A blind parkrun Ambassador and one of the organisers of Southport’s first parkrun have been recognised with awards from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Kelly Barton, (42) and Dr Simon Tobin, (54), both from Southport, were presented with awards for their determination to break down barriers for people with sight loss at a ceremony in the Lowry Hotel, Manchester, on Saturday 4 May 2019.
The RNIB awards form part of the charity’s celebration of its 150th year and were coordinated with sight loss organisations across the North West.
Kelly, who has been blind since birth, was presented with the RNIB Recognition Award for Outstanding Role Model for her achievements. She works as Volunteer Coordinator for the Salvation Army’s Strawberry Fields project, where she commits hours to recruiting and supporting volunteers while also acting as a volunteer counsellor.
On top of her dedication to the charity sector, Kelly is a keen runner and acts as a national ambassador for parkrun UK. Along with guide runners, she has run in 5k and 10k races, as well as several half marathons and also the London Marathon in 2018.
Kelly said: “I have absolutely no vision in my right eye, but a tiny amount of sight in my left eye. All of that means that I don’t know if someone in front of me is a man or woman until they speak. Because of my sight impairment, I didn’t realise that I could get into running until a few years ago when I joined my first parkrun.
“It’s really difficult to describe to anyone who can see, just what it feels like to suddenly not have a cane in your hand – the sense of achievement it gives you when you do take that leap of faith. It’s such a lovely experience to be running through the park on a Saturday morning, feeling the fresh air hit my face
“I often feel an enormous sense of satisfaction at what I have achieved, and I’m so happy to have been chosen for this award. I hope that other blind people aren’t put off of running, because – although it’s challenging – it’s completely worth it.”
Kelly occasionally runs with Dr Simon Tobin, a local GP who helped organise Southport’s parkrun when he realised there was a lack of opportunities for his visually impaired patients to exercise and improve their health. For his involvement in setting up the event, Dr Tobin was presented with the RNIB Recognition Award for Outstanding Work Benefitting the Visually Impaired.
Dr Tobin said: “This recognition from the RNIB for the team at Southport parkrun is fantastic, but what I’m most proud about is that we’ve managed to shine a spotlight on some amazing heroes within our community. People like Kelly Barton and the host of the awards, James Connell, who have inspired so many other people with vision impairments. They are my heroes and every single one of them deserves an award.”
Kelly and Dr Tobin are two of seven RNIB award winners on the night, which were selected from 28 shortlisted nominees by a panel of representatives and volunteers from sight loss organisations across the North West of England. The inaugural awards formed part of RNIB’s celebration of 150 years in the region.
Andrea Glover, Network Manager for RNIB in the North West, said: “Our 150th anniversary provided a unique opportunity, not just to celebrate a milestone for our organisation, but also to celebrate the amazing achievements that have transformed the lives of blind and partially sighted people in the area.
“Kelly’s accomplishments and Simon’s work with parkrun are examples of this. Simon’s efforts to ensure there are accessible opportunities for visually impaired people to improve their health and keep fit have changed lives for the better. And Kelly’s tireless work to support a fantastic charity, and amazing achievements as a running-enthusiast, have made her an inspiration for blind and partially sighted people across North West and beyond.
“With these awards, we are thrilled to be able to give Kelly and Simon’s hard work and dedication the recognition it deserves.”
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