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How a woman's coastal walk for Galloway’s turned into a surprise proposal

Ruth and Dennis are stood close together on a pebbly beach. Behind them there is water
Ruth Byrne and Dennis Gaspar

A nurse who walked 130 miles for Galloway's to celebrate her 60th birthday describes the heart-warming moment her fiancé proposed to her.

Ruth Byrne, who works at the ophthalmology department at Royal Preston Hospital, asked her partner of five years, Dennis Gaspar, to join her as she walked around the Anglesey coastal path to raise funds for Galloway’s.

Little did she know that part way through the challenge, which was spread over 11 days, Dennis, 60, would pop the question on her birthday.

She said: “It was a total surprise. Dennis had written the words ‘will you marry me?’ in my birthday card which I opened before we set off on our walk for that day. It made it more special doing it whilst we were completing the challenge in Anglesey. Dennis is my soulmate and love of my life.

“Our news got a lot of likes and support on Facebook when we shared it. A lot of people have really enjoyed my adventures during the walking challenge as I posted photos and updates, so it was nice to share our special news with them.”

Ruth is walking on large flat rocks across the water
Ruth during one of her walks

Working with eye patients meant Ruth, from Standish, knows all too well the difficulties people with sight loss face, so Galloway’s was the obvious choice for her birthday fundraiser.

The mother-of-two said: “As it was my 60th birthday, I thought giving was better than receiving. I wanted to support a local charity and having seen some of the amazing work from the Galloway’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officer at hospital, I wanted to help them continue to support blind and partially sighted people.

“I enjoy walking and I had a hip replacement last year so I wanted to test my fitness. This was the first chance I had to get out after lockdown and Anglesey coastline has been described as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so I chose to walk there. The walk took us 11 days and we stayed in a cottage. We had to split the challenge in two as we both work at the hospital and had to work some shifts.

“We walked an average of 12 miles a day. It was a poor month weather-wise but when you are out all day, you see the best and the worst, as we had storms, gales and sunshine.”

Ruth raised £585 for Galloway’s, which supports blind and partially sighted people in Lancashire and Sefton.

She added: “I only put a target of £50 on my Facebook page so I was surprised when the total kept going up. I am really pleased with how much I raised as I wasn’t expecting it. Everybody has been so generous.”

Georgia Murphy, Fundraiser at Galloway’s, said: “What a lovely way to spend a birthday, made all the more special with a surprise proposal. On behalf of everyone at Galloway’s, we wish Ruth and Dennis all the best in their engagement, and of course, we wish Ruth a very happy 60th birthday.

“We are really grateful for Ruth’s commitment to walking 130 miles in all weathers. It was great to see how much support she had from everyone, as she raised such a fantastic amount. This money will go a long way to continuing our services for blind and partially sighted people, so thank you.”

If anyone would like to support Galloway’s by organising their own fundraising event or challenge, email or call Charlotte on 01772 744148.

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