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August 2016 Graduating Class

August Class 2016

 Allie Driesen is sponsoring today’s graduation with a portion of the money received
from her Bat Mitzvah. Her family adopted Neptune, a Guiding Eyes release dog,
as a puppy seven years ago and he has been her best friend ever since.
Allie is very proud to contribute to such a worthy cause.

In appreciation and in honor of new team Werner and Tim Matthews.
Jeanne Dregalla, Vicki and Larry Dean

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

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Bill & Bradley
Bridget & Sweeney
Brooke & Porsche
Kate & Posy
Katie & Lowell
Melissa & Imogene
Pamela & Paprika
Sharon & Idora
Sindy & Honor
Tim & Werner

HOME Training
Laura & Adriana
Margot & Lena (S)
Rosemary & Yarn (P)


S:  The donor listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dog:
•     Lena was special-named by Harold Skolnick in honor of Lena Muralles.
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.

Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor:  Miranda Beckmann
Class Instructors:  Caryn Fellows, Nikki Wentz, Dan Weesner
Instructor Assistant:  Katherine Russell

HOME Training:
James Gardner, Director, Home Training
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Michael Goehring, Field Representative



Bill and BradleyW. Kalbaugh & Bradley

Bill traveled from his home state of California for Bradley, a male yellow Lab. He was inspired to get a Guiding Eyes guide dog after seeing Wrangler, our puppy-with-a-purpose that we raised on the TODAY Show for a year.

Bill was serving in the Navy in the early 1960s when his eyes were exposed to a heavy dose of radiation following nuclear bomb testing at Pearl Harbor.  Later, in Vietnam, he was a boatswain in charge of liberty boats and lifeboats when he suffered flash burns while on fire watch. His vision loss was so gradual, though, that he was able to work as a railway engineer for 27 years before retiring. He moved on to construction for a while before opening a paint factory.

Although he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Bill still has good vision in his right eye. He leads a very active lifestyle that includes skiing, bicycling, and racquetball. He often walks ten miles to visit his 96-year-old mother. And he still finds time to volunteer with the Council for the Blind, the Blind Veterans Association, and the American Legion.

Bill can’t wait to introduce Bradley to Nancy Sue, his wife of 53 years, his two children, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. “They’re my life,” he says. As for Bradley, he says, “He’s very fast, fun, and more than I expected. I will be able to spend time in the mountains, I can walk by myself at night, and he’ll keep me on the curb and prevent me from running into trees and sign posts. No question, my life is going to change!”

Congratulations to Bradley’s puppy raisers, DeAnna & Andrew Moore and Linda Johnson!


Bridget and SweeneyB.Cassidy & Sweeney

Bridget will be going into her senior year of high school in the fall. The Philadelphia native plans to attend college and law school.

Bridget was born with Leber congenital amaurosis, a degenerative eye disorder that effects the retina, resulting in severe visual impairment. She attended a grade school for children who are blind where she felt accepted, but once she entered a regular high school that changed. “The students didn’t know how to interact with me, so they ignored me,” she says. Bridget hopes that her peers will find her more approachable now that she will have Sweeney, a black male Guiding Eyes Lab, by her side.

It is also her hope, she says, that Sweeney will help alleviate her family’s concerns for her safety and that they will trust her to do more things on her own. Before Sweeney, Bridget relied on a white cane, but says she feels much more at ease with Sweeney. “A dog is faster and can connect with you emotionally. A cane is just a tool.”

In her spare time, Bridget likes to attend Carrie Underwood and One Direction concerts, read Hunger Games and romance books, and go shopping at the mall with her friends. As a community service project for school, she taught a third grade girl how to read Braille.

Congratulations to Sweeney’s puppy raiser, Jessie Burgess!


Brooke and PorscheS. Brooke Dowdy & Porsche

Leber congenital amaurosis runs in Brooke’s family, as both she and a younger brother were born with the eye disease. Unfortunately, LCA is progressive and tends to worsen over time. Brooke says that she has been losing her sight since she was 17 but over the past six or seven years it has gotten dramatically worse, leaving her with light perception only.

Porsche is Brooke’s third guide dog, and her first from Guiding Eyes. She felt secluded in her home after she retired her last dog in January, but she now looks forward to regaining her peace of mind with Porsche. “If you’re walking with a white cane, you might be more of a target,” she says. “I feel more safe and confident with my dog.” Brooke can’t wait to return home with Porsche, a black female Lab, but she hopes that her cat, Angel, doesn’t become too jealous.

Brooke enjoys outdoor activities such as walking and tandem biking. She is a member of the Cleveland Blind Bowling League. She is also actively involved in the Cleveland Sight Center and the National Federation of the Blind.

Congratulations to Porsche’s puppy raisers, the Hermann Family!


Kate and PosyC. Botkin & Posy

Kate traveled from Ohio for Posy, a yellow female Guiding Eyes Lab. It’s an exciting time for the Columbus native, as she has always wanted a guide dog. She heard about our school from her best friend who is also a graduate.

