A charity fundraiser got a shock when she went on a top television programme to talk about her work – and was presented with an award.
Denise Taylor, who volunteers for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, appeared on the Alan Titchmarsh Show on Friday, September 21, with springer spaniel dog Merlin.
The pair have been trying to raise £30,000 this year to fund three hearing dogs for children as part of an appeal called Merlin’s Mission.
Denise, of Church Street, South Witham, believed she was going on the live ITV1 show to talk about Merlin’s Mission – so when she was announced as the first winner of the AT Team GB Award she was flabbergasted.
The award is designed to reflect the goodwill shown to volunteers during the Olympics and Denise was given the award by gold winning showjumper Nick Skelton.
She said: “When I got a call from a producer of the show, I actually thought it was a wind-up. When I was finally convinced to go on, I thought it was just to talk about the mission.
“Alan was so lovely to us. Before the show, which was filmed live, he came and gave me a hug and said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll look after you’.
“I was so nervous because I’ve done radio and television interviews before but as this one was live, I didn’t know what he was going to ask me, and I had no idea at all about the award.
“When he said about the award, it was just unbelievable and so unexpected. I was absolutely made up and Merlin was an absolute superstar – he behaved really well and loved all the attention he got.”
Merlin is a demonstration dog, showing the life of a deaf person and the challenges they face in either the morning or afternoon and shows how the dogs can be of assistance.
The pair were inspired to start the challenge after seeing the difference a hearing dog has made to a teeanger. This year the charity is celebrating its 30th anniversary and the challenge is called Merlin’s Mission because Merlin is named after the engine in a Lancaster plane.
To help reach the target, a 2013 calendar has been released showing Merlin with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight aircraft.
So far, the mission has raised £25,938, but Denise, who is married to John, another volunteer, and Merlin, need all the help they can get to reach the target before the end of the year when Merlin, 13, will retire.
Denise said: “We want Merlin to be able to retire on a high note, knowing his mission has been accomplished.”
To find out more about Merlin’s Mission, the charity’s work and to buy the calendar, which costs £6, visit www.merlinsmission.org.