Shane Ryan returns home from his Atlantic Rowing Challenge. Pictured here with father Tom and mother Marie on his return to Caherelly where locals stood outside their homes to welcome him back. Picture: Keith Wiseman
UPDATE: Rower Shane Ryan returns from his journey and is fundraising for guide dogs
By I Love Limerick Correspondent Sophia DiBattista
Shane Ryan, a nearly blind man, has finally returned from his own rowing challenge that took him across the Atlantic Ocean, from Europe all the way down to South America.
Shane, 33, started his challenge in January. He and a team of 5 other people rowed from Europe to South America, making history as the first blind rower embarking on an adventure that took over 54 days to complete.
The team started their journey in Lagos, Portugal, passing the Moroccan Coast along the way, and ended up in French Guiana as their final destination. They flew back to Ireland and had safe passage back home.
The Caherelly native was diagnosed with Bardet-Biedel Syndrome at birth. The condition leads its victims to experience trouble with learning, kidney dysfunction, extra fingers or toes and even vision loss. Despite these challenges, Shane has taken the reigns over his condition and completed a mission that required much courage and determination.
An intense training routine gave Shane the physical and psychological strength needed to complete this challenge. He updated his Facebook page on all the ups and downs of the training and of his team’s journey. Some of these incidents include a shark attack and a refusal of entry to Cape Verde because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Throughout all the difficulties, Shane and his team were successful, but this journey was not done just for them, however. To raise awareness for vision-impaired people, Shane set up a GoFundMe page to donate all his funds to Vision Sports Ireland.
Vision Sports Ireland is the only organisation in Ireland that promotes leisure and recreational activities for those who are visually impaired. Shane, a proud contributor to the organisation, has raised over €6,000 with his fundraising campaign.
The rower commented on his GoFundMe page about choosing Vision-Sports, saying, “I have chosen this charity as they have helped me personally in the past. Without their services I would not have been introduced to the sport of rowing many years ago. This ultimately lead to my partaking in the London Paralympic games in 2012.”
“Any donation, no matter how small, will be of great benefit and hugely appreciated. There are many others in the same position as myself who may not realise their potential in sport. Hopefully this campaign will bring awareness to the greater sporting community of Ireland and encourage the visually impaired to try their hand at sitting in a rowing boat, or taking to a tandem bicycle,” Shane said.
In addition to the Vision Sports fundraiser, Shane is looking to raise money for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. This great organisation provides visually impaired people with guide dogs to assist them in daily life.
Shane himself has applied for a guide dog and hopes many others will have a newfound awareness for the organisation. He plans on shaving his head in tandem with the fundraiser.
Marie Ryan, Shane’s mother, has spoken about this effort saying, “Normally at this time of the year Shane and I are busy fundraising in shopping centres with our Ambassador dog Ben, who many people have met, rubbed, scratched and cuddled over the last few years.”
“Shane and I are usually out doing fundraising for the Guide Dogs at this time of year, especially on Guide Dog Day – but of course this year we have to do things differently so they are running a text WOOF to 50300 to donate €4,” she said.
Any donation helps the cause and Shane, Marie and all other supporters greatly appreciate it. Be sure to celebrate Guide Dogs Day this Friday, May 8!
People can still donate to the page by clicking here.
For more information on Vision-Sports Ireland, click here.
For more stories on fundraisers, click here.