£12k gives Ciara blind school start

A SOLDIER who is walking 500 miles to raise the money needed to send his blind daughter to a specialist school has already raised enough to pay her fees for at least the first term.

Ciara McGearey, 13, started at the Royal Blind School this week after her father, Warrant Officer Class 1 Mac McGearey, managed to raise an impressive 12,000 – despite being less than halfway through his sponsored trek.

He left the Capital on 30 January and will return on 26 February after making his way up to the West Highland Way then back down to Edinburgh via Inverness, Pitlochry and Dunfermline.

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He was forced to take on the challenge to raise money for Ciara's school fees after council bosses refused to pay to send her to the Blind School, despite an independent tribunal ruling that it is the best place for her.

A legal battle is under way, with city chiefs appealing against the decision by taking the case to the Court of Session, but Mr McGearey decided to raise as much money as possible to send his daughter to the school, where she will receive specialist help.

He hopes to raise enough to continue to send Ciara to the Blind School until the conclusion of the court case.

Mr McGearey, 40, who was walking in Inverness today, said: "They have allowed us to do it a term at a time and she is loving it. She had a cracking first day and the reports I got back from the school make this all worth it.

"The fundraising has gone a lot better than we ever imagined but we have to keep going so we can keep Ciara in the school for as long as possible. The support we've had has been overwhelming."

When the family lived in Edinburgh previously, Ciara attended the Royal Blind School from the age of six months, and was enrolled as a pupil from 2001-13.

However, she had to leave when her father, who serves in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, was posted to Suffolk with his regiment.

She is now back in a class with some of her friends from before.

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The council's education department wants Ciara, who lost her sight when she was only three days old after suffering meningitis, to go to the council-run Oaklands Special School, which does not specialise in blindness.

Colinton and Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who has been trying to help the family, said: "

The level of support for the family from Poppyscotland and virtually everyone apart from the city council was amazing. It is scandalous that the family have had to go to such lengths. The council administration need to hang their heads in shame."

Poppyscotland chief executive Ian McGregor said: "We are delighted that Ciara has returned to the Royal Blind School, where she will receive the specialist care she needs.

"We were able to provide immediate financial help to get her back to the school during Mac's walk but the support from the public has been phenomenal in helping to extend her placement. However, more funds are still needed, since it could be some time before this case comes to court and a final ruling is made.

"Ciara's story has clearly touched a large number of people and I am sure that the family is heartened to know there is so much support out there for them."

• www.poppyscotland.org.uk/ciara

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