THE widower of a blind veteran from Lancashire has vowed to continue to support Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, in her memory.
Richard Hughes, 70-years-old and from Preston, will take on the London to Brighton Cycle on 10 September in memory of his late wife Maria Pikulski and continue to fundraise for the charity that meant so much to her.
Maria joined the Army at 18-years-old and had a short career with the Woman’s Royal Army Corps, followed by 11 years with the Territorial Army.
In 2003, while working as a nurse in a job she loved, Maria began to lose her sight. Within six months she had suffered almost complete sight loss due to the genetic eye condition Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.
Maria started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2004 and after the charity turned her life around, she was determined to give back by fundraising and raising awareness.
“Maria was a blind veteran through and through and the charity meant so much to her.
“I didn’t know her when she first lost her sight, but she told me she was in a very dark place until Blind Veterans UK gave her the confidence to pick herself up and she decided sight loss would not stop her from making the most of her life.
“Through the charity, Maria started trying lots of new activities like skiing and white-water rafting and she was given IT training which helped her secure a job as an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, helping people who had lost their sight.
“The first question she would ask people is ‘did you serve?’ and if the answer was yes, she pointed them in the direction of Blind Veterans UK.”
Maria carried out a lot of fundraising for Blind Veterans UK and raised more than £5,500 for the charity. She also inspired many others to join in with her fundraising.
In September 2021, Maria and Richard took on the 55-mile London to Brighton Cycle on a tandem bike in what, they didn’t realise, would be her last fundraising challenge.
Just one week later, doctors gave Maria the devastating news that she had a tumour and within a year she had lost her battle with the illness.
In 2021, the ride took the pair nine hours to complete and now Richard is going to be facing it solo in her memory.
“I want to forever keep the link with Blind Veterans UK and to also keep Maria’s memory alive.
“I think I’ll be fine while I am doing the ride, but I might find it emotionally tough at the finish line.”
Victoria Beech from the Blind Veterans UK’s Community Partnerships Team said:
“We are so touched that Richard is taking part in this event, continuing Maria’s efforts to ensure other veterans can receive the life-changing support that she did.
“Many of our supporters first get involved with fundraising in memory of a loved one. Grief can often result in the experience of a loss of direction, particularly when the person we have lost is part of our everyday routines.
“Getting involved in training for a challenge or organising a fundraising activity can give back that sense of purpose while supporting a cause that helps them feel connected with their loved one.”
If you would like to help Richard reach his target of £500 in memory of Maria please visit his JustGiving page.
If you are inspired by Richard and would like to join him in representing Blind Veterans UK at the London to Brighton Cycle visit the charity’s website: blindveterans.org.uk/events/.
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country but knows there are many thousands more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit: blindveterans.org.uk/support.