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April 2017 Graduating Class

April 2017 Class

Congratulations and tail wags to all the graduates from the students of Burr Elementary School in Fairfield, CT. Our sponsorship is dedicated to Cora Martin and Donna Henkel for teaching our school about the importance of guide dogs and for inspiring us to help Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Industrial Water Technologies, Inc. would like to congratulate the April 2017 graduating teams.
We wish you the best of luck in the future.

The DeMartino Family & Kim DeMartino
who raised Guiding Eyes Fred,
a black Labrador, graduated July 2012.

Congratulations to all the new official guide dog teams on graduation day.  I would like to thank Chevron Humankind for sponsoring this graduation on my behalf.  I was inspired to become a Guiding Eyes for the Blind volunteer in memory of my beloved golden retriever, Sandy.  Embrace your independence!
– Linda Connelly

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

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:

Deborah & George
Evelyn & Ives
James & Franco
James & Randy
Joe & Marla
Kira  & Kimberly (P)
Luanne & Chessie
Miryam & Iverson
Nina and Viggo

HOME Training

Barbara & Autumn
Jerry Lee & Burr (S)
Leonard & Ari
Martha & Tortola (S)


Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor:
Miranda Beckman

Class Instructors:
Jolene Hollister
Lori Busse
Louise Thompson

Special Programs Trainer-Running Program
Nick Speranza

Instructor Assistant:
Laurel Sheets

HOME Training:
Graham Buck, Assistant Director of Training
James Gardner, Director – Home Training
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor

Puppy Raisers/Regions

Chessie- Susan Porteous, Monroe NY,  Sandy Shaw, Southern Tier NY

Franco- Julie & Russ Gann, Northern NY

George- Anne & Dale Gallon, Catoctin

Iverson- The Previte Family, SWCT

Ives- Jo Ann & David  Schindler, Cleveland East

Kimberly- Steven & Donna Derks, Monroe NY

Marla- Sharyn Cain, Dominion VA,  Nina Scribner, Maine

Randy- The Johnson Family, Baltimore

Viggo-  The Altland Family, Capital NY


Home Training

Ari- Ann Hedlund, Dutchess, NY
Autumn- The Cmolik Family, Cleveland West
Burr- Becky & Steven Chamberlain, Maine
Tortola- Karen & Andrew Kasper, New Hampshire

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 donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs:
• Burr was special named by the students and staff of Burr Elementary School, Fairfield, CT.
• Tortola was special named by Megan Gibney for Nadia and Bill Moffat.



Deborah & GeorgeD.  Shane & George

“Guiding Eyes gave me George, my new guide dog. For me, he means more independence.”

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) when she was just six years old, Deborah attended mainstream elementary schools until her mom transferred her to a school better able to support the needs of children who were blind or visually impaired.

Just as Deborah graduated from college with an associate’s degree in nursing and medical transcription her eyesight worsened. Her plans for a career in the medical field were cut short by the effects of RP and she had to rethink her career goals.

She decided to enter the hospitality business and started a snack bar. This led Deborah to discover the Blind Vending Program. Deborah now has the responsibility of maintaining 90 vending machines specifically geared towards customers who are blind or visually impaired. With the help of her husband, she visits all her locations to restock snacks, coffee, and soda.

When it was time for another guide, it was suggested that she apply to Guiding Eyes. After some unsuccessful matches with other schools, Guiding Eyes proved to be a great fit. “The staff is wonderful. They take their time with the students. And let’s not forget George. He is wonderful. I have back issues, and George’s pace is perfect.”

When Deborah has spare time, she visits nursing homes with her guide dog. “The dog makes the seniors smile and I can’t wait for them to meet George”.


Evelyn & IvesE. Liu & Ives

“Ives, my new guide dog, is wonderful. I feel more secure and safe with Ives.”

When Evelyn, who was born hearing impaired, was a senior in college she also started to experience vision problems and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Not allowing this rare degenerative eye disease to get in her way, Evelyn graduated from Gallaudet University and had a successful career with IBM for more than 20 years as a financial analyst. Although still able to see regular print, her eyesight continued to deteriorate. Eventually Evelyn decided to stop driving and retired from IBM.

Using a cane until now, Evelyn’s family wanted her to have a dog for her safety. Her daughter helped research schools, and her husband, a dentist, had patients who were puppy raisers for Guiding Eyes. The choice was clear, she would come to Guiding Eyes for the Blind where she would be paired with her first guide dog, Ives, a black Labrador Retriever.

“People should donate to Guiding Eyes because more people need security, freedom, and safety. The training is wonderful, the staff is excellent, and they are always cheerful. But most importantly, staff members reinforce the positive.”


