Over 20 years ago in Switzerland, Barbara had, in her words, one of the best dance partners ever. Hans was legally blind, but that didn’t stop him participating in life.
Hans went everywhere with the support of a guide dog, which gave him a sense of freedom.
We caught up with Hans and his most recent dog, a black Lab, Bongo when we were in Zurich a couple of years ago.
Hans spoke about Bongo, the training they go through, the years he works (about 10) and then retires to another family to relax. How changing dogs after all those years is like losing a loved family member.
There’s no doubt that the Guide Dogs associations, no matter where, provide a great service. And we’re a consistent support of them here in NSW.
So what brought this up today?
A couple of days ago we got another piece of physical direct mail from Guide Dogs NSW asking for a donation.
There was the main 4 page letter as well a “response form” complete with a miniature Australian flag stuck to the top!
I’ve included it here as an excellent example of a direct mail piece designed to get prospects to take action – ergo, pull out their wallets and make a donation, or even better, an ongoing commitment to support.
Dear Mr Kotwal,
As a young man, answering his country’s call, Geoff signed up and served in Vietnam with the One ordnance Field Park Unit at Nui Oat.
After returning from the war, he married his sweetheart Cheryl and settled down in Wagga Wagga. They started raising three children and ran a farm. Geoff took a job at the local factory and life was good.
But it was Geoff’s selfless spirit that unfortunately led him to lose his sight. On New Year’s weekend, 1993, a co-worker’s young child fell ill, and Geoff covered for him.
Whilst others celebrated the New Year, a dreadful industrial accident saw Geoff sprayed in the face with ammonia. Geoff was almost asphyxiated and lost his sight immediately.
But he survived.
Treatment for such serious chemical burns is complex and lengthy. After a year of care, stem cell surgery and countless other operation, a corneal implant allowed him to see the outline of his wife and daughter for 24 hours. Even this brief visual connection with his loved ones made his heart soar.
But the corneal implants didn’t take. And he lost his second eye as well.
“I just remember seeing absolute total blackness. In losing my second eye, I also lost all my hope. “
The blackness that filled his vision grew to fill his heart. Unable to work or function, Geoff became desperate. This confident family man and Vietnam vet lost his sense of purpose and identity.
“It was really tough. At some points I didn’t know if I could go on at all.”
But two things changed his life forever.
His eldest daughter Kylie announced she was pregnant, and thanks to the generous support of people like you, Geoff was matched with a Guide Dog Hannah.
”I’ll never forget the day (Guide Dog Instructor) Ray arrived with Hannah . He took me over to a nearby straight street. He took my cane and said ‘here’s a dog, here’s how you hold it, I’ll be on the other side. Here’s the footpath. Now go!
That first step without my stick felt like I was walking off a cliff.
It was terrifying at first, but then within 100 metres we were off and running. I felt so free. The stick – whilst it gave me a tiny bit of security because I could feel what was around me – always slowed me down, forcing me to feel everywhere before I stepped forward.
Straight away, I could trust Hannah to keep me away from any obstacles. She gave me my freedom back.”
Ray spent a month with Geoff in Wagga, learning different routes. There’s not much public transport but Geoff loves walking. Ray’s dedication, and Hannah’s skilful guidance, changed his life.
Like all Guide Dogs NSW/ACT services, Hannah was provided for free. Very special people, just like you, donated 100% of the costs to breed, raise and train Hannah.
And they turned out to be a great match!
“Hannah and I both loved to walk. She gave me the freedom to walk on my own, and I wasn’t reliant on Cheryl or others to drive me around. We both got the space we needed. It was like a big weight was lifted off us and I became my own again.”
Hannah offered much more than a means to walk safely through town. She became his best friend. Geoff and Hannah travelled everywhere together – on the Indian Pacific railroad from Sydney to Perth up and down the West Coast – and on one memorable trip…
“.. .I was so confident by her side that walking along a 200ft high cliff at Katherine Gorge didn’t worry me. 1 could hear other visitors panicking around me, but Hannah and 1 took it all in our stride. We shared some wonderful adventures and great times together.”
