Charity champ raises millions, despite ill health

TAKING THE LEAD ... Tony Carlisle at the starting line at last year's Great North Dog Walk.
TAKING THE LEAD ... Tony Carlisle at the starting line at last year's Great North Dog Walk.

charity champion Tony Carlisle is known as the face of the world-famous Great North Dog Walk.

But behind his tireless fundraising efforts, the 56-year-old is battling a series of health problems that have robbed him of his independence.

The former PE teacher has been forced to retire from his job of 34 years, but says he will never retire from his charity work.

He has raised millions of pounds over the years and put South Shields on the map with the dog walk, which is now in its 23rd year.

Family friend Nicola Greenan has nominated him for Achieving Excellence in the Pride of South Tyneside Awards 2013.

She said: “Tony has spent most of his life raising funds for local charities.

“Even through ill-health, he still puts everything he has into arranging a fantastic event, which raises funds for animal charities and Help For Heroes.

“I believe it’s time that he is finally recognised for all the commitment he has shown over the years.”

Mr Carlisle is suffering from a type of bone cancer and is facing his ninth operation, to remove a third of his foot, having already lost two toes. He wears leg braces and is unable to walk very far, so he is permanently on crutches.

The father-of-two said: “The prognosis is I will lose my foot and the bottom part of my leg.

“This is something I will never bounce back from and I want to leave the dog walk as my legacy.”

The Great North Dog Walk, held on The Leas in South Shields, holds the Guinness World Record for the largest-ever dog walk, with 23,301, represented by 185 breeds, taking part.

Mr Carlisle said: “I will never let my charity work go and I have been astounded at the support I have received from people who have rallied round.

“Obviously I need more help than ever to stage my dog walk, but I’m going to do it.”

He described the award nomination as “a nice pick-me-up”, adding: “The awards are a fantastic reflection of the standard of people in this borough.

“I am so proud to serve the borough and will continue to try and put back in what I have taken out.”