Great North Dog Walk founder Tony Carlisle flies the flag for South Tyneside as he collects national award
A South Tyneside fundraiser says he was proud to fly the flag for the borough when he was honoured with a national award.
Great North Dog Walk founder Tony Carlisle was named Fundraiser of the Year at the seventh annual Animal Heroes Awards, supported by the Mirror newspaper.
The former teacher's first event in 1990 involved just 12 schoolchildren with 13 dogs, since when it has raised more than £8 million for various animal charities, with last year’s event attracting an estimated 35,000 dogs and 185 different breeds.
Tony has carried on with his fund-raising activities despite battling health problems including a heart attack, three heart operations, three skin cancer operations and diabetes.
He was forced to cancel this year’s event after nearly dying from sepsis but is raring to go for next year’s 30th anniversary event.
Tony, 62, from South Shields, said he only found out a few weeks ago that he had won the award.
“Months ago we were told I had been nominated as one of 100s of others,” he said.
“It was only about a month ago that I got a call to say I had won.
“I was in the car park with my wife and family and at first, I thought is was a hoax.
“It just seemed to come out of the blue.
“When I went down there, I thought ‘I am flying the flag for South Tyneside and The Shields Gazette,’ because the Gazette has always been there for me.”
It was a star-studded affair. “Ross Kemp told me off because I called him Grant,” joked Tony, who received his award from EastEnders Jake ‘Max Branning’ Wood.
A particular thrill was meeting wildlife presenter Steve Backshall and persuading him to agreed to start next year’s walk. Tony hopes former pupil Chris Ramsey will also take up an invitation.
“I really want to thank Alan Blackett, a former pupil, for nominating me and the charity Waves for their support,” said Tony.
“And most off I want to thank the volunteers.
“I started the walk but I couldn’t do it without them and they don’t get the credit they deserve.”