It was a long and difficult day for Claire Doody last Friday when she ‘went blind’ to raise money for her friend, paralympic hopeful Ailish Dunne.
Claire from Mountmellick was blindfolded from midnight on Thursday until midnight Friday, when she took it off to an emotional reception surrounded by family in Dowling’s pub.
The Leinster Express caught up with the pair at 10pm, as they walked from pub to pub collecting raffle cards, led by guide Michelle O’Loughlin.
“It’s been a long day, I’m very tired. it was full of obstacles, I’ve walked into so many things. I don’t know how Ailish does it, I’ve gained a new respect for her,” said Claire.
They had spent the day out and about so that Claire could experience daily life as a blind person.
“People have been so generous, all day people have been coming up and saying well done, and of course I don’t know who they are but I said thanks,” said Claire.
Her first mishap was getting dressed.
“I put my jeans on backwards, I felt like such an eejit. Then I was trying to walk to the bathroom, and I got stuck in a corner, my dad had to give me directions,” she said.
Claire’s other senses became more acute, noted Ailish.
“We went to Telfords to show her how difficult modern appliances can be for blind people. I opened up a massive fridge door, and she asked ‘Where am I, am I in the fridge?’, because the echo had changed,” said Ailish, who lost her sight a decade ago after developing vasculitis.
At one Portlaoise shop Claire nearly knocked a Christmas tree down in the hardware store, but was rescued by staff.
Later they visited a kickboxing class to answer children’s questions, a regular event for Ailish who does talks in schools.
With raffle cards still coming in, they hope to have raised €1,500 which goes towards Ailish’s travel and accommodation to compete in discus and shot putt qualifiers for the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Claire was looking forward to removing the blindfold.
“I feel like I could be a bit emotional, I go blind for 24 hours, and there’s a big thing made of it, but poor Ailish stays blind, I won’t take anything for granted again. It’s been a long day and I think I’ve seen life through a blind person’s eyes now,” she said.