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August 2014 Graduate Class

August Class of 2014

Thank you to the very special people supporting this month’s graduation:

Residential Graduates
Rachel & Nigel
Catherine & Caleb
Erin & Kendall
Jose & Boulder
Tom & Lulu
Lucy & Jansen
Chris & Cedar
Kayla & Keith

Home Training Graduates
Michael & Payson

Many thanks to our instructors
Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Caryn Fellows, Class Instructor
Nikki Wentz, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Home Training
Morgan Vail, Instructor Assistant

Rachel and NigelRachel and Nigel

Rachel is a graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary; she’s majoring in religious studies with a focus in teaching. Her first guide dog, a male black Labrador named Nigel, will help her easily navigate the campus.

Rachel was born blind with optic nerve hypoplasia. She was encouraged by both her aunt and a guide dog user to apply for a guide dog. Graduate school is busy and difficult to navigate with a cane and Rachel is already gaining new confidence with Nigel. She feels safer crossing busy streets and is looking forward to being more relaxed in her travels – especially coming home at night. She unwinds by watching her favorite baseball team (the Orioles), listening to music, singing and reading.

Congratulations to Nigel’s puppy raisers – Julie and Russ Gann!

Catherine and CalebCatherine and Caleb

Catherine recently graduated from the University of Maine with a nutrition degree; she begins internships this fall with the goal of becoming a registered dietician. Black Lab Caleb is her first guide dog.

A rare inherited eye disease called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis is the cause of Catherine’s vision loss. She watched her younger brother, a Guiding Eyes graduate, work with his guide dog and wanted to experience the same freedom. She loves to cook, dance and to practice the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. She crochets blankets, scarves and tunics and recently began Irish lace. Catherine didn’t realize how stressful walking with a cane was until the first walk with Caleb. She has no vision at night and now feels her days have expanded.

Congratulations to Caleb’s puppy raisers – Elizabeth Fridley and Janice Gentry!

Erin and KendallErin and Kendall

Not profiled

Congratulations to Kendall’s puppy raiser – Ben Strobel!

Jose and BoulderJose and Boulder

Jose is married and has four children and three grandsons. Male yellow Labrador Boulder will meet his large, happy family when they return to Puerto Rico.

Jose’s lost his vision in an accident when he was 14. He works as an assistive technologist and was encouraged to apply for a guide dog by fellow professionals. With Boulder he feels as though “is treated like a person. “I fell in love with Boulder the moment we met. He is not a dog now; he is part of me. I now look forward to walking at night.”

Congratulations to Boulder’s puppy raisers – Saxon Eastman and Rachael Bell!

Tom and LuluTom and Lulu

Tom works for the civil service. His vision loss was caused by diabetic retinopathy and this month he was matched with his first guide dog – female yellow Lab Lulu.

Tom maintains an active, busy lifestyle. He competes in ballroom dance, practices yoga and enjoys wall climbing, walking and reading. He prefers books that deal with sociology, psychology and human behavior and is interested in the psychological and sociological roots in religion. Tom thinks of himself a perpetual student and loves to explore and try new things. Lulu brings independence and companionship to his life.

Congratulations to Lulu’s puppy raiser – Kayleigh Zapf!

Lucy and JansenLucy and Jansen

Lucy will soon begin freshman year at Grinnell College with Jansen, a male yellow Labrador and her first guide dog.

Retinitis pigmentosa caused Lucy’s vision loss. She plays the marimba as a duet or solo performer throughout her community. She was captain of the high school marching band and wanted a guide dog since her freshman year when she visited Guiding Eyes for the first time. Jansen will make navigating the campus easy and Lucy will feel like a normal active college student. He is her friend magnet, her eyes and her life companion. Jansen loves to fetch. Lucy shares, “Jansen is very neat. He picks a toy out of the toy box, plays with it and returns it to the box before choosing another. At the end of playtime, all his toys are in the box where they belong. I don’t have to worry about picking up after him.”

Congratulations to Jansen’s puppy raisers – The Lay Family!

Chris and CedarChris and Cedar

Female black Lab Cedar will be Chris’s sixth guide dog; they’ll head home to Canada where Cedar will befriend Chris’s retired guide.

Chris has retinopathy of prematurity. She and her husband have three young children – all who are excited to meet Cedar. Chris graduated from college with a degree in special education. She is particularly passionate about accessibility and technology and personally uses social media to keep in touch with friends from all corners of the world. She enjoys hockey, baseball and reading.

Congratulations to Cedar’s puppy raiser – Noora McCormick!

Kayla and KeithKayla and Keith

Kayla traveled from Georgia for her first guide dog, yellow Labrador Keith.

Kayla has very little residual vision with no depth perception and is extremely sensitive to light. In December, she’ll graduate from Armstrong State University with a computer science degree. She’ll then head to grad school and ultimately hopes to teach students who are blind or visually impaired. Kayla loves dogs and has a pet cocker spaniel. “A guide dog is very different from a pet,” she shares. “I have to trust Keith. He holds my life in his paws.” In the short time she’s had her guide dog, she already feels a big difference; she greatly enjoys walking without thinking about what she might run into.

Congratulations to Keith’s puppy raiser – Gina Slonin!