This National Volunteer Week, 16 – 22 June, we say thanks to our wonderful volunteers who weave communities together – which happens to be this year’s theme. Take a read of some of our wonderful volunteer stories.

Amanda Graney

Fundraising Volunteer, Puppy Raiser, Life Enrichment Volunteer and more

Amanda Graney and her family
Amanda Graney and her family

Amanda has volunteered in several roles with the Blind Foundation as a guide dogs puppy raiser and fundraising volunteer. What makes her unique is how she involves her entire family to do it together.

Her family loves getting to know a new little puppy and teaching him/her manners and commands necessary to give the puppy the best shot to go on to be a guide dog.  Amanda confesses that when she gets home after a not so good day, the puppy always cheers her up with a waggy tail.

As a fundraising volunteer, Amanda clears the Collection Boxes from local shops and businesses in Katikati to Waihi and the children help during the holidays. They are involved with Red Puppy Appeal and baking and selling bikkies for Bikkie Day raising the dough for Blind Foundation Guide Dogs.  They’re also participating in the Auckland Marathon by doing the 12km and 5km run/walk and aiming to raise around $4,500 for us.  Besides all the above, Amanda has also kindly offered to organise the Blind Foundation coffee group in Katikati for clients who are blind or have low vision. Unstoppable!

Sophie Armitage

Blind Foundation staff and volunteer

Sophie Armitage wears a red Blind Foundation puppy mascot in training cloth with a dog mask
Sophie Armitage

Sophie works in the Blind Foundation’s Auckland office in Fundraising as Supporter Care Manager. She believes in giving back to organisations she cares for.  Ever since her arrival from the U.K. in 2005, she has packed in a huge amount of volunteer hours for various charities.

“Sometimes it isn’t possible to be a financial supporter and you have the skills and enthusiasm that can be utilised,” she explains.

Initially, Sophie volunteered at SPCA Whangarei every day for work experience and because it was a cause close to her heart. She was an adult supervisor for Child Cancer’s children’s camps and went overnights at the zoo, skiing at snow planet, or setting up a water slide down the closest hill and picnics in the park. She has recently started as a volunteer for Girl Guides as a Ranger Leader as she believes in their values of strong female leadership.

At the Blind Foundation, Sophie volunteers as an Events Photographer with the Community and Life Enrichment team. She accompanies the teams for various physical challenges such as the Run for your Freakin’ Life event at Spookers Haunted Attraction Scream Park.

“I am amazed at our clients’ enthusiasm and courage. They have proven to me that there are no barriers in life”.

As Collection Box coordinator, she visits various businesses and shops to empty and bank the money from the collection boxes in West Auckland. As Fundraising Team volunteer, Sophie has the unique privilege of dressing up as the mascot, Marvel. She visits various spots during Red Puppy Appeal street collections as part of the promotion.

“Marvel is good fun to do.  It is super hot in the costume so I try to hydrate myself prior and stay in the shade whilst being out and about.”

Sophie also volunteers as part of the ‘Social Seen’ committee for Blind Foundation staff and helps organise social events throughout the year. With so many roles to perform, could Sophie pick her favourite? “Whichever one I am focused on at the time,” is her quick response!

Russell Shanks

The Indefatigable Tandem Bike Volunteer

Volunteer Russel Shanks with Paul Glass on the tandem bike, Fairlie
Volunteer Russel Shanks with Paul Glass on the tandem bike, Fairlie

Russell Shanks from Timaru is a busy man these days. Russell is a tandem bike volunteer and rides with Blind Foundation client Paul Glass to get ready for the Tour de Aotearoa in 2020. Together they are clocking up a ridiculous number of kilometres as a build up to the event. Tour Aotearoa stretches 3,000km from Cape Reinga to Bluff. It follows a combination of cycle trails, tracks, paths and lanes connected by the most enjoyable country roads available.

The tandem duo meet twice a week and on an average cover 160kms per week. They have been known to do over 200kms on a single day!

Russell is a recreation volunteer and works closely with clients to enable them to reach their recreational goals.

Paul says, “Russell is a fantastic volunteer! One right out of the box.”  Over the last three and a half years, Paul and Russell have formed a unique friendship, which shows how volunteers play a pivotal role and form meaningful relationships that goes beyond providing vision related support.

“The match has been perfect for Paul”, says Chris Moffitt, Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator, Dunedin. “He has flourished as a result of this partnership so much so that he is now a very fit, active man brimming with confidence and tackling life head on”.

Meanwhile Russell thinks Paul is an extraordinary man who motivates him to do better.

The Blind Foundation covers a large range of recreation events from coffee groups to photography, self-defence classes, knitting, painting, kayaking, marathon running, art workshops, to name a few. Volunteers such as Russell donate their time and skill to enable our clients to live a life without limits. We wish you the very best Russell and Paul for your big adventure!

Interested in volunteering with the Blind Foundation? Check out these opportunities available.