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August 2010 Graduating Class

Image of the August 2010 graduating class

Greg Barnes & Kristoff
Aaron Bradley & Licorice
Mary & Garland
Kerry Clark & Patriot
Dawn Conklin & Vega
Roberta Gerini & Rasta
Martha Hazen & Tangee
Jessie Laurie & Ritter
Will Price & Ethan
Melissa Zinke & Nectar

And many thanks to our instructors…

Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Jolene Hollister, Class Instructor
Lori Busse, Class Instructor
Kate Marston, Instructor’s Assistant

Gregory Barnes and KristoffImage of Gregory Barnes and Kristoff

Gregory “Greg” Barnes and yellow Labrador Kristoff return home to Las Vegas, Nevada.

At the age of 7, Greg was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.  His sight was normal through grade school and high school.  Freshman year in college took a downturn, and still, Greg holds three degrees – an AAS in Hotel and Motel Management and one in Food and Beverage.  He earned his BS from Purdue in Hospitality.  Currently, Greg works in the reservations department of a very busy hotel and casino.

Greg’s hobbies include traveling, soccer games with his daughters, watching college basketball and football, and swimming.  Sundays are celebrated going to his Catholic church.

Greg became a fan of travel when, as a youth, his family saved their money to rent a pop up camper. They spent two fantastic weeks traveling the contiguous United States and ten of the twelve Canadian providences. Greg wants to do the same thing with his girls.

When Greg first met Kristoff, he thought of a big teddy bear that seemed to be just a bundle of joy.  “You put your trust entirely in your guide dog.  I no longer feel limited; I can go anywhere.”

Image of Aaron Bradley and LicoriceAaron Bradley and Licorice

Aaron Bradley and Licorice, a female black labrador, return home to southern New Jersey.

Aaron was born completely blind.  He always wanted a guide dog but it was never the right time. When good friend and Guiding Eyes grad Blessing Offor visited him in NY last year, Aaron was impressed by the total and complete symbiotic relationship between the two. Blessing and Guiding Eyes Tommy were flying down the streets; Aaron wanted to fly too.

When Aaron picked up Licorice’s harness for the first time, he felt the momentum of total freedom.  He is looking forward to being able to travel around the Rutgers University campus, where he is entering his senior year studying social work.

Aaron works with computers – performing installations, repair, and setup. For hobbies, he is a drummer and vocalist.  His ultimate dream is to open a resource center / homeless shelter for gay teenagers that have been thrown out of their homes by their parents. Until then, he wants to help people adopt children.

Aaron is profoundly honored to be here at Guiding Eyes.  He is utterly grateful and thanks everyone involved. “Licorice is an amazing dog, and it seems she was made for me!”

Mary and Garland Image of Mary and Garland

Mary will be returning to Pennsylvania with Garland, a female black Labrador, and her third Guiding Eyes dog.

Mary graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work in May 1983. After working briefly as a clerk for the IRS, she went to work with the Associated Service for the Blind in Philadelphia. Since 1996, she has been a social worker with Montgomery County Association for the Blind.

Mary has been legally blind since birth due to retinopathy of prematurity.  She could read large print for much of her childhood, but learned Braille early on.  By junior year of college, her vision had dramatically decreased.

Mary’s dogs have helped her travel quickly and safely.  She’ll never forget the time her second dog, Ellen, saved her from a speeding car that had run a red light.  Ellen stopped abruptly and Mary felt the wind from the car as it passed her.

Mary recently returned to school and is taking courses in criminal justice and poetry. Some of her writing has successfully been published in online forums. She also enjoys singing and playing the guitar.

Image of Kerry Clark and PatriotKerry Clark and Patriot

Rhode Island resident Kerry Clark was matched this month with black Labrador Patriot.

Kerry was born with retinitis pigmentosa.  He graduated this June from high school and will begin college classes shortly.  His focus will be on communications and radio broadcasting.   Currently he does two shows for an internet radio station.

