December 2015 Graduating Class

 In Graduations, News & Events

December 2015 Graduation

Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s graduating class:

Barbara and David Katz

The Estate of Cheryl Ann Krull


We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our online streaming capabilities. Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Resident Graduates:

Adele Ritchie & Alexandra P
Bobbie Marshall & Allison
Brenda Rogers & Al
Clarence Smith & Gene
Elaine Mara & Sis S
James Rabourne & Manfred
Kevin Brathwaite & Baxter
Nolan Crabb & Carl
Terry Haire & Ohio

HOME Training Program:
Dory Israel & Arthas S
Evelyn Alvarez & Omar
Mary Le O’Daniel & Crystal
Richard Higgins & Nicole
Stephen Kuusisto & Caitlyn
Thomas Connelly & Wilbur


Darran Zenger & Lou
Patricia Gainey & Justin

Training Staff

Class Supervisor
Melinda Angstrom

Class Instructors
Eileen Thompson
Alyssa Tilley

Instructor Assistant
Dan Weesner


HOME Training

James Gardner, Director, Home Training
Christina Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Dave Hagemann, Field Representative
Jessy DiNapoli, Support Instructor
Jolene Hollister, Support Instructor
Stephanie Koret, Guide Dog Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Instructor


K.Brathwaite & Baxter

K.Brathwaite & Baxter

Kevin and Baxter 

Kevin is a Florida resident who has just been matched with his first guide dog, a male yellow Labrador named Baxter. The cause of Kevin’s visual impairment is unknown; he describes his vision today as “looking at the world through the lens of an out-of-focus camera.” With Baxter, Kevin is looking forward to pursuing a college degree where he wants to major in sign language. He shares, “I found that I do better when being guided by something or someone rather than using a cane. Baxter ensures I will get out at least once a day. It’s a big responsibility, but I love dogs.” In his spare time, Kevin likes to listen to audio books. He cares for his neighbor when she cannot do things on her own – something he considers a hobby. Ultimately, Kevin’s goal is to train service dogs and with Baxter by his side, he is confident he will achieve it.

Congratulations to Baxter’s puppy raisers – The Doheny Family


N. Crabb & Carl

N. Crabb & Carl

Nolan and Carl 

Nolan lives in Ohio. He returns to Guiding Eyes for his fourth guide dog, a male black Labrador named Carl.

The cause of Nolan’s visual impairment is retinopathy of prematurity. He has been married for almost 35 years and has four grown daughters and six grandchildren. He holds a bachelor of arts in communication from Brigham Young University and currently works for Ohio State University in the office of the ADA coordinator, assisting faculty and staff who develop disabilities. Nolan finds his job rewarding and encourages the people he works with to continue to dream, despite the challenges they may face. Nolan is a voracious reader and operates a free book review list for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Carl will continue the wonderful bond Nolan has had with his previous guides and join him on the next leg of his journey.

Congratulations to Carl’s puppy raisers – Mike and Linda Williams!


Terry and Ohio

Terry and Ohio

Terry and Ohio 

Florida resident Terry has been matched with her second guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Ohio. Terry’s vision loss is caused by retinitis pigmentosa. Terry has faced many challenges in her life and has persevered. Her hobbies include candy making, a big hit when Terry goes to schools to speak to children and staff about her guide dog and people with vision loss. Terry’s philosophy is that “if you teach a child, you also teach a parent.” She is very happy to have Ohio now and believes she will help her to continue her commitment of helping other people and always striving to be a better person. Terry was very happy that this year on Thanksgiving, instead of eating alone as she always does, she celebrated with her Guiding Eyes class mates. The sense of community she felt while at the school will endure.

Congratulations to Ohio’s puppy raisers – Anna and Melissa Coleman!


Elaine and Sis 

E.  Mara & Sis

E. Mara & Sis

Elaine has come from Pennsylvania for her second guide dog, a female black Labrador named Sis. Optic nerve hypoplasia and hydrocephalus caused Elaine’s vision loss. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Kutztown University in English Professional Writing with a minor in women’s studies and a specialization in public relations. Elaine has a master’s degree in student affairs and higher education administration. She says both she and her parents love the freedom a guide dog helps to provide. Elaine knows Sis will continue to help educate people about blindness and guide dogs. Elaine is an accomplished pianist and loves to compose music. She is currently looking for employment. She says about Sis, “She works very hard and is very motivated. She loves making decisions.”

