Wensleydale couple take on sponsored walk for assistance dog charity which helped daughter

Molly and assistance dog Chess.

A couple whose young daughter’s life was transformed by her assistance dog are embarking on a 109-mile sponsored walk along the Cleveland Way to raise money for the charity that made it possible.

Kevin and Emma Birch, from Barden, near Leyburn, will be walking the K9 Challenge in aid of national assistance dog charity Support Dogs, which provided and trained Labrador Chess for their 13-year-old daughter Molly, who has cerebral palsy.

Disability assistance dog Chess enables Molly to live more independently and safely, providing practical support around the family farmhouse, and helping Molly with her balance when they go out.

Kevin and Emma and members of the Barden Clay Shoot have raised £100,000 for Support Dogs over the past six years.

They will be joined on the walk by clay shoot committee member Mike O’Hara and family friend Kerry Boddy.

Sadly, due to Covid, they have not been able to organise the clay shoot for the past two years, so decided to help raise vital funds for the charity via the sponsored walk instead.

Emma, Kevin, Mike and Kerry will set off from Helmsley on Monday September 21, and, covering around 20 miles a day, will arrive at the North Yorkshire Water Park in Wykeham, near Scarborough, on Sunday, September 26.

Daughter Molly with Chess will join them for the final leg of the walk.

The water park is hosting a Brass and Cake by the Lake event on that day in aid of Support Dogs, with Ripon City Band, a dog show, gundog challenge, flyball dog displays, stalls and refreshments.

Emma Birch said: “We’re in awe of what Support Dogs do.

“Chess gives Molly confidence and pride, and it’s very touching to see her able to do things independently without an adult helping her.

“Her future is so much brighter because of Chess and Support Dogs.

“We’re very happy to be able to give something back to the charity that has given our family so much.”

Kevin and Emma Birch will be joined by Mike O’Hara and Kerry Boddy.

Support Dogs is a national charity based in Yorkshire that provides and trains assistance dogs for children and adults with autism, epilepsy and a variety of medical conditions, enabling them to lead safer, more independent lives.

You can sponsor Kevin, Emma, Mike and Kerry via their Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/K9challenge

Read more about Molly and Chess here: Chess – making all the right moves for young Molly | Support Dogs