December 2016 Graduating Class
In Loving Memory of Helen Souza-loving mother, Gram and Babcia.
Mr. Paul Marchand is the proud sponsor of the December 2016
Guiding Eyes graduating class.
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.
Bruce and Fleming
Christine and Flannel
Donna and Howie
Gedeon and Eddie
Mauri and Keats
Randa and Cupid
Renee and Henley
Steven and Imus
Terry and Mac (S)
Carol and Derby
Diana and Jockey
John and Edwin (S)
Kathleen and Ernie
P: A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes for the Blind in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.
S: The donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs:
- Mac was special named by Mitch and Pat Sonn in honor of Mary Arlene Collins,
a lifelong nurse who was dedicated to helping others.
- Edwin was special named by Harold Skolnick.
Congratulations to our graduating class!
Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor: Melinda Angstrom
Class Instructors: Eileen Thompson
and Cara Ebeling
Instructor Assistant: Ann Marie Poellot
Apprentice: Allison Greenberg
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor
Miranda Beckmann, Guide Dog Instructor
Lisa Derleth, Field Representative
Bruce started having problems with his eyesight almost 20 years ago.
While restoring an old telescope, he held it up to the light and saw a smudge. When he readjusted the lens and saw that the smudge was still there, he realized that the problem was not the lens but rather his eyes. A diagnosis of Glaucoma soon followed.
“The doctors tried different drops and drugs for nearly three years. I got so tired of being worried and afraid I decided to live my life. I threw myself into my hobby of building and flying radio controlled planes”
Eventually Bruce’s eyesight deteriorated rapidly leaving him legally blind. No longer able to drive Bruce realized that it was time to look into getting a guide dog. Doing some research on the internet, he found Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
“Having a guide dog allows me to function almost normally. Fleming restores my dignity and enables me to do things like go to the store or have coffee with friends, all by myself. Having Fleming is like having a great big toolbox. Together, we can figure it out.”
From the beginning everyone at Guiding Eyes have been incredible. They are the kind of people that restores your faith in humanity.
“I love going to the beach. I love music and cooking. I love the outdoors and I love working out”. There isn’t much Christine doesn’t like these days with her new Guiding Eyes dog, Flannel.
When Christine was 15, she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Already hearing impaired, Christine learned how to be independent, but losing much of her eyesight would prove to be an unimaginable challenge. By her late 20’s and early 30’s Christine was working as a proofreader, however when her eyesight had deteriorated so badly she had to take a medical leave.
In 2005 after cataract surgery Christine was able to see shapes but has problems with light and when inside, has a loss of peripheral vision.
Flannel is Christine’s first Guiding Eyes dog and bonded with her right away. “I can do just about anything with Flannel. Just going to the ladies’ room without someone helping me is a big deal. Flannel brings me. She helps me with her sense of direction and knows just what to do”.
Christine loves Guiding Eyes. “I’m just so happy to be here. I’m learning a lot and the training is great. Freedom is powerful”.
“Howie is pretty well suited for me and remains calm with city noises like sirens, traffic and shouting. And we are really bonding beautifully.”
Donna was a cane user and has been blind for nearly 20 years because of diabetes. With her eyesight getting worse, Donna’s first guide dog came from Guiding Eyes. “From the time I had the dog I was able to branch out and get around. It helped my confidence a lot. Having a guide dog literally changed my life”.
In less than 6 months Donna felt so good emotionally and happy to have independence. And with yoga being one of Donna’s passions had now opened up to her even more than before because with a guide dog, she could get to class by herself.
“Howie is literally going to give me a whole new life-freedom, independence, love and support.
“Everyone here at Guiding Eyes makes it work. I keep saying thank you because I don’t know what else to say to express my appreciation.”
Working as a cab driver in New York, Gedeon’s driving days soon came to an end after an accidental gunshot wound.
With the trauma of such an event and needing help, Gedeon turned to the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Gaining some independence, they suggested a guide dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
“Thanks to my guide dog, I became totally independent and went to college to become a social worker. I see getting guide dogs as getting a pair of eyes.” Rather than taking mass transit, Gedeon, now a social worker, can walk to work because of his guide dog rather than taking mass transit.
