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September 2014 Graduate Class

Posted September 13th, 2014

September 2014 Class Photo

Thank you to the very special people supporting this month’s class:

We are extremely grateful for Harold Skolnick’s generosity to sponsor the training of Guiding Eyes Watson.

We also thank the sponsors of this month’s graduation ceremony:

  • “In loving memory of my son, Walter P. Wagner. Your spirit is with us on this special day.” – Toni and George Daab
  • “Good luck to Faryn and Joanne. We are proud of you and wish all the best to every team graduating today.” – Grandma and Grandpa Piwowar, Aunt Julie Holmes and Aunt Mary Erikson
  • “Congratulations to all the teams graduating today. With your new guiding eyes by your side, your boundaries are limited only by your imagination. Dream big dreams and on the journey laugh often and love much. Welcome to the Guiding Eyes family.” – John and Suzanne Ford and Genevieve (Filo’s Mom)
  • Sally Stokhamer, annual graduation sponsor.

We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our video streaming capabilities. Click here to view the September graduation online.

Residential Graduates
Joanne & Faryn
Kim & Gallagher
Rebekah & Jingles
Donna & Amos
Grace & Dina
Barbara & Loretta
Vikki & Watson
Duane & Sadie
Sam & Jolee
Rose-Ann & Margie
Dan & Fable

Home Training Graduates
Kelly & Filo
Kandi & Rembrandt
Emily & Marla
Susan & Anders
Tracy & Chaz

Many thanks to our instructors
Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
Stephanie Koret, Class Instructor
Kate Gardner, Class Instructor
Kathy Zubrycki, Director of Training, International Instructor
Graham Buck, Home Training
Lisa Derleth, Home Training
Jim Gardner, Home Training
Mike Goehring, Home Training
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training
Alexandra Wallitsch, Instructor Assistant

Joanne and FarynJoanne and Faryn

Joanne will return home to North Carolina with her first guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Faryn.

Joanne’s vision loss was caused by retinitis pigmentosa. She met her husband in college and they have two sons, ten grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. Joanne stayed home while her boys were growing up and worked after her children went to school. Today she is very active with volunteer work; she’s a member of the Lions Club and the National Federation of the Blind and a supporter of the Red Cross. Her hobbies include crochet, knitting and baking.

Faryn will make it possible for Joanne to take long walks and to enjoy activities she once felt limited from. She shares, “Faryn’s name means adventurous. A perfect fit for the adventures we will enjoy together.”

Congratulations to Faryn’s puppy raisers – The Holmes Family and Kathy & Alex Piwowar!

Kim and GallagherKim and Gallagher

Kim was matched with Gallagher, a male black Labrador.

Kim worked as a field service technician for a major telecom company. She loves being outdoors, working out, shopping, boating and staying physically fit. She is an avid gardener with a passion for tomatoes. Kim’s vision worsens at night and she felt that a guide dog could greatly help her maintain her independence. Kim is confident that Gallagher will enjoy befriending her two cats.

Congratulations to Gallagher’s puppy raisers – Christie Murphy & Family and Karie Livingston!

Rebekah and JinglesRebekah and Jingles

Rebekah was matched with her first guide dog, female yellow Lab Jingles. She lives in New York with her husband, stepdaughter and cat.

Rebekah was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 15 and recently experienced a decrease in vision. She has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and marketing from Fairmont State University and now works as a marketing and development associate for Healing Arts Initiative. Her boss is a Guiding Eyes graduate and was the inspiration for her to get a guide dog. She is excited to be able to get out on her own without having to wait for her husband to accompany her everywhere.

“When I met Jingles, it was love at first sight.. or in my case – first touch. Picking up the harness handle for the first time was exhilarating; I flew at my normal pace for the first time since losing my sight. My life has been changed in a profound way – thank you.”

Congratulations to Jingles’ puppy raiser – Denise M. Barber!

Donna and AmosDonna and Amos

Donna returns from Rhode Island for Amos, a black Labrador and her fourth Guiding Eyes dog.

Retinopathy of prematurity caused Donna’s vision loss. She is a married mother of three and receiving her first guide dog truly changed her life. “I was a small town girl and had never been away from home when I came for my first guide dog. Suddenly I could do things others could.” With her first guide by her side, Donna earned her degree in social work and began to practice in the field. She is now retired but serves on both the Guiding Eyes Grad Council and the Governors Advisory Council for State Services for the Blind. She’s also a Board member for the National Federation of the Blind in Rhode Island. Amos is a focused good worker who anticipates what she wants and is very affectionate. He loves to rest his head on her foot; she refers to him as a touchy feely hard worker. Donna looks forward to introducing him to her grandchildren and great granddaughter.

Congratulations to Amos’ puppy raisers – Grace Kamfonas and the O’Grady Family!

Grace and DinaGrace and Dina

Grace traveled from Hong Kong to be matched with her first guide dog, yellow Labrador Dina.

Grace lost her vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa. She is married and has two children; her daughter currently attends school at the local university. She matriculated through post secondary school and is now works for the government as a civil servant. She values her down time and enjoys to relax and to listen to music and audio books.

The family enjoys traveling abroad and spending time together. However, Grace wanted a guide dog so she could do more things on her own, such as run errands or take a walk. Dina will allow her to do all those things and more, and Grace looks forward to the adventures they’ll have together.

Learn more about the international collaboration that brought guide dogs back to Hong Kong.

