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April 2008 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated on April 26th.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Many thanks to volunteer Marge Widman for contributing the interviews.

Dorothy Bodeker & Milton

Antique buff catches the Guiding Eyes spirit at Walkathon

Dorothy Bodekor returned to Guiding Eyes from western New York for Milton, her third guide dog. Diabetic retinopathy claimed her sight when she was 33. At the time she was a divorced mother to a 13-year old daughter. She later remarried and soon will celebrate with her husband a 20th wedding anniversary.

Dorothy graduated from Genessee Community College in Batavia and for 13 years worked as an occupational therapy assistant. Dorothy attended a Guiding Eyes “New Leash on Life” Walkathon, and enjoyed that experience so much that she applied for her first Guiding Eyes dog.

Dorothy is a serious antique buff, but also treasures working outside in her garden. Dorothy has fallen in love with Milton, and believes that he is worth his weight in gold as a wise and dependable leader. Dorothy anticipates being guided by Milton in her travels particularly to antique shops as well as to nursing homes where she visits with patients.

Speaking of Guiding Eyes, she stated, “This is a very, very wonderful place where every staff member is tolerant, loving, generous and understanding.”

Mario Bonds & Sidney

Radio broadcaster and musician strives for excellence

Mario Bonds came to Guiding Eyes from Maryland for his second dog, Sidney. The youngest of nine children, Mario lost his sight in 1996 as the result of morning glory syndrome, a progressive disease of the optic nerve. Mario now lives with a surrogate mother and with a twinkle in his eye, reports that he’s shopping for a girl who can “put up” with. Mario is, in his own words, a “high maintenance, high energy” 20-year old who strives for excellence in all aspects of his life.

Mario entered George Mason University at the age of 17, majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Spanish. A self-taught musician, his talents are many: he is an actor, sings, and plays the piano, guitar, organ, and drums. He works on a regularly broadcast radio program and has built his own popular web site.

When speaking of Sidney, Mario says they both share high expectations and that Sidney’s “I’ll do whatever you say” attitude has bonded them. “These people at Guiding Eyes really know what they’re doing and take pride in what they have accomplished professionally: I admire that.”

Maria Luisa DiStefano and Rain

Italian students find a new home in Yorktown Heights

Maria Luisa DiStefano traveled from Milan, Italy for Rain, her third guide dog, but first from Guiding Eyes. She faced a two-year wait for a guide dog in Italy, but was recommended to Guiding Eyes by Lions International. Maria Luisa was born with retinitis of prematurity, and had experienced substantial sight impairment by the age of 15.

Maria speaks English well after five years of study in high school. She graduated from university with a concentration in education, and now seeks a job working with children. Maria loves animals, is a proficient horseback rider and also enjoys using her computer for reading and communication. Maria appreciates Rain’s serious, obedient, sweet and determined character. Maria, conveying a look of complete joy, exclaimed: “She is my eyes! I now feel secure and safe.” Maria’s forecast for the future? “Rain – with steady showers of guidance, protection and companionship!”

Lucretia Frost and Cindy

A neighbor celebrates each Guiding Eyes dog’s birthday

Westchester County, New York resident Lucretia Frost, age 68, returned to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog, Cindy. Lucretia’s progressive sight loss was caused by pressure from a tumor on her optic nerves. Lucretia came to Guiding Eyes through the advice of some of her co-workers and customers when she worked as a senior teller in a bank.

Married for 38 years, but now a widow, Lucretia has three boys and six grandchildren. She loves to crochet, making afghans, baby things and “bed dolls.” She also enjoys baking and shopping in the nearby malls. She describes Cindy as “a happy pup, affectionate, and in excellent leader. – she is my left arm!” Lucretia smiled as she spoke of her former dog, Venice. Lucretia celebrated Venice’s birthday each year with a special hat and colorful lei. Of Guiding Eyes, Lucretia displayed a broad smile as she declared, “This is the best school – everyone here is so very helpful and caring.”

Lisa Galdi and Glenna

Youthful psychologist exercises both body and soul

Lisa Galdi, a resident of a New York City suburb, returned to Guiding Eyes for her third dog (but second from Guiding Eyes) Glenna. She was born with weak retinas that became detached; glaucoma developed by the by the time she was 11. Lisa came to Guiding Eyes through the recommendation of Guiding Eyes CEO, Bill Badger. Having completed her Ph.D. in Counseling/ Psychology at Fordham University, Lisa now enjoys her work as a psychologist and is public speaker, educating children about guide dogs and how they change the lives of the blind and visually impaired.

Lisa likes to exercise: she works out at the gym with weights, does body sculpting, and walks daily. She also depends on daily Bible reading to build a healthy soul and an enduring relationship with God. Lisa leads a fulfilling social life with family and friends. She has found Glenna to be a sweet, inquisitive, lovable canine.

Lisa anticipates that Glenna will enable her to travel with renewed vitality, efficiency and ease. For her, “Guiding Eyes for the Blind is truly a wonderful home away from home. This is a place where many kind people, from instructors to maintenance, dispense care, knowledge and sensitivity – and they all work together as one solid unit.”

Robert Gold and Nevis

A man dedicated to helping the visually impaired lead socially active lives

Floridian Robert (Bob) Gold came to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, Nevis. Bob, now 67, lost his sight as a result of retinitis pigmentosa in 1976. He came here on the recommendation of his mobility instructor, who had visited the school, and while there was blindfolded and experienced first-hand being sightless.

