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Statement from the Board of Directors and CEO-Tom Panek

Posted July 13th, 2016

July 12, 2016


We, the CEO and Board of Directors of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, would like to extend our appreciation for the passion many families have expressed in support of our Heeling Autism program.

Over the past several years, we have helped children with autism and their families make life-changing connections with extraordinary dogs.  We know that not every one of our dogs is destined to be a guide dog, but we believe that each dog is exceptional.  All have the potential to change lives, and as we have seen firsthand, some have the skills and personality to support children with autism and their families.  We recognize that the Heeling Autism program helps families find the confidence and support they need for all life’s adventures.  In all kinds of ways, big and small, the work that many do for this program helps families live better, fuller lives.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind relies solely on private donations, and is sadly unable to keep up with the incredible demand for these extraordinary dogs. We remain committed to serving the families on the waiting list as well as continuing to support all the families that have received a Heeling Autism dog from us over the past seven years.

While we do not have the physical or financial resources to continue to train and place a dog with each family, we hope to change even more lives. This fall, we will begin a new program by partnering with a not-for-profit school to provide a specially-trained dog on staff to help individuals on the autism spectrum.  We hope to learn, in partnership with these experts in the autism field, how we can individually train some of our career change dogs to perform tasks and be welcomed by the students as part of a school’s daily curriculum.  Every detail of this new program is important and we are approaching the new model with the utmost care and with the diligence and quality that you have come to expect from Guiding Eyes.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a New York State not-for-profit, founded and chartered as a guide dog school and is not subsidized by government funding.  This year, we celebrate our 60th year of charitable service to the community of individuals who are blind and visually impaired.  We provide dedicated breeding and training of extraordinary dogs.  The organization is committed to also providing life-long follow up support to all our guide dog graduates, and we welcome new and returning students to our school for their guide dogs.

Our board is entirely comprised of volunteers, providing significant time and financial support. The Long Range Planning Committee of the Board worked with senior management for over a year on a strategic plan.  Our long-range plan is in keeping with our core mission to continue the high level of training and follow-up support to our graduating teams, and increasing the number of successful guide dog teams for the blind and visually impaired.

Over the years, Guiding Eyes has forged several important partnerships that have helped us to serve many different communities, including law enforcement, veterans, and people with disabilities.

By working in partnership with a school serving students with autism ages 3 to 21 serving 28 school districts in our area, we seek to strike a balance with this new model that does not detract from our core mission.

We, the CEO and Board of Directors, hope you will embrace this change with compassion and understanding, and we welcome you to reach out to the Guiding Eyes staff with any questions you may have or write to


Thomas A. Panek

President & CEO
Guiding Eyes for the Blind


Board of Directors

Wendy Aglietti
Jane Adams
Eduardo Andrade
Seamus Carroll
Mary J. Conway
Wendy S. David
John L. Donnelly
Robert Druskin
David Fein
Paul Holland
Curt J. Landtroop
Susan Litwer
Thomas McC. Souther
Jane C. Parker
Matthew E. Zames