
Staff will also be available to discuss other ways the public can support the organisation, such as leaving a gift or bequest in their will.
There are an estimated 280,000 Australians with uncorrectable vision loss (in 2014), 100,000 of whom live in NSW and the ACT. With these figures predicted to increase by more than 20 per cent by 2020, Guide Dogs is reliant on support from the community.
“More than a third of people with eye disorders live in country areas, and research shows that people in rural and regional areas, especially males, tend to not get their eyes checked regularly, so our attendance at AgQuip also aims to get people thinking about their eye health,” Mr Hill said.