Kate was born with aniridia, a condition characterized by the absence of the iris. In 2007, she had an acute attack of glaucoma. Her vision in her left eye is very limited, while in her right eye she can see only shadows, shapes, and colors.

A student at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Kate is majoring in hotel and restaurant management. In her spare time, she likes to read suspense and romance books, sing in her church choir, and attend baseball and football games (“Indians and Browns all the way!”). In fact, she is most looking forward to attending a game with Posy by her side.

When asked what having Posy will mean for her, Kate says greater independence and being able to rely more on Posy and less on her own ability to navigate. “I will be able to get out and explore new areas that I was uncertain of exploring by myself,” she says. “Already Posy and I have a close, trusting bond.”

Congratulations to Posy’s puppy raiser, Pamela L.Bender!


Katie and Lowell C. Musial & Lowell

Katie was born with coloboma, a condition in which tissue in and around the eye is missing, and Nystagmus, which causes uncontrollable eye movement. Though legally blind, she still has some vision, but she struggles with depth perception, detail, and color blindness. When she’s tired or stressed, the “dancing eyes” worsen.

Lowell, a male black Lab, is Katie’s second Guiding Eyes guide dog. He will travel with her to Wyoming, her home state, where she hikes, skis and ride horses—her biggest passion. She is a huge music fan and counts alternative rock and country as her favorites. She’s a big movie buff as well and admits to a serious crush on Michael J. Fox. And she volunteers as a counselor for survivors of domestic violence.

Katie looks forward to traveling internationally with Lowell as her companion. She is counting on her new furry friend to help alleviate her anxiety and comfort her when she’s lonely. Of her experience at Guiding Eyes, she says, “This class has been phenomenal. It feels like family here. I’ve made some life-long friends.”

Congratulations to Lowell’s puppy raisers, the Pierre Family!


Melissa and ImogeneM. Deroche &  Imogene

New Orleans resident Melissa loves to immerse herself in the unique culture of her city and doesn’t let her vision loss interfere with her fun. She enjoys visiting the cafes and coffee shops in the French Quarter, as well as listening to street music.

Imogene, a black female Lab, is Melissa’s second Guiding Eyes dog. Melissa was born with underdeveloped eyes and congenital cataracts. At nine, she was diagnosed with glaucoma; at 12 she experienced a retinal detachment. She now has some light perception and can see shadows and movement.

Melissa is working on her Ph.D. in Counselor Education at The University of New Orleans. She has done mental health counseling for non-profit and community-based agencies, state psychiatric hospitals, and rehabilitation training centers for people who are blind.

Melissa looks forward to the greater independence and confidence that she will have with Imogene. “I’m more likely to go to a new place on my own with Imogene then I would with my white cane,” she says. Melissa appreciates the instructors at Guiding Eyes who, she says, made her training a wonderful experience.

Congratulations to Imogene’s puppy raisers, Freda & Haven Thomas!


Pamela and PaprikaP. Kennedy & Paprika

Pamela has been on the road for as long as she can remember, first as a military wife and then because of her passion for travel. She saw most of Europe while her husband Ron of 42 years served in the Army. She’s taken 14 cruises and enjoys touring the U.S. in her 32-foot Fleetwood Jamboree motor home. She’s been to the Grand Canyon, Florida Caverns State Park, and Niagara Falls. She was allowed to touch dinosaur bones in a Washington, D.C., museum and the little houses in the Mayan ruins.

Pamela was born with retinitis pigmentosa and “dancing eyes.” She is totally blind but can see some light when outdoors. Pamela was paired with Paprika, a female black Lab and her fourth Guiding Eyes dog. Before she ditched her white cane for the dogs, she relied on her five children to be her guides.

Paprika will mean greater independence for Pamela. “There are certain times when you just don’t want to be hovered over,” she says in her soft Southern drawl. “I want to go where I want. I don’t want to have to depend on others or put them out in any way.”

Pamela is certain that Paprika is ready for the adventures that lie ahead. And she can’t wait to introduce her to her ten grandchildren back home in Alabama. Next on her travel schedule? Yellowstone National Park in October. “Let’s go, Paprika!”

Congratulations to Paprika’s puppy raisers, the Oonk Family!


Sharon and IdoraS. Poulisse & Idora

Sharon is a certified paralegal and travel agent. She will attend Indianapolis University-Purdue University Indianapolis and major in psychology. She traveled from Indianapolis to meet Idora, a black female Lab.

Sharon’s vision was impacted by optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, and toxoplasmosis, an infection from a common parasite. She was five years old when a doctor discovered she had no light perception. She could see people and some detail when close to an object until 2004 when she awoke one morning to find she was totally blind. “The experience was so devastating,” she says, “that it took me two years to completely recover.”