James (JR) and FrancoJ.R.  Kinnison & Franco

“With Franco, my new Guiding Eyes guide dog, things are running smoothly.”

JR has been blind since birth from aniridia, a congenital condition where all or part of the iris is missing.  JR explored the possibility of maintaining the little sight he had through a series of corneal transplant surgeries. Unfortunately, they proved unsuccessful.

He attended Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington. After graduation, JR still had some sight enabling him to work in a few different fields. With experience in property management, restaurants and radio broadcast work, JR’s talent proved very eclectic. Always searching for new experiences JR proudly states, “I’ve done a little bit of everything.”

Currently, he is working as a machinist for the Lighthouse for the Blind but finds the time to be involved with various organizations that serve people with physical challenges.

After completing his research on guide dog schools, JR found that Guiding Eyes for the Blind was a great match. Meeting Franco, JR’s first guide dog, he knew immediately that his new partnership would work perfectly.

A self-described outgoing person, JR enjoys fundraising for various organizations such as Independent Living Centers, the Lions Club and the American Council of the Blind, where he serves as president of his local chapter.

Not shy about stating the reasons why donations are so important, JR encourages people to donate to Guiding Eyes. “It takes a lot to train the dogs, provide the services needed and help students gain a greater sense of independence and confidence.”


Jim & RandyJ. Schmidt & Randy

“Guiding Eyes gives the students hope,” Jim says with gratitude. “They help us realize that the future does not have to be so bleak.”

Jim was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was five years old. After growing up and attending college in Minnesota, he received his theology degree and started teaching at the same high school he attended in his youth. He lived with relatively few health issues until age 30, when he began to gradually lose his sight.

Jim’s four children and the successful 67-acre apple orchard he managed with his wife kept him very busy. Their family business at the orchard flourished. In 1998 retired and he and his wife now live in Rogers, Minnesota; a less rural area than their farm with lots of places for Jim to explore with Randy.

With encouragement from his wife, he came to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, Randy.  “Randy is well trained, and the instructors are so passionate about the dogs and the progress I’m making. My wife suggested I get a dog and she was right. A dog means independence.”

Jim feels that the personal connection Guiding Eyes for the Blind has with the students is incredible and worthy of anyone who wants to support the mission.

“The future can look like everyone else’s with travel, family, and just doing the things you want to do when you want to do them.”


Joe J. and MarlaJ. Cooler & Marla

Marla, Joe’s second Guiding Eyes dog has already made a great impression. “We connect,” Joe says, with a note of fondness in his voice.

Joe just got back from skiing and snowmobiling in Aspen. He was competing in the National Winter Games for Disabled Veterans. Joe is also getting ready for the National Summer Games, where he plans to take part in the following six (yes, six) events: surfing, sailing, cycling, rowing, kayaking, and archery.

Adaptive Sports is Joe’s passion, but what defines him is an all-encompassing desire to give back and share his world with others. A Gulf War veteran, Joe never lets his macular degeneration slow him down. He has taken on numerous leadership roles aimed at serving and supporting disabled and visually impaired communities.

From engaging with veteran support groups, outreach programs related to assisted technology for the visually impaired, and playing an active role in advocacy efforts related to ADA accessibility guidelines, Joe has dedicated his life to giving back. And whether he’s speaking at a senior citizen home or a children’s camp, Joe never forgets to mention Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Joe, who travels a lot, truly appreciates what Marla can offer. “With a guide dog, I don’t have to worry about needing a caregiver to help me out,” he says. “I have a lot more independence too, and my family doesn’t have to worry about me traveling by myself.”

We often ask our students what donating to Guiding Eyes means to them. “The best thing you could do is invest in Guiding Eyes,” Joe says. “Their programs are excellent. You can always call them—they are always there for us.” Joe is proud to personally donate to Guiding Eyes in honor of his instructors.


Kira & KimberlyK. Larkin & Kimberly

Kira came to Guiding Eyes to receive her second Guiding Eyes dog, Kimberly. She says life with Kimberly is much easier than when she was using a cane. “With Kimberly, I can get around faster, go to more places and do a lot more things.”

A native of New Hampshire, Kira was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes tumors to grow around the optic nerves. She had some sight initially, but her vision deteriorated over the years.

Kira attended mainstream schools and achieved two bachelor’s degrees, one in Psychology from the University of Texas, San Antonio and another in Family Studies from the University of Utah. While in Utah, she developed a passion for working with children at the daycare facility at the University and went on to be a teacher’s assistant at the Utah School for the Blind.

Kira expressed that for many blind or visually impaired people a dog means freedom, independence, and a whole lot more. “People who are blind have the right to do as much as a sighted person. They have the right to be outside, walk, and do the things they like.” Kira notes that she does all that and more thanks to Kimberly, and is grateful to have her at her side.


