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December 2010 Graduating Class

December 2010 graduating class

Vanessa Braun & Bethany
Larry Colbert & Cecil
Patricio Lopez & Wyatt
Michael Garrity & Yetta
Grace Giberson & Isadora
Stacie Hardy & Cash
Joseph MacPeek & Evers
Miguel Parra del Pozo & Cabrina
Lusi Radford & Jonah
Tracy Westerlund & Brandon
Tomeka White & Vince

Home Training Graduates

Eric Bridges & General
Thomas Connelly & Clint
Jennifer Lynn Restle & Emmylou

Many thanks to our instructors:

Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Chrissy Vetrano, Class Instructor
Megan Crowley, Class Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor
Krissy Anderson, Home Training Instructor
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Michael Goehring, Home Training
Laura Allocco, Instructor Assistant

Vanessa R. Braun and BethanyPicutre of Vanessa R. Braun and Bethany
Vanessa Braun traveled to Guiding Eyes from Ohio to participate in the ACTION program, an expedited training class for experienced guide dog users.  She will return home with her guide dog Bethany, a black female Labrador.

Vanessa grew up in Pennsylvania and later moved to Ohio.  Bethany is Vanessa’s third guide; she got her first dog the summer before senior year at Allegheny College, from which she graduated with a double major in Psychology and Communications.  She then attended graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, attaining a master’s degree in Higher Education that qualified her to become a college administrator. Vanessa is now the Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership at Miami University in Ohio.  She works on leadership initiatives and large scale events.

Vanessa was born with optic nerve damage and has had cataract surgery on both eyes. All she can see are shadows and bright colors. Her hobbies include spending time with friends, going to the movies, and strolling through the campus with her dog.

Vanessa is looking forward to bringing Bethany to her office and introducing her to life in Ohio.

Eric Roger Bridges and General (Home Training)

Picture of Larry C. Colbert and CecilLarry C. Colbert and Cecil
In just one hour on a crisp fall day in 1972, Larry Colbert’s life changed forever. At his annual eye appointment, the ophthalmologist informed Larry he was legally blind and was rapidly speeding down the road to eventual blindness from retinitis pigmentosa. This life-changing disease would cause him to reevaluate his life; he wondered how he would be able to support his family without the ability to see.

As time moved on and his eyesight continued to decrease, Larry moved his family to a remote town in the high country of Arizona where they combined their efforts to construct a home employing passive solar technology.

Today, Larry is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communication.   While studying, Larry was awarded with “Outstanding Disabled Student of the Year.” Today, Driving Vision™, Larry’s speaking and consulting business, presents disability awareness and sensitivity seminars to corporations and municipalities across the country.  He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association.

Larry was thrilled to meet Cecil, a large and rambunctious dog, who loves belly rubs, and will sit by Larry’s bed and lick him. Cecil is a good, hard worker, and will be thrilled to find out he’ll have his own swimming pool at home in Arizona. Larry is looking forward to working with him and developing and fine tuning their relationship.

Thomas Connelly and Clint (Home Training)

Patricio Garcia Lopez and WyattPicture of Patricio Garcia Lopez and Wyatt
Patricio Lopez is an international student from Spain. Wyatt, a black male Labrador will accompany him back across the ocean.  Guiding Eyes recently partnered with the Spanish guide dog school to help serve more of the country’s blind citizens.

Patricio wanted a guide dog to feel secure and be able to be more active with his kids. He has three children and he is looking forward to being able to take them to school.  Wyatt will allow that where a cane made it too difficult.

Patricio enjoys going to the gym, martial arts and swimming. He comes from a military background and was a facilities manager for many years.

Patricio was so happy to meet Wyatt and has been enjoying teaching his new friend some Spanish. Wyatt puts his head on his leg all the time to make sure he is okay and sometimes just for attention. He loves the daily grooming sessions.

While at Guiding Eyes, Patricio got an exciting call from home.  His father bought the house next door to Patricio and will be building one larger home.  The new place with have two playrooms, one for Patricio’s daughter and one for the dog!

Patricio is grateful and very happy to be here.  The experience with the class has been amazing.

Picture of Michael James Garrity and YettaMichael James Garrity and Yetta
Michael Garrity will head home to New Hampshire with new partner – black Labrador Yetta.

