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September 2017 Graduating Class

Posted September 15th, 2017

September 2017-1

In Loving Memory of Alma Catsman

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.

 Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Allan & Orion
Amber & Vega
Brooklyn & Hilton
Cassondra & Cal
Cheryl & Verdi
Evan & Fiedler
Lee & Tex
Mark & Arlo
Martha & Claus
Phyllis & Bruno
Ross & Sparky (S)
Shea & Prim

Home Training
Douglas & Ireland
Jennifer & Schaeffer
John & Vic
Lori & Bunnie
Sarah & Hamilton

(P): A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.
(S):  The donor listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dog:
•    Sparky was Special Named by Helen Tupper.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our Training Staff:

Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo

Class Instructors: Stephanie Koret, Kate Gardner, Amy Scordato

Instructor Assistant: Meghan Davis

Special Needs Instructor: Jessy DiNapoli

Running Guide Specialist: Nick Speranza

Home Training:
Graham Buck, Asst. Director of Training
James Gardner, Director, Home Training
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Maureen Mellett, Field Representative


Allan & OrionA. Finn & Orion

Allan, a retired dentist from Florida, loves to travel. He and his first guide dog averaged about a half dozen cruises a year. After a motorcycle accident that triggered a stroke, Allan lost his sight. He developed a special glove to facilitate his grip on the guide’s handle to compensate for weakness on his left side. “A guide,” says Allan, “is an essential aid for independence, mobility, companionship, and being more interactive. It’s a type of icebreaker.” Allan has two children, a son and a daughter. We partnered Allan with Orion, a male black Labrador and his second Guiding Eyes guide dog.

Congratulations to Orion’s puppy raisers, Joan & Larry Moore and Jessica Meyer!



Amber & Vega A. Bangsung & Vega

Amber traveled from Minnesota for Vega, a female yellow Labrador and her second Guiding Eyes guide dog. Amber was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that runs in her family. She looks forward to walking the trails near her home with Vega who will have to learn to be tolerant of her new roommates—two cats.

Congratulations to Vega’s puppy raisers, The Burton Family and Joshua Elliott!




Brooklyn & HiltonB. Decker & Hilton

Brooklyn is very active. A licensed insurance agent in Texas, she works nights and shares an apartment with two cats, pet lizards, her boyfriend, and her son. Brooklyn has been legally blind since birth due to albinism. We partnered her with a male yellow Labrador named Hilton, her second guide dog from Guiding Eyes. “With Hilton I will be free to explore advancement opportunities that require travel. I look forward to all of our adventures together.”

Congratulations to Hilton’s puppy raisers, The Payne Family!



Cassondra & CalC. Oldham & Cal

Now that she’s retired, Cassondra plans to join the Silver Sneakers yoga group, a fitness program for older adults, near her home in Indiana. Cassondra stays busy by walking or taking public transportation to the YMCA, sorority meetings, and senior meetings. She finds support in her church and Bible study group. Cassondra is looking forward to the safety Cal will provide and says she will be able to travel more quickly and efficiently with him by her side. A combination of retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, Graves’ disease, and cataract surgery claimed her sight. We partnered Cassondra with her first guide, Cal, a male yellow Labrador.

Congratulations to Cal’s puppy raisers, The Cangialosi Family!


Cheryl & VerdiC. Hornsby & Verdi

Cheryl will soon begin volunteering as a Foster Grandparent in an elementary school in Minnesota. The laid-back Verdi, a black Labrador and her second Guiding Eyes guide, has already demonstrated he is comfortable around active young children. Cheryl moved recently to a quiet small-town setting for senior citizens with disabilities, complete with a creek running through it. She looks forward to walking the trails with Verdi. When not at home, she is out and about somewhere every day. Myopic degeneration caused Cheryl’s sight loss. “When I retired my first guide dog and went back to using a white cane, I found I really missed the freedom I had with my guide dog. When I picked up Verdi’s harness for the first time, I felt this incredible freedom again! All I could do was smile as Verdi and I began our first walk, both of us with a bounce in our step.”

Congratulations to Verdi’s puppy raiser, Lauren Steckler!