The residential training at Guiding Eyes was a perfect fit for Kerry; he felt the class was like a family.  He recently studied Italy in school and thought it was interesting to have a classmate from Milan.

Kerry has always been an animal lover, and feels the bond with Patriot is already strong after only a short time.  “It’s great that I can walk down a street and not bump into poles or trees.  I can walk so much faster and I’m not as worried about making mistakes when crossing an intersection.  I know that Patriot will look out for me.”

Dawn Conklin and VegaImage of Dawn Conklin and Vega

Dawn Conklin returned to Guiding Eyes to be matched with yellow Labrador Vega.  Dawn shares her Retinitis Pigmentosa with her mother, who also chose to use Guiding Eyes dogs as her mobility aide.  The family enjoys the smaller class sizes and the innovative training techniques.

Dawn worked at Medicare for many years as a claim investigator.  She holds a degree in history from Northern Illinois University and will return to school this fall to study massage therapy.  It will certainly be a busy autumn; Dawn will marry fellow Guiding Eyes graduate Matthew Carello in October.  Dawn is excited that Vega will match her champagne colored dress while Matt’s black Lab Edgar will complement his own dark suit.

Working with guide dogs has helped Dawn fight her homebody nature; she regularly walks around the city and heads out of town to go hiking.  She has become involved with advocacy work for the American Council for the Blind, working on their public relations and fundraising campaigns.

This new team heads home to Chicago, and Dawn looks forward to showing Vega around town.  She says she’ll feel safe and relaxed with her intelligent, decision making companion by her side.

Image of Roberta Gerini and RastaRoberta Gerini and Rasta

Roberta Gerini’s trip to Guiding Eyes was her first time coming to the United States.  She loved her experience and looks forward to returning home with Rasta, a yellow Labrador female.

Roberta lives in Milan, Italy and is studying telecommunication engineering. Her parents live about 40-50 miles away, but Roberta enjoys the independence of living alone.

Roberta is blind due to Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease.  She felt confident with a cane but enjoys the ease of travel with a guide dog.  “The dog sees the obstacles and decides the safest path for you.   With a cane it’s not always easy to make the right choice. A dog is always willing to help, and consistently wants to be your constant companion and friend.”

Her hobbies include a little bit of everything, but she particularly likes swimming, reading, and listening to music.

Martha Hazen and Tangee (Not profiled)

Image of Martha Hazen and Tangee

Jessica Laurie and Ritter Image of Jessica Laurie and Ritter

Seventeen-year-old Jessica “Jessie” Laurie has always known she wanted a guide dog.  She traveled from her home in New Hampshire to receive Guiding Eyes Ritter the summer before her senior year of high school, and is thrilled the dream she has nurtured for so many years is finally coming true.

Jessie was born with retinitis pigmentosa and has very little peripheral vision.  Before coming to Guiding Eyes, Jessie used a cane which she felt made her unapproachable.  In contrast, her guide dog has proven to draw people to her in a positive way, helping her to feel more accepted among her peers.  She likens traveling with her dog to “walking on air or flying.”

Jessie will intensify her search for the right college this year, and is planning to live on campus.  She is happy to have made the decision to get a guide dog at this point in her life; she feels like anything is possible and nothing is holding her back.

Image of William Price and EthanWilliam Price and Ethan

Maryland resident William Price was diagnosed with glaucoma at age 23.  This month, he was matched with black Labrador Ethan.

Will works for Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, which involves a challenging daily commute.  He is responsible for the daily maintenance of 70 copiers.  He has an interest in criminal justice, and is looking into taking online classes to pursue a degree.

Ethan provides better mobility and better visibility for Will.  Having a guide dog absolutely makes his life better.

When not working, Will enjoys reading. He loves to travel with his wife or simply enjoy good meals at different restaurants.  He enjoyed his time in suburban Yorktown Heights, reflecting on the peace and quiet and how it differs from the sounds and smells of bustling cities.

Will is looking forward to working with Ethan and hopes to have a long working life together.

Melissa Zinke and Nectar (Not profiled)

Image of Melissa Zinke and Nectar