A NEWPORT man is not letting blindness get in the way of his love of bowls.

Ron Whitehead, 72 from Bettws, was a long-standing member of Newport Indoor Bowls Centre at Glebelands, and coached a number disabled people to Paralympic glory.

But last year he suffered a stroke, which left him blind and virtually housebound.


South Wales Argus:

(Ron Whitehead after his stroke)

But salvation came in the form of Diane Evans, a former civil servant and now volunteer sighted guide, who was introduced to Mr Whitehead by Guide Dogs Cymru.

Ms Evans said: “One of the first places I took Ron was the barber’s, who cut his hair and shaved off his beard.

“He mentioned that he used to enjoy bowls, so I brought him to the clubhouse at Glebelands. The bowlers didn’t recognise him at first because, unknown to me, he had always had a beard - I’d wrongly assumed that he wanted the barber to shave it all off.”

After a while, he was recognised by husband and wife bowlers Peter and Jackie Cooksley, who helped him with a personalised training session.

Mr Cooksley said: “Jackie and Ron had coached together at the world bowls championships in South Africa in 2004.

“Ron’s been out of the sport for more than a year, so we are helping him to regain his balance and confidence.

“Bowling without sight is very different, and Ron is using muscles that he hasn’t used for a long time. At first, he was shuffling, but now he is putting in a small step as he releases the bowl.”

South Wales Argus:

(Ron Whitehead now)

After his training session, Mr Whitehead said: "It's the first time for me to bowl since I lost my sight, but the technique is coming back to me. I used to really enjoy it and spend all day here."

My Guide manager for Wales, Steve Kersley, said: “It is amazing to see the difference in Ron’s attitude and confidence in just a few weeks with Diane as his sighted guide.

“Diane also says it is very rewarding to know that she is helping to change someone’s life for the better.”

The scheme are looking for more people like Ms Evans to help blind and partially sighted people to regain their confidence.

My Guide volunteers should be 18 or over and able to make a regular commitment of an hour or two per week or fortnight. In return, they receive specialist training in practical sighted guiding to enable them to form a successful and confident partnership. The new skills transfer well to the workplace, and the qualifications can be added to a CV.

To find out more, contact Jaye Connelly on 07468 711808 or email jaye.connelly@guidedogs.org.uk