Joan Taylor and Gerry Wright of Campbell River, B.C. had no idea what awaited them when Joan opened the Winter 2013 edition of our SightLines newsletter. On the back page was the opportunity to check off a huge bucket list item – walking the El Camino de Santiago in Spain.
“Here were two things I love dearly: Operation Eyesight and the El Camino. I thought, ‘we have to do this.’” explains Joan. “Timing wise it wasn’t all that great because it was less than two weeks after we get back from another holiday, but sometimes in life you just have to do it!”
Joan has been an Operation Eyesight supporter for about 11 years, and has a very personal connection to our mission. Her mother suffered from vision loss due to macular degeneration, so she knows how difficult it can be to manage without vision. Not only that, Joan manages a long-term care facility and works with people who struggle every day because they have lost their eyesight.
“My mom and I were extremely close,” explains Joan. “When she turned 80, my siblings and I decided to give five people the gift of sight from Operation Eyesight in mom’s honour.”
Joan continues: “She was so touched that she cried every time she told somebody about the gifts. She couldn’t get over how you could change someone’s life for such a small amount of money. I was hooked on Operation Eyesight after that.”
As for the El Camino Race for a Reason, it was a perfect solution for Joan and Gerry. They had been hoping to do it – especially after seeing Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way” – but the 30 to 45 days it takes to do the entire trail was daunting. Our 10-day trek was the answer!
To prepare, Joan and Gerry train every day. “It’s not easy! When you’re done work at 5 p.m. and it’s blowing and howling and pouring freezing rain, training is a challenge. But, so what?” laughs Joan. “It’s a great cause and we’re really happy to do it.”
They’ve also tapped their networks to raise the donation portion of the trip. And it’s paid off – they’ve already surpassed their fundraising goal more than two months before the deadline! Joan explains, “Nothing like working under pressure! It’s really touching to see the people who have stepped forward to support. I can’t tell you how deeply touched we are.”
Joan and Gerry’s El Camino adventure has just begun, so check back for updates. And they aren’t the only Operation Eyesight supporters getting ready for a Race for a Reason. Stay tuned for more inspirational stories of adventure and camaraderie in the coming weeks!