Bob has been married 38 years and has two children; he and his wife are now raising their 3 1/2 year-old grandson. Bob attended college, and enjoyed a career as vice president of a marketing manufacturing company that produced emergency equipment. He traveled extensively and retired in 1990.

Today Bob donates his time working in his Jewish Center. He is dedicated to creating social outlets for the visually impaired, establishing various groups and arranging annual parties in various cities. He also maintains a group for the hearing impaired.

Bob explains his dedication to Guiding Eyes like this. “My first dog was superb – I would take him out to “dress-up” affairs (in his black, tuxedeo-like body) wearing a white bow tie. Nevis is the spittin’ image of his predecessor in both nature and appearance.” Bob found the waiting period between Guiding Eyes dogs difficult, but now with Nevis Bob’s self-assurance and confidence have returned.

Cynthia Hoff and VanGogh

Church parishioner, Lion, and massage therapist seeks new horizons of opportunity

Cynthia Hoff, at age 51, came from Illinois to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, Van Gogh. Her sight began to diminish at age seven because of macular degeneration. Cynthia came to Guiding Eyes on the advice of her mobility instructor. When Cynthia was interviewed by a Guiding Eyes staff person who was also a graduate she quickly understood that a dog could give her the freedom she sought.

Cynthia’s occupational interests have led her into three very distinct fields: she spent years as a busy mother of three (now 25, 23 and 20), was employed as a skip tracer assistant, and today is a massage therapist. She is an active parishioner in her local Catholic diocese, loves singing in her church choir, and is a member of the local Lions Club. In her spare times loves to work in her vegetable and flower garden.

Cynthia appreciates Van Gogh’s anxious-to-please, faithful and obedient personality. She anticipates that with Van Gogh at her side, her horizons will be broadened. She describes Guiding Eyes as a “wonderful family-oriented program.”

Wayne (Chuck) Miller and Paige

Former Marine will keep marching with first Guiding Eyes dog

Chuck Miller, 56, a native “Maine-iac,” was diagnosed in 1977 with retinitis pigmentosa. He had served three years in the Marine Corps, then attended the University of Southern Maine, first earning a B.A. in Business, followed by a B.A. in Sociology. He was employed as Assistant Vice President and Mortgage Manager for a division of Fleet Bank. He later served as a board member of the consumer advisory committee of

Chuck has followed his mother’s advice and example she has had two Guiding Eyes dogs and came to us for his first dog, Paige. Since retiring, he has kept busy with woodworking projects, fashioning utilitarian and attractive cutting boards with his band saw. He also designed and built a vacation cabin in the western mountains of Maine to share with Kristene, his wife of 29 years. He regards Paige as effective, warm and affectionate, with an independent mindset that he anticipates will give him limitless opportunities to expand his world.

Of Guiding Eyes, he says, “This organization is filled with extraordinary, dedicated people. The instructors are simply phenomenal.”

Detrick Sadaa and Hamlin

Fourth Guiding Eyes dog accompanies graduate to work at Denver Airport

Detrick Sadaa, age 59, is a seasoned veteran of Guiding Eyes, and returned here from Colorado for her fourth guide dog, Hamlin. Detrick was declared legally blind from a congenital condition, and by 1989 she had lost all of her sight. Detrick received her orientation and mobility training at Colorado Rehabilitation Services, and then followed the advice of her therapist to “take care of yourself” by applying to Guiding Eyes.

Detrick studied electronics at Temple University and was employed in the field of service equipment maintenance. She presently is a customer service representative at Denver’s busy airport. For relaxation, Detrick listens to CDs featuring trumpets and/or jazz and also enjoys leisurely walks with her Guiding Eyes dog.

She says that walking with Hamlin reminds her of Moses as he approached the Red Sea and it parted before him. “I know that Hamlin will give me security, safety and the ability to come and go wherever I please.”

Caitlin Webb and Maja

Guiding Eyes dog is off to college with Kentucky teenager

Caitlin Webb, from Kentucky, will celebrate her l8th birthday and high school graduation this summer with Maja, her second dog from Guiding Eyes. Born with retinopathy of prematurity, Caitlin lost most of her sight by the time she was in the ninth grade. Caitlin attended a Guiding Eyes presentation at summer camp, and then after writing about Guiding Eyes for her English class, she enrolled at the school.

Caitlin is a pianist, who has an avid interest in creative music as well as writing. She will attend the University of Louisville with a major in Music and a minor in Writing Technology. Her favorite pastimes include swimming, listening to music, using her computer and learning Braille. She says Maja is “frisky, affectionate and takes her work very seriously – we bonded almost immediately.”

Caitlin is confident that Maja will bolster her parents’ confidence in Caitlin’s safety and well-being as she attends college. Praising her second experience here, Caitlin exclaimed, “Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a great school; the training is superb and its fantastic results are accomplished in a warm family atmosphere.”

Tiffany Weber and Yoga

Northern Illinois University student returns for a new canine college companion

Tiffany Weber, 26, came from Illinois for Yoga, her third guide dog, but second from Guiding Eyes. She selected Guiding Eyes after serious internet research, and was particularly impressed by the school’s individualized approach to matching students with dogs. As a student at Northern Illinois University Tiffany first focused on studies in General Education, but switched to a major in economics with a minor in social work.

Tiffany enjoys camping, traveling, hiking on nature trails. She also likes baking (German cakes with yeast are her specialty), watching television, and hanging out with friends. She says that Yoga’s fun-loving, sensitive, and playful nature is a perfect match for her. “She is an awesome angel on four legs! She will help me travel safely, efficiently and quickly with more confidence. Coming back to Guiding Eyes was like coming home – I believe there is no other place like it in the world.”