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Jason is a guiding light

Jason Blake gets an Australia flag from Luke Hartsuyker.
Jason Blake gets an Australia flag from Luke Hartsuyker. Bruce Thomas

JASON Bake’s sight is diminishing but his sense of adventure has never been stronger.

For as long as he can remember, the Crossmaglen dairy farmer has dreamed of walking the Kokoda Track. About 15 years ago, Mr Bake was diagnosed with a genetic eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, that leads to incurable blindness. He now has seven per cent vision.

Refusing to let his waning vision hinder him, Mr Bake is taking up the colossal challenge for a cause that is close to his heart – Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the military aspect, the mental and physical challenge and the desire to give back and grow confidence along the way,” Mr Bake said.

“We’ve been training since October by doing hit outs for hours on the mountains around Crossmaglen.

“I just got back from a 16km trek on steep stretches and with 10 days to go I’m feeling good.”

Surrounded by family members and supported by guides, Mr Bake and another blind Australian walker, Steve Widders, will tackle the Kokoda Track on June 3 as part of the Kokoda: Blind Courage Team.

Mr Bake said he has some (limited) central vision and his sighted guide will wear a fluorescent sock protector which will work as a flag in his field of view during the 10-day trek.

He wants to highlight that having a vision impairment should not stop anyone from achieving their goals and is pleased to give back to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

“Only 10% of their work involves guide dogs and they have supported me with mobility training using canes and an electronic device called a ‘mini-guide’ which signals if there’s an obstacle’s in my path.”

Last week Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker recognised Mr Bake as an inspiration and presented him with an Australian flag to carry on his walk.

“The 96km trek is a huge challenge but to complete the walk when you are vision impaired is an inspiration,” Mr Hartsuyker said.

“Jason is a shining example of someone who has not allowed a disability to prevent him living a productive life and achieving his goals.”

Mr Bake is hoping to raise $30,000 for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

To donate go to www.blindcourage.net

Topics:  genetic eye condition, jason blake, kokoda track


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