Congratulations to Dina’s puppy raisers – The Castanon Family!

Barbara and LorettaBarbara and Loretta

Barbara will return to Massachusetts with her first guide dog, black Lab Loretta.

Barbara was born with congenital glaucoma and underwent multiple surgeries in grade school. She was declared legally blind five years after she graduated from college. Barbara has a bachelor’s degree in English and is a published author; she particularly enjoys writing short stories. As her son starts his college journey, Barbara and Loretta embark on their own journey together.

She shares, “I am amazed by Loretta’s skills. Finding the stairs, the escalator, the door and moving gracefully around people or obstacles is incredible. I can’t thank the staff, the volunteers and the puppy raisers enough for Loretta and the freedom and companionship she brings to my life.”

Congratulations to Loretta’s puppy’s raisers – the Silek Family!

Vicki and WatsonVicki and Watson

Vicki returns to Guiding Eyes for Watson, a yellow Labrador and her fourth guide dog. Watson will meet her husband, son, daughter and retired guide at home in Missouri.

Ushers Syndrome causes Vicki’s vision loss. She is a massage therapist and took time off to raise her family; she spent the earlier part of the summer renewing her license and will soon return to the workforce. Vicki enjoys reading, going for long walks and spending time with her family; all love taking cruise vacations together. Watson is her first male guide dog and Vicki shares, “He’s very exuberant and will bring humor to most days.”

Congratulations to Watson’s puppy raisers – Blythe Windle & Amy Thaler and the Dondero Family!

Duane and SadieDuane and Sadie

Duane was matched with his first guide dog, female black Lab Sadie. He is a pastor for the Navajo Nation and knows that Sadie will become a big part of his outreach and education for the congregation’s community of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt Disease were the causes of Duane’s vision loss. He felt drawn to help the people on his reservation and became an ordained pastor in 2000. Sadie will be by his side as he continues his mission to support the Todich’ii’nii Clan of the Navajo Nation.

Congratulations to Sadie’s puppy raisers – the Martin Family!

Sam and JoleeSam and Jolee

Sam came to Guiding Eyes from Hong Kong as part of our international collaboration with the country’s guide dog program. He was matched with female yellow Labrador Jolee.

Detached retinas caused Sam’s vision loss. He completed his secondary education and became a Certified Message Therapist. He enjoys music, exercise and travel. Hong Kong is very crowded and Sam disliked using his cane. He shares, “With so many people it is impossible to get around without hitting someone with my cane. I am looking forward to Jolee guiding me around people.” Sam’s quality of life and ability to be socially active will be significantly better because of his guide dog. The bond they share grows stronger each day.

Congratulations to Jolee’s puppy raisers – Johnston Raguso Family!

Rose-Ann and MargieRose-Ann and Margie

Rose-Ann and yellow Labrador Margie will live together in Canada; Rose-Ann’s husband, son and daughter are excited to meet her first guide dog.

Rose-Ann was involved in a boating accident in July 2008; it was only recently that doctors recognized the extent of her vision loss. A doctor encouraged her to apply for a guide dog and already she feels that her world is opening up again. Rosa-Ann had been afraid to go out alone but now looks forward to shopping and meeting friends for lunch with Margie by her side. She treasures the companionship and love she receives from her new dog and is ecstatic about the newfound freedom to perform everyday tasks.

Congratulations to Margie’s puppy raiser – Pat Reed!

Dan and FableDan and Fable

Virginia resident Dan was matched with Fable. The female black Lab is his second guide dog; he retired his first after they had worked together for nine years.

Retinal detachments caused Dan’s vision loss as a child. He studied history and political science in college and now works as manager of the admissions office for Envision. His position connects him with people of all ages who are seeking a second career. Dan’s hobbies include reading, hiking and watching movies, as well as participating in outdoor activities and attending cultural events. Fable’s work is wonderful and Dan looks forward to navigating life with her as his guide.

Congratulations to Fable’s puppy raisers – Hugh & Paula Sigmon!

Carla and GilmourCarla and Gilmour

Carla was matched with yellow Labrador Gilmour, her third guide dog.

Carla was born with retinopathy of prematurity. She is married and has four children and nine grandchildren, with another grandchild on the way. She raised her family and then started working as a professional sewing machine operator in 1995. Her current work includes making gas mask bags for the military. Carla enjoys reading, knitting and watching forensic shows. She has never been comfortable with cane travel and feels significantly more independent with a guide dog. She’s also very appreciative of the companionship her dogs have provided, sharing “There will never ever be a closer and more loving working relationship.” Gilmour has the companionship of her retired guide dog and pet Great Dane when he isn’t working. And when the cat teases him, he takes it in stride.

Congratulations to Gilmour’s puppy raiser – Elizabeth M. Dunn!

Tracy and ChazTracy & Chaz

New Yorker Tracy received black Lab male Chaz. After a year without a guide dog, Chaz is a welcome addition to her life. “He is sweet, obedient and a quick learner. I have increased independence and am happy again, and it’s all because of Guiding Eyes.”

Congratulations to Chaz’s puppy raisers – Glynis & Rick Tanner!

Congratulations to the rest of our September Home Training puppy raisers:
Anders’ raisers – The Koblitz Family
Filo’s raisers – Lee & Eric Nagell
Marla’s raiser – David James Gaudet
Rembrandt’s raisers – Krista Wilson & Family and Peyton L. Krevonick