A man from St Andrews has complet- ed his challenge of walking one million steps in aid of the charity Guide Dogs. Richard Burns, 66, spent September and October counting his steps. Guide Dogs, the charity he launched his walking challenge for, is a founding member of the International Guide Dog Federation. It plays an essential role in facilitating the sharing of knowledge and expertise within the global guide dog industry. Guide Dogs Scotland has expressed its appreciation on Facebook for Burns' support. Jo Stevenson, regional community fundraising manager for Guide Dogs, also said, “This was such a fantastic challenge dreamt up by Richard, and we are so grateful for his efforts. She added, “Despite the weather, he completed his millionth step with a smile on his face and a positive attitude.” According to Stevenson, it usually costs £60,000 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement, and Guide Dogs relies almost exclusively on public donations. Therefore, support from people like Richard is crucial to the organisation. This year, on the 90th anniversary of Guide Dogs, Burns took part in the challenge to mark the occasion. On his JustGiving fundraising page, he mentioned that the challenge started on 1 September and that he expected to finish within three months. Burns, who is an employee at St Andrews Links, said, “It equates to walking from my home in Fife to where I was born in Sheffield and back again.” In the end, he completed the challenge a month ahead of schedule. As an added challenge, Burns decided to walk all 18 holes of the St Andrews Old Course while blindfolded. He says he has worked with young people for many years, who are taught to be tolerant toward those who need and deserve our support.
He said, “Losing my sense of sight, even for a short time, meant I had to rely on the person guiding me.” He added, “Although I had total trust in my guide, I felt very alone. But not everyone has that support. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on my side, and the rain was torrential on the day, but I set off anyway with my merry band of volunteers who kindly agreed to join me on my final miles to my millionth step. Just over two hours later, we were on the Swilcan Bridge with just a few steps to go to the finish line on the 18th green. “I now realise how difficult life can be for a blind and partially sighted people, even with all my volunteers assisting me, including my own dog, Annie, the golden retriever.” He added, “Until I took the blindfold off, I didn’t realise how water-logged the course was.” Walking a million steps for charity is no mean feat. Burns took on the challenge for Guide Dogs and says it was an inspiring experience that showed him how isolating life can be without sight, and how much of a lifeline a guide dog can be. The fundraising campaign is still in progress. To date, Burns’ efforts on the St Andrews Old Course have raised over £1,800 for the charity from 58 supporters — enough to help someone in need take a few steps closer to their goals.