Finlayson tells IAM stewards of ‘Spokane Dash’ plans

SEATTLE — Tania Finlayson didn’t plan on taking part in the 2012 Flight for Sight Fun Run, Machinists Union District Lodge 751’s annual fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America.

It was her husband, Ken – an information technology tech for District 751 — who had been training for months to run the 10-kilometer portion of the race. Tania was only going along to cheer him on.

TaniaMug“I thought I would catch some sun and have time to get acquainted with some puppies from Guide Dogs of America,” she told District 751 union stewards in April, speaking through a computer system that allows Finlayson – who has cerebral palsy – to communicate with the world.

But as they drove from their home in Kirkland to the race site in Everett, Ken suggested that Tania should take part in the run, in her electric wheelchair.

“I just laughed, and looked at him like he was insane,” she recounted to the stewards. “But before I could blink, I was at the starting line, waiting for the gun to fire.”

What happened next set her on a path to attempt a 300-mile wheelchair ride from Seattle to Spokane, and to raise $42,000 for people who she says aren’t as lucky as her.

“Tania’s a pretty inspiring woman,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski. “Especially when you consider the physical challenges that she herself faces, and how she wants to help other people overcome their limitations.”

The Finlaysons – along with their son, Michael – spoke at local lodge meetings in April to explain their plans for the 300-mile ride Tania’s calling the “Spokane Dash for Puppy Cash,” and to ask for help collecting donations. Tania plans to leave for Spokane after taking part in this year’s Flight for Sight on June 8. If all goes well, she’ll arrive there four days later.

If left to herself, she’d make the trip in three days, Tania joked with stewards. “Ken is planning to come along with me on his bike, so I might have to stretch out the trip a day for him.”

Finalyson’s presentation at the lodge meetings was pre-recorded. She “typed” it, using Morse code and switches she controls with her head. She drives her wheelchair with her chin.

She got laughs explaining that her cerebral palsy is nothing to worry about – “aliens are just invading my body” – and for sharing her glee at the fact she beat Ken to the finish line at last year’s Flight for Sight.

“I was not supposed to say that,” Tania joked. “Sorry Honey!”

But Finlayson was serious as she described how taking part in last year’s fun run affected her.

“As I was doing the race, I thought of how it would be if I was blind,” she told the stewards. Trying to drive a wheelchair without her vision “would be pretty scary,” she said.

“Not to mention, it would put limits on my independence, and that would be something that I would just hate,” Finlayson said. “My independence is something that I treasure and value every day.”

Finlayson said she considers herself “fortunate, because I am able to help others, despite my physical challenges.”

She asked the union stewards to do all they can to help raise money for her effort, and vowed to do her part.

“No matter how long it takes me, I will reach my destination on my own steam,” Finlayson said.

TaniaLocalA2Union stewards and members at the meeting were moved by Finlayson’s words.  Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-A stewards – about 100 of them – gave her a spontaneous standing ovation that included a synchronized union clap. Local 751-C stewards voted to pass the hat at their second shift meeting and collected more than $700, which was added to the $300 Local C officers had already voted to donate.

All proceeds are going to Guide Dogs of America, she said, and if she reaches her goal of $42,000, that will pay for one guide dog to help one blind or visually impaired person live a more-independent life.

“I would really appreciate anything that people would be able to give,” Finlayson said. “Together, we will be making a positive difference in someone’s life, and to me, that is the greatest feeling in the world.”

For regular updates as the Finlaysons prepare for Tania’s 300-mile trek, go online at To make a tax-deductible donation to Guide Dogs in her name, click here to go to her Web site.

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 working men and women at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2012, union volunteers gave more than 10,500 hours of community service, and raised nearly $299,000 for Guide Dogs of America.

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One Response to “Finlayson tells IAM stewards of ‘Spokane Dash’ plans”
  1. it support says:

    I sympathise. I’ve been there too!

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