Michael’s mom was in a car accident while she was seven months pregnant.  The unfortunate accident caused Michael to be born with Cerebral Palsy and diagnosed as partially blind and deaf.  Michael has no depth perception.

Michael was not sure if a guide dog or service dog would be better for him because of his multiple disabilities.  After extensive research, he realized a “special” guide dog was the right answer, and Guiding Eyes provided him with Yetta, who was specially trained through the Special Needs Program.

Michael and his two older brothers grew up around dogs.  His dad was a marine and greyhound trainer. Today, Michael lives with his mom and is a full time college student majoring in Graphic Design at Manchester Community Technical School. When not studying, Michael enjoys watching animation, drawing, whittling, and carving.  He excels in carving quarter and dime size hearts.

Having students in this class from Spain has enhanced the experience at Guiding Eyes. Although his Spanish is limited, it is enjoyable to interact with them. “This feels like a college class but it’s the best class ever taken: fun, energetic, emotional and moving.”

Yetta will help Michael become more social.  He believes she will “open an incredible door that will allow access to the social part of life I haven’t been part of before.”  With Yetta, Michael feels more proactive.  He looks forward to their future together.

Grace R. Giberson and IsadoraPicture of Grace R. Giberson and Isadora
Ohio resident Grace Giberson was matched with yellow Labrador Isadora.  Grace has cerebral palsy, optic nerve atrophy, and nystagmus.  These conditions leave her with very limited vision and with balance challenges.

Grace likes working on computers and wants to work in data entry.  She also enjoys to read, sing, walk, swim, and ice skate; she believes there are no limits to what she can do.

Meeting Isadora was exciting and emotional.  Isadora is everything Grace was looking for – she considers her the best Christmas present ever.  Before meeting Isadora, Grace felt isolated; now she looks forwarded to increased independence and opportunities to socialize with others.

In and out of harness, there is an amazing bond between Grace and Isadora.  Grace believes the future has no limits.

Picture of Stacie Hardy and CashStacie Hardy and Cash
Stacie will head home to Texas with black Labrador Cash.   They’ll return to Stacie’s job at the Texas Vocational Rehabilitation Facility, where she works to help blind children discover the life skills they’ll need to become independent and contributing adults.

Stacie loves sports – especially football. She taught adaptive physical education and coached numerous sporting teams.  Stacie also enjoys reading and cooking, and loves spending time with children and dogs.  Stacie shares her life in Texas with her partner Gerald and Enzo the Chihuahua.

Stacie has been blind since birth and like most Guiding Eyes students, she used a cane for many years, but prefers the increased independence a guide dog offers.  Meeting Cash was an emotional experience; he is very mellow and loving but also a hard worker and a quick study. He loves to have his chest rubbed and loves kisses; he often sleeps with his head on Stacie’s foot.

“There are great things about coming to Guiding Eyes. You meet wonderful people from all over the world. The expertise and knowledge of the staff shows everywhere.  I am also so grateful to Cash’s puppy raisers; they did a phenomenal job.”

Joseph MacPeek and EversPicture of Joseph MacPeek and Evers
New York City resident Joseph MacPeek will head home with new guide dog Evers, a male German shepherd.

Joe was only five years old when he was given too much anesthesia during a routine operation.  He has been blind ever since, and has no visual memory.

The majority of Joe’s education was spent in mainstream classroom environments.  He graduated from Canisius College and holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Sociology.  His career has been centered on assistive technology and he operates a ham radio as a hobby.  He enjoys reading and has recently taken up indoor rock climbing.

Evers is Joe’s fifth guide dog. The family atmosphere at Guiding Eyes and the program they offer has him returning each time. Evers is a very loving dog and the bond is building between them. “It’s like you’re dancing partners; you know how to waltz and the dog knows how to waltz but you need to learn to waltz together. The dance will be flawless but it takes work to get there.”

Picture of Miguel Parra del Pozo and CabrinaMiguel Parra del Pozo and Cabrina
Spanish student Miguel Parra del Pozo will return home with Cabrina, a black female Labrador.  Miguel was born with a degenerative cornea; he has a little bit of light perception in each eye.

As a child, Miguel was a Paralympic swimmer and competed internationally; he holds a world record in swimming.  He still keeps fit by going to the gym daily.