“I rarely go out by myself, so every time I go out, my significant other is over protective and feels she has to go out with me. But that’s a lot of pressure for her. But with a guide dog, I can go to my appointments without having her take time off from work, to take me.”
“I have so much freedom with a guide dog. The sky’s the limit”.
Coming to Guiding Eyes from Brazil, this adventure for Mauri is life-changing.
Mauri was a mail carrier in Brazil. When he started having accidents at work because of poor sight he saw his physician and was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). His responsibilities were adjusted so that Mauri, even with diminishing sight, could continue to work until his retirement.
After some research on guide dogs, Mauri found out that the programs in Brazil had a five year waiting list and Guiding Eyes for the Blind would take non US citizens. Coming to the rescue, his co-workers held a fundraiser to fund Mauri’s trip to the US.
“Keats gives me freedom. I’m independent and like doing things myself. Guide dogs changed my entire life. Guiding Eyes is a beautiful project and the reception has been wonderful.”
Imagine the unthinkable of waking up from surgery and never being able to see again. That’s what happened to Randa.
With a successful career as a legislative aide to a state senator in Connecticut, Randa had a benign brain tumor wrapped around her optic nerve. With a small chance of vision loss after surgery and not having much of a choice, Randa went ahead with the operation. The small chance, against all odds, happened.
Not letting anything stand in her way, Randa was back at work after just three months. And that was 13 years ago. Now retiring, Randa has been matched with Cupid, her second Guiding Eyes guide dog. “Life with a guide dog is easier and more secure. I can walk at a normal pace and feel much more independent and happy especially when I’m hiking. I’m looking forward to long walks on trails with Cupid who is so calm and sweet.”
Randa also wants anyone considering donating to Guiding Eyes to know, that their donation makes it possible for a visually impaired person to have a well-trained and well-bred service dog make a huge difference in their lives.
Renee and Henley
Farley, Abner, Dolce, Bianca are the names of the Guiding Eyes Guide Dogs Renee has had. Henley, is now the fifth and because of all her guide dogs, Renee as always felt ready and confident to live her life to the fullest.
Afflicted with Achromatopsia, a non-progressive and hereditary visual disorder, Renee does have peripheral vision and can see in the dark.
Now Retired, she worked for the state of North Carolina services for the blind for 34 years as a social worker and also served on the Guiding Eyes board of directors. Incredibly, Renee also represents the United States in a program called “Ski for Life” which is skiing for the blind and visually impaired. In 2007 she went to Norway to represent the US in cross country skiing. “Once a year I go to have fun and to meet people. The Norway event has almost 400 participants with blind as well as mobility impaired using sit skis.”
“Thanks to all my guide dogs, I have been given the ability to travel and stay active in my church. I have to stay active and the dogs give me the get up and go attitude with complete confidence.”
“People should donate to Guiding Eyes because you’re giving a visually impaired person the chance to live and be healthy. Guide dogs allow people to live their life.”
Working right up to the day of the surgery, Steve who was the VP of Operations at a major corporation for forty years, had sight one day but none the next. “I have always taken bad things and turned them to good but thought, where am I going from here?”
He first called an organization whose focus is the employment of the blind or visually impaired. “I ended up on the front desk and now run a remedial eye care program that helps anybody in need with getting glasses.”
“I found out about Guiding Eyes through a Christmas mailing we received. After my dog who was not a guide dog passed, we decided it was time to call.
“Having Imus as my first guide dog means more independence for me. It means more mobility. Imus has changed my life and improved my lifestyle. He can get me back and forth to work and
I feel secure, safe and more confident and we get along great!”
Terry found out about Guiding Eyes through a medical assistant when visiting a podiatrist. His dad had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) just like Terry.
Through his research he never heard one negative story about Guiding Eyes. “I thought I couldn’t afford it but found out that there was no charge”.
Diagnosed with RP when he was twenty-two, Terry remained independent surrounded by sighted family members and friends. When his condition took a drastic turn and left him with minimal sight and now, living alone, Terry needed and wanted support. He called Guiding Eyes.
