Union joins ‘Team Tania’ for 300-mile wheelchair ride
KIRKLAND – A Kirkland woman with cerebral palsy says she wants to help other people overcome their physical limitations.
Tania Finlayson is planning a 300-mile cross-state trek in her motorized wheelchair to raise money and awareness for the Guide Dogs of America charity. The event – which she’s calling “A Spokane Dash for Puppy Cash” – is set for June 8-11.
Finlayson plans to leave from her home in Kirkland and head across the Cascades to Spokane, following Interstate 90 most of the way, while also taking advantage of the bicycle trails that parallel the highway.
Finlayson’s wheelchair has a top speed of close to 7 mph, and she and her husband, Ken, estimate it will take her four days to make the trip. She’ll be supported along the way by her family, including her and Ken’s son, Michael.
She’ll also have a support crew from Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle, where Ken Finlayson works as an information technology technician.
“My goal is to raise $42,000,” said Finlayson, who communicates through a computer keyboard that she operates with head switches, using Morse code. That’s because it costs $42,000 to raise, train and pair one guide dog with a blind or visually impaired person.
Finlayson said she wants to raise that much money to “help someone to gain increased mobility and independence, which is something I cherish every day.”
Finlayson said she was inspired to make the effort after taking part last year in the Flight for Sight Fun Run & Walk, a 10K run that is an annual fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America sponsored by the Women’s Committee at Machinists District 751.
“I enjoyed it so much,” she said. “I wanted to do something myself to help make a difference.”
A 300-mile wheelchair ride may seem daunting, but Finlayson has a track record of achievement. She’s a college graduate, a business owner, a certified skydiver with more than 40 jumps to her credit, and a mom.
In fact, Finlayson said she plans to warm up for her 300-mile run by taking part in this year’s Flight for Sight 10K, which will be at 9:30 a.m. June 8 at the Boeing Everett Activity Center. After that, she’ll return with her husband to Kirkland, and set off for Spokane in the afternoon.
District 751 Machinists are fully supporting Finlayson’s effort by helping with fundraising and logistical planning, said Tom Wroblewski, the union’s president.
The union has set up a Web site – http://dashforcash.kintera.org — where people can make tax-deductible contributions. Union stewards also are taking donations and pledges.
“Tania’s pretty amazing,” Wroblewski said. “When she came to us with this idea, our first reaction was ‘You want to do what?’ And our second was ‘How can we help?’”
District 751 is the top fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America across North America, having raised more than $1 million for the charity over the past four years. So it was only natural for the union to join Finlayson’s quest, Wroblewski said.
“She’s a real inspiration,” he said. “We’re proud to be part of ‘Team Tania.’”
You can track Finlayson’s preparations for the “Spokane Dash” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Spokanedash4puppycash
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 workers at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2012, union volunteers performed more than 10,500 hours of community service, and raised nearly $299,000 for Guide Dogs of America.
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