A NEWBURY man who lost his sight 10 years ago is preparing to walk 50km next week to raise thousands of pounds to help improve the lives of other blind people.
Derek Gardner, 57, and his brother, Frank, were diagnosed with Treacher Collins syndrome when they were born – a condition which usually affects the ears, but in their case led to dislocated lenses.
At 13 years old, they were diagnosed with glaucoma, but, despite numerous operations, both brothers became blind in later life.
However, Mr Gardner is refusing to let that get in the way of being part of a team of 14 taking on the 50km Thames Path Challenge on Saturday for the Berkshire Vision charity.
The team are all from the local area and are determined to complete the trek along the river from Runnymede to Henley-on-Thames.
Mr Gardner said: “I have had contact with a group of volunteers and helpers who are really committed. I’ve also met a lot of other blind people, who are clearly determined to get on with life, despite everything, similar to myself.
“Berkshire Vision has really impressed me and they are a natural home for my fundraising efforts as a result.
“I am confident that whatever I raise will be put to good use improving the lives and activities of blind people.”
Mr Gardner was born in Hornton, North Oxfordshire, and at the age of 18 started working for British Leyland as a computer programmer in Oxford in 1976.
Since then, he’s worked in the software industry both in the US and the UK.
As he knew he was losing his sight, he completed an MBA with the Open University and has been supported by his wife Tina, who he met in the US and married in 1995.
Mr Gardner says he wants to take on the challenge as he wants to test himself as well as support Berkshire Vision, where he is part of the tandem cycling team.
The challenge is being coordinated by Connect Charity, a company that supports local Berkshire-based charities.
Vickie Randall from the organisation said: “When Derek signed up to take part, we were really amazed and delighted to support him in his quest to take on the 50km walk.
“I can’t imagine not being able to see and it proves how some people are so determined that they can overcome adversity at every step.”
If you’d like to support Mr Gardner, you can visit his fundraising page at https://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/Derek-Gardner
You can also join the Wonder Walkers team, or donate, by visiting the team page at https://www.justgiving.com/ teams/wonderwalkersteam