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April 2009 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated in April 2009.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Listen to Jane Goodall’s message to the April 2009 graduates.
Nicholas Cordilione and Fairfax

Outdoorsman finds a loyal guide and fishing buddy

Blind since his premature birth 58 years ago, Nicholas Cordilione came to Guiding Eyes for his fourth guide dog, Fairfax. Nicholas knew he had made the right decision after just a few days at the school. This retired IBM employee is a true outdoorsman who enjoys fishing, tandem bike riding and walking. He describes Fairfax as an easy going, but active and obedient guide; the pair has bonded already. After receiving dogs from three other schools, Nicholas attests to the superior quality of Guiding Eyes. He believes that the thorough, patient and repetitive teaching methods administered by the instructors assures the success of every student. Nicholas looks forward to safe and faster mobility when he returns home.

Anne Defeo and Viv

New England woman becomes part of the Guiding Eyes family

New Englander Anne Defeo, 70, came to Guiding Eyes for her first guide dog, Viv. Anne’s gradual sight loss began 51 years ago. She had heard and read about Guiding Eyes over the years, but only recently connected with the organization on a much more personal level. Anne has worked as a medical secretary in various hospitals and with the Vision Foundation. Currently, Anne knits blankets for Project Linus, attends cooking classes, and enjoys walking. She is thankful for Viv’s sweet, patient, loving and obedient nature. Anne looks forward to going home with Viv, where she will be able to travel with confidence.

John Fahlstrom and Vito

Colorado resident is matched with a kindred spirit

Traveling to Guiding Eyes from his home in Colorado for Vito, his third guide dog, 40-year-old John Fahlstrom is convinced that there is no better school in the world. John has been blind since birth as a result of detached retinas. He received his Bachelors degree in Human Services from Metropolitan State College of Denver and has used this expertise during the past ten years as part of the technical support team at IBM. John hikes, travels and takes road trips around the country with his family. He likens Vito’s personality to his own, describing him as “wild, sweet, playful, and a very focused worker.”

Allan Golabeck and Rocky

World record holder resumes his active lifestyle with a new guide

The life of Connecticut resident Allan Golabek changed dramatically in 1993 when a motorcycle accident left him sightless. Allan came to the school for his first guide dog through the advice of his aunt, who had catered a function for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and learned of the school’s mission. After a five year hiatus following the retirement of his first guide dog, Allan returned to Guiding Eyes for Rocky. Allan is a licensed massage therapist employing therapeutic electric stimulation techniques. He is extremely active, holding a world record for a water ski jump. A show Allan worked on for Animal Planet featured the work of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. With Rocky, Allan is looking forward to resuming some of the activities he has put on hold over the past few years.

Kathy Israel and Wendy

Alabama woman happy to get new companion

Kathy Israel, 51, returned to Guiding Eyes from Alabama for Wendy. Complications with her optic nerve seriously marred Kathy’s eyesight in 2000, causing her to research mobility options. Her response from Guiding Eyes for the Blind was timely and encouraging, prompting her to enroll and receive her first guide dog. Kathy has been employed as an Army pharmacist as well as a computer consultant. She appreciates Wendy’s attentive, affectionate and responsive nature. After spending six months without a guide dog, Kathy is anxious to get back to a more active and fulfilling life.

Michael Mann and Barnaby

New Yorker transcends complications from illness

Michael Mann, 59, came to Guiding Eyes after a sepsis infection caused him to lose his vision and muscle strength in 2006. A New Yorker, he began a successful career in heavy construction carpentry at the age of 16. He loves to cook, listen to music, and walk. Barnaby, his new guide, is loving, quiet, and obedient. Mike comments, “Barnaby sits on my lap when we travel in the school’s van.” Mike noted that he is not bothered by his sight loss as much as the loss of his former strength. Praising the effectiveness of his trainers, he remarks, “I couldn’t do it better myself!”

Carmina Martire and Darien

Italian Psychologist travels to New York for first guide dog

Carmina Martire was born with retinitis pigmentosa and has experienced gradual sight loss throughout her lifetime. She traveled to Guiding Eyes from Rome, Italy to be matched with Darien, a black Labrador. Though there is a guide dog school in Italy, the waiting time is typically two years or longer. Carmina is a clinical psychologist and works in a human resources role at a national bank. She looks forward to returning to her husband and their busy life together in Rome. The couple often plays golf and Guiding Eyes Darien will certainly spend some time out on the green. Carmina jokes about her bilingual relationship with her new dog, saying “we work in English but play in Italian!”

Brian McCann and Julie

Black Labrador steals this New Yorker’s heart

At 25, Brian McCann is the youngest student in the April class. Six months ago, his congenital retinitis pigmentosa progressed to a point where he realized he must take immediate proactive steps if he wished to lead a happy and independent life. This month, he was matched with Julie, a female black Labrador whom he believes will bring much joy and confidence back into his life, and diminish his need to depend on others. When the team heads home to Long Island, Brian will introduce Julie to his job as an appraiser for the Internal Revenue Service. When not at work, the pair will likely be hanging out with friends at the beach or movies. Brian says Julie has “already stolen his heart.”

Cathy Milone and Ginny

Happy retiree is matched with ninth guide dog

Cathy Milone returned to Guiding Eyes this month for her ninth guide dog. Cathy recently retired from over forty years of working for the Department of Justice and now spends her time dancing, boating, and water skiing enjoying all the beauty that retirement has to offer. Cathy’s last guide dog worked happily for over ten years before retiring in her own home. Yellow Labrador Ginny is her new partner, and Cathy shares, “I love it here at Guiding Eyes. My dogs have always bolstered my everyday strength and confidence.”

Arthur Schutz and Intrigue

Serviceman receives first guide dog

Arthur Schutz came to Guiding Eyes for his very first guide dog, a gorgeous yellow Lab named Intrigue. Art lost his sight when serving in the military. He returned from service, began work as a stockbroker, and started a family he’s now the proud dad of a son and two daughters. He enjoys visiting one daughter overseas where she’s involved in charity work. Art has a passion for life and is thrilled to share it with Intrigue. Together they will travel locally to offer counseling services for the blind. Arthur enjoys gardening, listening to books on tape, and staying in touch with friends on the computer.

Kevin Skelsey and Fabian

Canadian student finds fast paced partner

Canadian Kevin Skelsey lost his sight due to retinal detachment at age 16. A fun-loving science fiction buff, Kevin currently studies business administration and hopes to one day open his own bar. Guiding Eyes Fabian is Kevin’s third guide dog, and he feels the match is perfect. At 6’5”, Kevin has a huge stride, making it essential for him to have a fast moving dog. Kevin and Fabian keep pace perfectly, and Kevin looks forward to exploring his native Toronto with his new partner.

Kyle Weisman and Ruffles

Technical New Yorker meets first guide dog

New Yorker Kyle Weisman was matched with black Labrador Ruffles, his first guide dog. His role selling computer printers and scanners keeps him up to date with modern technology, both for sighted and visually impaired users. Kyle is an excellent chef and worked professionally within the food industry for many years. When Ruffles goes home, he’ll meet Kyle’s two young daughters. Kyle anticipates that his new guide dog will give him much needed confidence when navigating the busy streets of the city.