Recover she did. Sharon can’t wait to go to college with Idora by her side. She is very grateful to her vocational counselor, Renee, who was the only one to encourage her to pursue her dream to attend college as a full-time student. She looks forward to traveling with Jeff, her fiancé, attending concerts, and having Idora play with her three children. “The people at Guiding Eyes paired me perfectly with Idora!”

Congratulations to Idora’s puppy raisers, the Stamer Family and Dick & Maureen Ronalter!


Sindy and HonorS. Puckett & Honor

Sindy wanted to be a radio announcer, but after graduating from Lincoln University with a degree in journalism she realized it would be far more difficult to break into the field than she had imagined. She now has a more noble goal in mind—to be a certified teacher of children who are blind. When she returns to Missouri with Honor, a female yellow Guiding Eyes Lab, she will begin student teaching. “I’m really excited about my new career,” she says. Sindy will need 350 hours of student teaching to earn her certificate for Blindness/Low Vision Special Education.

Sindy was born with congenital cataracts. To save her remaining vision, she underwent a four-hour cornea transplant in 2006. Honor is Sindy’s first Guiding Eyes guide dog. Before Honor, Sindy relied on a white cane to get around. “I don’t trust my cane,” she says. “With Honor, I won’t be afraid to cross the street. I will have the freedom to do what I need to do. That feels so good!”

Congratulations to Honor’s puppy raiser, Martha Hoffman!


Tim and WernerT. Matthews & Werner

Tim earned the nickname of “Canada” while in training at Guiding Eyes as he had traveled the farthest—from Manitoba, Canada—to meet Werner, his male black Lab guide. He takes the ribbing well and isn’t shy about delivering some witty comebacks of his own.

Oxygen burned Tim’s retinas at birth. He was three months old before it was discovered he was blind. Tim is certain Werner will mean freedom and independence for him. “I will be able to be myself,” he says. “I will be able to enjoy lots and lots of walking without my white cane.”

In his spare time, Tim plays his five-piece Pearl drum set. He has attended many rock concerts like Foreigner, Black Sabbath, and AC/DC. And he admits he likes to mosh—a wild type of dance done to rock music. Tim and Alysha, his girlfriend, celebrated their fourth anniversary this year.

Congratulations to Werner’s puppy raisers, the Dean Family, the Tinker Family, and Jeanne Dregalla!


HOME Training

Laura and AdrianaLaura

Laura came to Guiding Eyes hoping to regain her sense of freedom. She remembers very well the moment she was paired with her first Guiding Eyes guide dog. “It was pure joy,” she says, “a feeling of independence!”

Laura lost her sight suddenly due to diabetic retinopathy. She was 25 and working as an EMT. She was so dedicated to caring for others that she didn’t check on her vision until it was too late. “It just wasn’t my personality to be dependent on others. I fell into a depression, and it took me about a year to pull out of it.”

Laura opted for our HOME Training program and trained in her Pennsylvania home area with Adriana, her fourth Guiding Eyes guide dog. “She’s got a lot of personality and spunk,” says Laura. It’s a perfect match for this energetic woman.

Today, Laura is married with two young children who will tell the curious that their mom is blind, and she can do anything other moms do—except drive. Laura works part-time as a peer counselor at Abilities in Motion helping people with disabilities lead independent lives. She also does presentations to various organizations about what it’s like to be blind and have a guide dog. Of Adriana she says, “She’s my daughter in a dog. She keeps me on my toes! Having her has been a freeing experience. She means everything to me.”

Congratulations to Adriana’s puppy raisers, The Carey Family!


Margot and LenaMargot

Margot (pronounced Mar-GOT) was born with retinopathy of prematurity. Her retinas held up relatively well until about five years ago when her left retina detached. Three years later her right retina detached. After multiple surgeries and days of lying face down so her retina would stay put, she is legally blind with some light detection in one eye. “Literally everything stopped when I realized I could no longer drive,” says Margot. Her job working with at-risk youth as a transition coordinator required a lot of driving, and she couldn’t take her kids to school anymore.

“The transition was very hard for me. I knew I wanted a guide dog, so I had to learn orientation and mobility techniques to make that happen.” Margot participated in our HOME Training program and was paired with Lena, a yellow Lab. “She is awesome, better than I ever imagined she would be!” Margot enjoys rock climbing and hiking to Devil’s Head with her husband Don and their two young children. “They’re no longer waiting for me to catch up to them. With Lena as my guide, my family is trying to keep up with us!”

Margot takes on another challenge this fall when she begins graduate school in social work at the University of Denver. She plans to go back into a therapeutic setting. “Guiding Eyes provides an intense advantage for people who want to return to work. When I walk into an interview, Lena helps to break the ice. If we want people who are visually impaired to be able to navigate in the world, one way to break down barriers and reduce stress and fear is with guide dogs.”

Congratulations to Lena’s puppy raiser, Caroline Conti!


Rosemary and YarnRosemary and Yarn

Congratulations to Yarn’s puppy raiser, Bonnie Brown!