Evan & FiedlerE. Lampkin & Fiedler

Evan participated in our Special Needs program. We created this program, the first of its kind, for people with vision loss and additional physical or medical challenges. A stroke claimed Evan’s sight and caused some weakness in his hand and leg. Fiedler, a male black Labrador, has been trained to stabilize him. Evan is looking forward to the independence he will experience with Fiedler in his home state of Virginia. “I am looking forward to getting out and about with Fiedler and taking him to new places. Already Fiedler makes me feel more confident.”

Congratulations to Fiedler’s puppy raiser, Rosi Winkler!



Lee & TexR. Lee Heartline & Tex

Lee has moved in recent years from a rural area to a large city in North Carolina. He is proud of the fact that he makes eyeglasses for our veterans in an optical lab. Lee is vice president of the North Carolina Deaf-Blind Associates, an advocacy group for the rights of people who are Deaf-Blind. Lee lost his sight to retinitis pigmentosa and is hearing impaired. We partnered Lee with Tex, a male black-and-tan German shepherd. “Tex will help me stay mobile. I appreciate that and everything Guiding Eyes does for the blind.”

Congratulations to Tex’s puppy raiser, Nina Berschig!



Mark & ArloM. Ronald McCowan & Arlo

Mark is participating in our Running Guides program for people with vision loss who want to run recreationally or train for long-distance runs. (Mark will rely on a sighted human guide for the actual marathons as running guides do not run marathons.) Mark and his wife are avid marathon runners, and Mark is active with his local chapter of Achilles International, an organization that helps athletes with disabilities achieve their personal goals. He started the Bookin’ for Lookin’ Foundation five years ago to raise awareness about blindness and funds for a cure. Mark and his wife, residents of Pennsylvania, plan to visit various states to compete in long-distance runs. “I continue to look for ways to run, swim, bike, and even ski! Life isn’t over for me. I will always embrace new challenges and keep on bookin’.” Mark, a retired elementary school teacher, was 13 when he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. We partnered Mark with Arlo, a male yellow Labrador. “I am really looking forward to being able to walk independently through the park instead of waiting for sighted guides. My freedom and independence will rise. Our new adventures are coming!”

Congratulations to Arlo’s puppy raisers, Dianne Martin and M.L. Hansen!


Martha & ClausM. Hazen & Claus

Martha is a contracted author, having published 16 books. Congenital hydrocephalus claimed Martha’s sight but that has not slowed her down. “Traveling is a large part of my life. With Claus by my side I will be able to travel faster and more safely. I will also be able to travel around the country that I enjoy so much, including visits to Maryland; Washington, DC; Buffalo; and Seattle.” We partnered Martha with Claus, a male yellow Labrador, her fourth Guiding Eyes guide dog.

Congratulations to Claus’s puppy raiser, Lee Anne Leverone!



Phyllis & BrunoP. Ball & Bruno

We partnered Phyllis with Bruno, a male black-and-tan Labrador. Phyllis is an experienced guide dog user, but this will be her first dog from Guiding Eyes. Phyllis is very independent and ventures out daily to shops, to meet friends, or to exercise in her California neighborhood. She likes a “licky, waggy, happy dog” with lots of personality when he is out of harness. Phyllis shares an apartment with her husband, who is totally blind, and her daughter. “With Bruno I look forward to being more independent and confident.”

Congratulations to Bruno’s puppy raisers, Lauren Stier & Ryan Albach!



Ross & SparkyR. Rupert & Sparky

Ross shares his home with a friendly golden retriever, but there is always a steady flow of children and grandchildren coming and going. Ross opted for the Residential Program so he would be around others with similar challenges. While this retiree still takes care of his own home in upstate New York and mows his own grass, he looks forward to being more active and independent, with the help of his first guide dog—Sparky, a male black Labrador. Ross lost his sight due to glaucoma, macular degeneration, and angioid streaks. Ross is looking forward to taking an Alaskan cruise and traveling more with his new guide dog.”

Congratulations to Sparky’s puppy raisers, The Hodge Family!