Luanne and ChessieL. Burke & Chessie

“Guiding Eyes respects both the student and the dog,” Luanne says.

After honing her art in college in Colorado, Luanne made her a living as a traveling, on-location landscape watercolorist. Now Luanne finds herself drawn primarily to working with clay, which she can engage with on a textural level. Chessie, her first dog from Guiding Eyes is a Running Guide Shepherd who might just find himself immortalized by one of Luanne’s sculptures soon.

A lifelong athlete, Luanne lights up when she talks about the fateful meeting that led to a last-minute bike trip across the United States. An experienced triathlete, and former competitive skier, she jumped at the chance to ride tandem with a fellow Paralympian from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.

Across America’s Heartland, Luanne and her companion were welcomed with open arms and took every opportunity they could to educate others about the world of Adaptive Sports.

Luanne, who has volunteered with Ski for Light, Adaptive Adventures, and other organizations that speak to her passion for both giving back and staying active, appreciates the Guiding Eyes difference. The attentiveness, care, and patience that staff members consistently show toward students and guides alike made Luanne feel supported every step of the way. “When I leave here, I feel like you all have my back.”


Miryam & IversonM.  Quero & Iverson

Miryam is quick to tell anyone,” coming to Guiding Eyes has been the experience of my life.”

A Canadian resident and native of Chile, Miryam worked in a Winnipeg Hospital as a health care aid for 25 years. Just two years ago Miryam noticed she was having problems with her vision. Her sight quickly deteriorated and she is now retired.

Miryam volunteers at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Helping members at the CNIB with challenges they may face as a blind or visually impaired individual. Miryam also volunteers as a translator within the Winnipeg Chilean community. Even with her active volunteering, Miryam also finds time to relax and take yoga classes. Iverson, Miryam’s first guide dog, can expect to be in a yoga class in the coming days.

“When I met Iverson, I cried.” Miryam feels that Iverson is her freedom, stability, and independence. And when talking about Guiding Eyes, Miryam shares that everyone has been so kind. “From the trainers to the dining room staff, everyone has been wonderful.”

Hoping more people will support Guiding Eyes, Miryam knows that donations to support Guiding Eyes help individuals who are blind or visually impaired to remain active in their communities.


Nina & ViggoN. Marranca & Viggo

“Having a Guiding Eyes guide dog means having more confidence,” Nina points out. “Someone is on your side.”

Born with Peter’s anomaly, Nina is just 16 years old and a junior in High School. She plans to be an English major in college with a specific interest in Public Relations. Cornell and the State University of New York at Geneseo are two of her top-choices for schools.

Her first guide dog, Viggo is “her baby.” She would do anything for him, Nina states, “just like the Guiding Eyes trainers who would do anything for us. You can ask them about anything at any time, and they are willing to help.”

When asked the difference between using a cane and having a guide dog, she replied that she felt that with a cane she was more vulnerable to things going wrong. With a dog, Nina feels that she now has more confidence, independence, and security. “I trust Viggo.”

Nina knew about Guiding Eyes and after some additional research she felt that Guiding Eyes was the best fit for her. “I’m treated as an individual, not as just another student.”

Nina also wants everyone to know that people should donate because Guiding Eyes does change lives. “I would tell them to think of themselves in the position of being blind, and about how a guide dog would change all that.”


Home Training

Martha & Tortola

“There has been a Guiding Eyes guide dog at my side throughout the years, helping me navigate my worsening sight with safety and ease.”

Born with Marfan’s Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder Martha’s eyes bore the brunt of the condition. Managing well through her childhood and into early adulthood, she pursued her love of animals and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois.  But unfortunately, with hardly any sight left, Martha needed to learn new skills and find a new career.

“While I hadn’t planned on working as a computer programmer/analyst, I still enjoyed the puzzle-solving aspect of writing and debugging code.  It was an especially good fit because I worked directly with the people that used my programs.” This was when Martha decided that a guide dog would be a better fit for her than a cane, and her relationship with Guiding Eyes began.

Presently, Martha is fostering senior dogs and helping a dog rescue group with the processing of adoption applications. Martha stays active with Tortola, her new Guiding Eyes guide dog by her side who is always ready to work, play, or cuddle up for a little snooze.

When asked why she thought interested people should support Guiding Eyes, Martha was quick to respond, “without devoted volunteers and generous donors, the mission of the school would not be possible.”

“Each of my guides have brought their own “special something” to my life.  They all had beautiful manners, sound temperaments, and reliable working skills. My life just wouldn’t have been the same without a Guiding Eyes guide dog.”