Congratulations to Sis’s puppy raisers – Lauren and Meridith Rice!



Bobbie and Allison

B. Marshal & Allison

B. Marshal & Allison

Bobbie has come to Guiding Eyes from Maryland for his first guide dog, a female black Labrador named Allison. He has about 3% usable vision due to glaucoma. Bobbie is really looking forward to beginning this journey with Allison for the companionship she provides, and also for his safety. He was hit by a car twice, and this experience motivated him to get a guide dog. Bobbie is also looking forward to taking care of Allison and building on the bond that is already apparent between them. At home, he will seek work through the Industry for the Blind where he learned basic living skills. Bobbie shares that his trainer, Melinda, made it easy to learn. He is looking forward to life with his fiancé and Allison.

Congratulations to Allison’s puppy raisers – The Elswick Family!



James and Manfred 

J.  Rabourne & Manfred

J. Rabourne & Manfred

James lives in Oregon and has been matched with his first guide dog, a male German Shepherd named Manfred. A war veteran, James was wounded in combat in Iraq losing his left eye. He experiences headaches which cause loss of light perception, and when these flare up, he is totally blind. Before coming to Guiding Eyes, James was told by his peers that having a dog would have a calming effect, and that has proven to be true. Manfred offers greater freedom and mobility as well. James was in the service for four years and attended Army medical school; he performed trauma surgeries and stabilized wounded soldiers. He also holds a technical degree in commercial diving, underwater construction and demolition.

James is married with three children. He is president of the Blinded Veterans Association, the only group with a congressional charter. After extensive research of guide dog schools, James chose Guiding Eyes. He is looking forward to exploring the outdoors with Manfred. He lives on ten acres and his family owns a cattle ranch so there will be plenty of new places for the team to explore.

Congratulations to Manfred’s puppy raiser – Nina Berschig!


Adele and Alexandra

A. Ritchie & Alexandra

A. Ritchie & Alexandra

 Adele lives in Canada and has been matched with a female black Labrador named Alexandra who is her third guide dog and first dog from Guiding Eyes. Diabetes is the cause of Adele’s visual impairment. She has two daughters and owns her own store selling spiritual and natural healing products. Adele shares, “With a guide dog you get your freedom. A cane is so much slower. A dog is twice to three times as fast and can interact with people. With a cane, people are hesitant to interact with you. With a dog, even if you’re having a bad day, you still have to take care of a dog which brings you outside of yourself in a good way.” Adele is excited to resume her active life with Alexandra by her side.

Congratulations to Alexandra’s puppy raisers – Barbara & David Katz!



Brenda and Al 

B. Rogers & Al

B. Rogers & Al

Brenda has come to Guiding Eyes for Al, a male black Labrador who is her fourth guide dog and first from Guiding Eyes. She has recently returned to North Carolina with Al where she is resuming her life working at the Industry for the Blind during the week and as a hospital receptionist on the weekends. Brenda’s vision loss is the result of an injury that occurred years ago, and she has had complete vision loss since the age of 29 or 30. She has two grown children, a daughter and a son. Brenda cannot imagine her life without a guide dog and says, “Of course, you have to like dogs. Having a guide dog takes structure, responsibility and commitment but the tradeoff is worth it.” Brenda has two grown children and loves to dance, exercise, play darts and listen to music in her free time. She knows Al will fit right into her life and cannot wait to continue her journey with him.

Congratulations to Al’s puppy raiser – Matt Marshall!


Eugene and Gene

E. Smith & Gene

E. Smith & Gene

Eugene lives in Arkansas and has returned to Guiding Eyes for his second dog, a male black Labrador named Gene. Eugene’s vision loss was caused by diabetes and he has little usable vision. Combined, Eugene and his wife have five children, seventeen grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Known in the December class as the “Gene and Gene team”, Eugene describes their match as “perfect.” He says, “When I get the leash, Gene is like a pet, but when I grab the harness, he works.” Eugene drove a truck for 30 years and also worked in an oil field. He is learning carpentry and has a woodworking shop. He lives on top of a mountain in Arkansas and built a fence last year that encloses 15,000 square feet of space for his dogs to run and play.

Congratulations to Gene’s puppy raisers – Don and Joanne Shepard!