Shea & PrimS. Welch & Prim

Shea earned her bachelor’s degree last year, having majored in vocal performance and minored in French. She lives in Tennessee with three grad students and is currently job hunting while working on her first extended play record, called an EP, with some friends. “I hope to travel a great deal with Prim, a black Labrador and my second Guiding Eyes dog. My first guide, Oleta, went with me to Ireland, Scotland, and Canada, where she learned her commands in Canadian French. I plan to continue this theme with Prim. The first time I saw Prim I was surprised at how small she was. ‘Small but mighty,‘ my trainer called her, and she was right. Prim is exactly the fast, enthusiastic, stops-on-a-dime kind of dog I asked for. I love her. I can’t wait to take on the world with her at my side.” Shea lost her sight due to Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

Congratulations to Prim’s puppy raiser, Jessica Rucquoi!


Home Training

Douglas & IrelandDouglas

Doug works as a Braille transcriber at The Canadian Helen Keller Centre. He started losing his sight as a child because of choroideremia, a rare inherited condition that causes progressive vision loss. Later in life glaucoma took its toll as well. Doug participated in a stair-climb event at the 1,815.3 foot high CN Tower in Canada, where he lives. To train, he walked the four floors in his apartment building 61 times a day. Doug, who is hearing impaired, chose our Home Training program. He is an experienced handler who is looking forward to getting more exercise. We partnered him with Ireland, a male black Labrador and his second Guiding Eyes guide. “A man’s got to know his limitations. With Ireland at my side, I may finally reach my full potential.”

Congratulations to Ireland’s puppy raisers, Paul & Cindy Swift!




Jennifer & SchaefferJennifer

Jennifer participated in our Home Training program as she has a young child and couldn’t be away for our three-week Residential Program. A trainer traveled to Jennifer’s home in California with Schaeffer, a male black Labrador, and trained her on the routes she will use to run errands and visit friends—or pursue any dreams she put on hold until she received her guide dog. Jennifer lost her sight due to her premature birth. “The first walk with Schaeffer was freeing. I felt so confident as we weaved around obstacles as if they weren’t even there. I thank Guiding Eyes for the whelping kennel staff, Schaeffer’s puppy raiser, the trainers who put so much love into his training, and all the volunteers who helped when he was a puppy. Schaeffer and my son are becoming fast friends already. It feels like he has been a part of our family for years!

Congratulations to Schaeffer’s puppy raisers, Kelly Walsh & Jason Young!



John (“Jack”) & Vic John

Jack is a professor of American history at Community College of Rhode Island. When he’s not teaching he walks a mile four days a week. He and his wife welcome Vic, a male yellow Labrador and his fourth guide from Guiding Eyes. Jack participated in our Home Training program for students who can’t be away from home for the three-week Residential Program. Jack lost his sight at age 30 due to diabetic retinopathy.

Congratulations to Vic’s puppy raisers, The Monteiro Family!




Lori & BunnieLori

Lori teaches living skills to people who are visually impaired. She lost her sight to retinopathy of prematurity. Lori lives an active life and will enjoy exploring her new city in Missouri with Bunnie, a female black Labrador, her fourth guide from Guiding Eyes. She is very involved with her church and a Bible study group and plans to take Bunnie to work with her and to visit her clients. She opted for our Home Training program due to her busy schedule.

Congratulations to Bunnie’s puppy raiser, Rebecca Manson!





Sarah & HamiltonSarah

Sarah participated in our Home Training program and is now the proud new owner of a yellow lab named Hamilton. She developed type I diabetes at age eight. Due to complications from the diabetes she lost all of her vision at age 30. Sarah and her husband Bill live at a cohousing development in eastern Maine, sharing the village with 35 other families with children, dogs, cats, and even a few goats. Since losing her vision, Sarah has worked as a music and dance teacher, licensed social worker, contra dance caller, and farmer. Sarah has had four other successful Guiding Eyes dogs and says of her life with them, “Having a beautiful lively dog at my side has provided a window into a joyful life of hiking and walking. I have continued to experience all the adventures of working, shopping, and visiting friends which I had as a sighted person.”

Congratulations to Hamilton’s puppy raiser, Alexis Wilde!