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Woman with disability treks 300 miles

Tania Finlayson, of Kirkland, Wash., who has been confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, completed a 300-mile wheelchair trip to Gladstone this month to raise funds for Guide Dogs of America.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: MACHINISTS UNION - Tania Finlayson, who has been confined to a wheelchair her life with cerebral palsy, completes a 300-mile wheelchair trip to Gladstone this month to raise funds for Guide Dogs of America. She was accompanied much of the way by her husband, Ken, who rode a bike.Finlayson — confined to a wheelchair her entire life with cerebral palsy — uses her chin to control her electric-motor wheelchair, and when the pain from her rubbed-raw chin got too bad, she drove the last 25 miles with her cheek.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: MACHINISTS UNION - Tania Finlayson is pictured shortly after she arrived at the IAM District W-24 union hall in Gladstone this month. “My dad said, if you cannot change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails,” she explained, speaking through a computer that she controls by typing Morse code with her head.

Her goal was to raise $42,000, which is the cost of breeding, raising, training and pairing one guide dog with one blind person. Guide Dogs of America provides service dogs and training free to people across North America who are blind or have impaired vision.

With support from her family and volunteers with Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle, Finlayson finished her run at the Machinists Union District Lodge W-24 hall in Gladstone at 25 Cornell Ave. She left for the journey after taking part in District 751’s annual Flight for Sight fun run — a 5K and 10K run that is itself a fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America.

Finlayson followed bicycle trails from Everett through Bothell to Issaquah, Wash., then back through Kirkland and around Lake Washington on the Burke-Gilman Trail to the University of Washington campus.

From there she followed the route of the annual Seattle-to-Portland bicycle tour into Oregon. The last leg was along the Springwater Corridor from Portland to Gladstone.

Finlayson expected to arrive in Gladstone on June 11, but said she would continue until she reaches her destination, however long it takes. Finlayson arrived in Gladstone shortly after 4 p.m. on June 12.

She says she wants to help people she considers to be less fortunate than her. She was first inspired to attempt to raise money for Guide Dogs of America while taking part in last year’s Flight for Sight.

“As I was doing the race, I thought of how it would be if I was blind,” she said. Trying to drive a wheelchair without her vision “would be pretty scary. Not to mention it would put limits on my independence, and that would be something that I would just hate.”

Finlayson drove her electric-motor wheelchair, which she controls with her chin. She was accompanied much of the way by her husband, Ken, who rode a bike. Her son, Michael, and other family members rode beside in a motor home, also escorted by a District 751 support van.

“I’m impressed, but not the least surprised,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “Tania’s determination has been the most-important factor throughout all of this effort.”

The Finlaysons originally had planned to travel from Seattle to Spokane, but decided to make Oregon their destination after the Washington Department of Transportation said it wouldn’t allow Tania to travel along Interstate 90 in her wheelchair. Rather than give up, Tania re-routed, and went south instead of east.

Donations can be made online at dashforcash.kinterra.org. Businesses can become sponsors by going to IAM751.org/DashForCash. Information on the Flight for Sight fun run is available at FlightforSight.com.


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