Dog lover and keen walker, Carol Matthews, was joined by a number of canine (and human) supporters when she undertook a gruelling 20-mile route in and around Crawley, raising money to sponsor a new guide dog puppy who will provide specialist assistance in Sussex.
The challenge, which took place on Sunday 9th November, saw Carol pound the pavements from Ifield Green to Handcross and back – twice - raising almost £1,000 towards the £5k needed to sponsor a puppy.
Setting off from the Plough Inn, Ifield at 8am and accompanied by pet dogs Evie and Freddie, Carol and her team reached Handcross village, for the first time at 10.20am, where she was joined by two more of her beloved pets, Milo and Maisie for the second leg of four.
After retracing her route once again, she completed her very own doggy-relay at 4pm, with the help of Bobby and Bella, two more four-legged team-mates, returning to the Plough to a hero’s welcome, and finally breaking through the finishing tape.
Carol, who lives in West Green and is the chef at the Plough in Ifield Green, came-up with the idea for the unusual challenge earlier this year along with Landlady Flo Simpson, after the death of one of the pub’s best loved customers and former member of staff, Alan Burgess.
Carol and Flo set their sights on creating a lasting legacy for Alan, by raising the money needed to buy and train a guide dog puppy, to become a much-needed companion for a visually impaired adult in Sussex.
After just six months, the fundraising pair have smashed their £5k target, and are delighted to announce that the puppy will be called Burgess, in Alan’s memory.
Along with partner John Scudder, Flo has run the Plough for just over eight years, during which time the pub has won several national awards for its incredible charity efforts. However, this challenge was particularly special for all involved.
Flo said: “I’m just so incredibly proud of what Carol has done. We set a goal six months ago to raise the £5k we needed to fund a puppy, which was no mean feat!
“We have held a number of events during that time, including dog show which was excellent, but to smash trough our target this Sunday means such a lot to us all at the Plough.
“We’re all very grateful for the support we received and can’t wait to meet little Burgess!”
Carol, who has worked at the popular local for just over 18 months, said: “It was quite a tough day, but really enjoyable too – even the weather was kind!
“The amount of support we have had for this has been tremendous and the generosity of everyone who has sponsored me and wished us well has really moved me.
“At the Plough, we have several regular customers who are blind or visually impaired, and meeting their hard-working dogs is such a privilege - we’re really looking forward to meeting Burgess, knowing that the money we raised will be going towards changing someone’s life for the better.”
Report and pictures contributed by Vikki Lockwood.