Miguel now teaches swimming and works in a retail store selling lottery tickets.  The lottery system in Spain is designed to support all of the rehabilitation programs for the blind and visually impaired.

Cabrina is Miguel’s second dog and first from Guiding Eyes.  He had goose bumps when they first met.  She brings him companionship and relaxed independence. They are inseparable and will be a good team. He is happy he made the decision to come to Guiding Eyes and is grateful for the love and attention he received during his time here.

Louanne “Lusi” H. Radford and JonahPicture of Louanne Radford and Jonah
Lusi Radford participated in the ACTION program and was matched with black Labrador Jonah.

Lusi was diagnosed in her late twenties with retinitis pigmentosa.  She went to a state school for the blind through fifth grade and was the first Braille-reading student to go through the public school system. She attended Mars Hill College for undergraduate studies and then went to graduate school at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Currently, Lusi does advocacy work for the National Federation of the Blind in North Carolina, and home schools her 15 year old daughter.  She enjoys crafts, walking, reading, deep water aerobics, skiing and horseback riding.

Lusi bonded quickly with Jonah, her third Guiding Eyes dog.   “He’s incredible and immediately went to work.  He’s like a little quarter horse of a dog.  He’s compact and he turns and twists like a quarter horse would.”

Lusi is looking forward to taking long walks and going to crowded places again, like the legislative building and the shopping center. She thinks the shopping center will be fun as Jonah is a dog that likes to boogie.

Jennifer Lynn Restle and Emmylou (Home Training)
Jennifer “Jen” Lynn Restle lives in California with Emmylou, a yellow female Labrador, and was trained through Guiding Eyes’ Home Training Program.

A birth defect caused Jen’s sight impairment and her eye structure was affected. Home Training was a perfect fit as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome made residential training too difficult.

Originally from upstate NY, Jen attended Vassar and majored in Psychology. Her family, parents, two sisters, four nieces and nephews are all on the East Coast. She is looking forward to travel with her guide dog, and explains that “cane travel is very exhausting.” She shares that she can now use her energy when she arrives at places instead of in the process of getting there.  For anyone considering a guide dog, “It’s a completely different way of experiencing navigation and everyone should try it. You don’t know how different it is until you have a dog.”

Jen works to help moderate community organizations and writes an informational blog on disabilities.  Her hobbies include gardening, writing and cooking, which started as a necessity because of food allergies. Her friends say she can make a muffin out of shredded phone books. At the local music scene, Emmylou will have the company of the venue owners dog.

Emmylou is Jen’s third guide dog. She is a bundle of energy and looks at Jen “with total admiration.” She loves to grab a toy and run around Jen in circles.  The two are a great team.

Picture of Tracy Westerlund and BrandonTracy Westerlund and Brandon
New York resident Tracy Westerlund came to Guiding Eyes for Brandon, a black male Labrador.  Tracy began losing her sight during childhood, and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.

Tracy has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College of New Rochelle and has worked in several customer service roles.  She enjoys reading books, catching up with friends, playing with her dogs, and rooting for her favorite baseball team – the New York Yankees.

She was so excited to come to Guiding Eyes; it was a wait of over five months and Brandon has been worth it.  She knows Brandon’s puppy raisers did a wonderful job; he gives so much love to her that she feels he was raised with a lot of love.  Tracy wanted a dog that was affectionate and the first thing Brandon did was shower her with kisses.

Tracy is looking forward to taking long walks again. Using a cane, she couldn’t go on her regular 2-3 mile walks. “A guide dog brings such freedom. It keeps you from being isolated. You have to get up, out and moving.”

Tomeka Yolanda Nicole White and VincePicture of Tomeka Yolanda Nicole White and Vince
Meka White traveled across the country to meet guide dog Vince, a black male Labrador.  Meka has sclerocornea; she has no vision in her right eye and very little in her left.

Meka is originally from Georgia, but wanted a change and moved to Washington State. She is a massage therapist and a singer.  She loves country, jazz, pop and R&B.  Recently she has competed in several large competitions and has done very well.

She’s also an avid bookworm and is consistent about furthering her education.  She is very involved in blindness and is on the Board of the Washington Council of the Blind.

Vince is a mellow dog that is eager to please. He’s a love bug yet he has a wonderful work ethic.  Meka looks forward to everything the future will bring them.