Sponsored walk - over hot coals!

Fire Extinguisher at the ready for the Fire Walk in aid of The Friends of Assisi Animal Sanctuary are some of those taking part. INLM3211-129gc
Fire Extinguisher at the ready for the Fire Walk in aid of The Friends of Assisi Animal Sanctuary are some of those taking part. INLM3211-129gc

A GROUP of intrepid locals are getting set to do a sponsored walk with a difference - over hot coals.

The group will be doing the firewalk for the Assisi Animal Sanctuary’s Chance of a Lifetime Scheme and it’s all down to the persuasive powers of Alison Lennon.

Alison, who has been a tireless fundraiser for animal charities over more years than she’d like us to count, talked five others into joining the walk - with about 40 taking part from across the province on the night.

She’s even managed to talk Lurgan Mail editor Clint Aiken into giving up his comfortable office chair to do the walk.

The others taking part are Olivia Kennedy from Lurgan Veterinary Clinic, Conor Lavery from Jollyes, Lurgan, David Weekes from the Doghouse Grooming Parlour and Rebecca Edwards.

The Chance of a Lifetime Scheme was set up in 2003 after Assisi became aware that over 8,000 dogs were being needlessly put to sleep in council pounds across the province due to the lack of caring homes.

In an effort to cut the death toll Assisi launched a scheme whereby strays are sent to Dogs Trust shelters in England for rehoming. The Dogs Trust never put a healthy dog down.

Every week, and sometimes twice weekly, a specially adapted air conditioned van travels overnight to England with 20 or more dogs and puppies for rehoming.

These are happy and healthy dogs who just need a second chance.

Each run costs £400 for diesel and ferry and is co-ordinated and carried out by volunteers for Assisi.

The fire walk, sponsored by Jollyes, takes place on September 9 at Harlequinns Rugby Club in Belfast where 40 animal loving people will endeavour to walk over a 25 foot path of hot coals (I thought it was only 10ft - ED).

Vet Olivia Kennedy explained her motivation: “I was talked into it by Alison.”

Conor Lavery had a similar tale to tell: “It was with Alison’s encouragement and, of course, saving the dogs.”

And for David Weekes: “I’m an animal lover at heart and Alison persuaded me.”

Rebecca Edwards, needed none of Alison’s persuasion: “My stepfather was going to do it but he has another engagement and I had wanted to do it from the start.”

As for Clint: “Alison talked me into it, although it took a minimum of arm twisting. I’m sure there are plenty round town who would pay to see me hauled over hot coals!

“Of course, I’m just a big sap for a shaggy dog story and if you’re going to do something for charity it might as well be something life changing. When I was a lot younger (and thinner) I did a parachute jump for Action Cancer, another charity close to my heart.”

To donate to the walk, collection buckets have been placed in the Lurgan Mail office on High Street, Lurgan Vet Clinic, Banbridge Road and Jollyes on the Portadown Road.

Most of the walkers also have JustGiving pages set up online. To pay to have Clint hauled over the coals just go to www.justgiving.com/clint-aiken

Alison said: “We so desperately need money and this is a wonderful way to do it. It’s a big challenge to fulfil your aspirations and build your confidence.”

Alison also sent out her thanks to John Breen at Hilltop Kennels, 16 Cohara Road, Portadown, tel 07825 587 778, where strays are kept from Craigavon Borough Council.

John, at his own expense, keeps the dogs after the six days whenever he has space to give them a better chance of finding a new home and if a new home cannot be found they are passed to Millvale Animal Sanctuary.

Last year 683 strays were dealt with in the Craigavon borough, the vast majority were either reclaimed, sold or sent to a sanctuary but unfortunately 20 per cent of the total had to be put down. This year figures are much improved thanks to the efforts of a lot of people with 95% of strays returned to their owners or rehomed/sent to shelters in the period January-April.