Hannah like most Guide Dogs, worked for almost 10 years. When she retired, Geoff was matched with a beautiful chocolate male dog, Uka.
“Hannah was a very focused dog – once she came in from a walk, she went and slept on her own, and then ‘switched on’ when it was time to work again. Uka though is a much more physical dog –I call him my “Arm Pit Dog” — with the harness off he loves draping himself over me and rarely leaves my side. But of course he is completely focused whenever he is working.”
Geoff and Uka’s favourite walks are from his home, through parks and older parts of Wagga and along the Murrumbidgee River. Uka’s careful companionship makes walking not just safe, but also enjoyable.
The freedom he offers extends far beyond Wagga and he is also a well-travelled dog:
“We circumnavigated Australia three times in a caravan – at each stop, Cheryl orientates us to the main points at the camp site and from there on, Uka and 1 can do our own thing.”
Of course life isn’t all smooth sailing now. When Wagga was recently beset with floods, Geoff and Cheryl’s house was inundated. Uka’s guidance ensured Geoff could still get out and about during the floods, but the house was devastated and Geoff and Cheryl are now living between the caravan and a shed, with all their possessions in boxes whilst they await repairs to their house.
Uka is now 12 years old. He has walked thousands of kilometres by Geoff’s side. Their marches together on Anzac Day are some of their proudest moments and fondest memories.
Uka will retire from working life later this year and Geoff holds a very special vision for the next Anzac Day march: his new Guide Dog, and Uka, both at his side keeping perfect time together.
Geoff is presently on a waiting list for a new Guide Dog. There are several promising candidates in training that may suit him when Uka retires.
Breeding, training and selecting Geoff’s new Guide Dog is a painstaking – and expensive process. Your financial support of our work is vital to finding the right dog for Geoff.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives no government funding, and we rely on the generosity of people like you.
You and Geoff share something special – the selfless spirit of service to others that embodies the Australian ideal of mateship and the Anzac legacy.
Thank you in advance for your continuing support.
With kind regards.
Dr Graeme White
Chief Executive Officer
P.S.: Thank you for giving a happy ending to Geoff’s story. Through your generous ongoing support. Geoff will proudly march with his new Guide Dog and his grandson next Anzac Day. The enclosed flag is a memento for you to keep in a special place, as a symbol of your selfless support for others like Geoff.
So what can we learn from this?
First notice the intent. The whole letter is designed to evoke an emotional response.
First the pain.
It draws you in with a real story/case study of a person who could be just like any of us. He put himself out for a mate and unfortunately suffered a terrible accident by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, losing his sight as a result. He became depressed and lost his sense of purpose and identity.
Then the hope.
First his daughter announced she was pregnant. And through generous support of “people like us”, was matched with a Guide Dog, Hannah. Notice the dog is named which makes it more emotionally compelling.
Then the path to redemption and a better life.
How Geoff rebuilds trust, gains freedom and eventually with the help of another Guide Dog (after Hannah served for 10 years), circumnavigated Australia three times in a caravan.
But of course it’s not all smooth sailing.
Breeding, selecting and training Guide Dogs is extremely expensive and couldn’t be done without generous public support. There’s no Government funding.
And the call to action.
This letter came just before Anzac Day, which provided yet another emotional context for the call to action.
“You and Geoff share something special – the selfless spirit of service to others that embodies the Australian ideal of mateship and the Anzac legacy.
Thank you in advance for your continuing support.”
Whether you use direct mail, email or send people to your website, all effective marketing is based on evoking an emotional response designed to get people to take action.
Does your marketing material accomplish this? If not, hit <reply> or call us on 0414-913-334 and we’ll review it and help you come up with collateral which attracts your ideal clients.
Rashid & Barbara.