18 Aug 2022

To blindly go where no man has gone before

It is said that anything is possible and that the bounds to which human spirit can reach is endless.

It is said that anything is possible and that the bounds to which human spirit can reach is endless.

For one young man who lives his life without the privilege of vision, this surely rings true as he embarks on the challenge of a life time, by paddling the length of the River Shannon in an effort to raise some much needed funds for Child Vision.

Wesley Bourke, a native of Celbridge, Co Kildare, will undertake the 225 mile journey from August 16-19, beginning at Dowra, Co Cavan and navigating on through counties Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon, Offaly, Westmeath, Galway, Clare and Tipperary.

He is expected to pass through Longford on August 16 and has given himself just four days to complete the gruelling task.

Describing himself as a “blind journalist and canoeist”, Mr Bourke is a past pupil of Child Vision’s national education centre for blind children.

He will undertake the challenge alongside his paddling partner, Aisa Cooper and is highly confident that the pair will complete the task within the allocated time-frame when they take to the Shannon in a K2 Kayak on August 16 next.

“No blind person has ever done this before, but I’m confident that we will not only complete the challenge, but that we will also get it done on schedule,” he explained to the Leader. “Child Vision really deserves every support you can give them and I hope everyone along the route will be generous in supporting them, and us, too.”

The canoeist was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy at the age of 18 years.

At the time he was completing an apprenticeship with the Air Corp and the illness left him with less than 15 percent vision.

While it came as a major blow to him, he coped well and began attending Child Vision’s integrated post-primary school, Pobal Scoil Rosmini, where he completed his Leaving Certificate in 1998.

He then went on to study International Relations at the University of Hull and King’s College London and now works as a journalist with An Cosantóir, the Defence Forces magazine. 

An adventure enthusiast at heart, Mr Bourke completed the Devizes - the Westminster International Canoeing Marathon - with Mr Cooper, paddling over 200km in a two man kayak.

This event allowed the pair to prepare for this upcoming event along the River Shannon. Both Bourke and Cooper are members of the Celbridge Paddlers Canoe Club, Co Kildare.

Child Vision works with over 800 families throughout the country providing educational resources and facilities for blind children.

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