“When I walk around I realize that with a guide dog it will be ok. And the companionship is priceless. Mac and I have the same personality. It’s amazing”.
“No one can prepare you for the change a guide dog has in your life. There’s a sense of security and safety. The future looks a lot better. I’m also a songwriter and volunteer at nursing homes playing and singing four times a week. It’s what I love to do.”
Taken from a song Terry wrote for his Guiding Eyes graduation; journeys once uncertain, now become so clear.
Diana and Jockey
Having lost her vision 17 years ago as a result of diabetic retinopathy, Diana’s first Guiding Eyes guide dog, Edison, “opened up a whole new avenue for me.” Edison was with Diana for 13 years. That’s when Diana had a stroke, and later struggled with a failing kidney.
About four years ago, Diana’s granddaughter was found to be a donor match, and Diana got a new kidney. “I was bedridden at the time, but I started working really hard. I eventually was able to use a walker and I would walk one mile every day.”
Soon, she became mobile enough to think about getting her second guide dog, Jockey. Diana and Jockey—who was trained as a special-needs dog specifically for Diana’s right side, on which her stroke left her very weak—worked together twice a day at her home in Indiana. “He’s been trained to stop at both the top and bottom of ramps for me; it’s been a great experience.” As a former staff development instructor for the nursing staff at a private psychiatric hospital, a Registered Nurse, and a U.S. military veteran, Diana often visits the local Veterans Affairs Hospital with Jockey.
For sighted people wondering how much of a difference guide dogs can make, Diana has a challenge: “Spend at least half a day blindfolded—go out shopping, to the grocery store, and anywhere else they normally go. At the end of the day, when they take the blindfold off—that’s how I felt when I got my guide dog.”
John and Edwin
Born with congenital glaucoma, John’s family tried desperately to save his sight as a young boy, but doctors had neither the tools nor knowledge to do so in 1948. John has been using guide dogs since the 1960s—Edwin is his eighth guide through Guiding Eyes. “It was remarkable when Edwin came here how well he fit in and how eager he was to work and do what we wanted him to.” John’s wife also has a guide dog, Calypso, and the two get along wonderfully.
John is a clerk typist for the State of Pennsylvania at the Montgomery County Assistance Office. His first day on the job was just two days after Edwin arrived for in-home training. “He can be kind of a clutz when he’s home roughhousing with Calypso, but at work he’s fantastic. He gets me through long aisles, little enclosed areas, and big high speed printers reliably and consistently every single day.”
John works Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 3:30pm, so much of their training was focused on John’s work environment. “This little guy is amazing. If I tell him I want to do something, he digs in and I actually have to slow him down—he’s so good natured, and so willing.”
John is also a musician and writer. He has had several books published, and Edwin often accompanies him for his musical performances at retirement homes and restaurants. “Guiding Eyes has helped me to live a very fulfilling life for many years. If you only have so much money to donate to a cause, you want it to do the best that it can do–if you donate to Guiding Eyes, you can really see where your money is going.”
Kathy and Ernie
Kathy was born with gyrate atrophy of the choroid and retina, a congenital and progressive condition in which a missing enzyme causes her to have a narrow field of vision and no night vision. She got her first Guiding Eyes guide dog in 1982—Ernie is her seventh. “He’s wonderful; he’s such a sweet dog, very obedient. He’s a pleasure to have around.”
Kathy trained at home with Ernie, which she found especially useful. “We went to places I need to get to on a daily basis while there was a trainer there to guide me. There are a lot of places I can walk to near me, so that was wonderful.”
Now retired after 27 years of service with the U.S. Treasury Department, Kathy spends her days with Ernie attending Aquafit classes at the YMCA and advocating for visually impaired people through the American Council of the Blind, a consumer advocacy group. As vice chair of her chapter, she has helped to secure pedestrian safety improvements and scholarships for visually impaired people locally. Nationwide, the American Council of the Blind has in part worked to create standards for minimum sound emissions for Hybrid cars, which are difficult for the visually impaired to detect when in electric mode.
Kathy could not have such an active life without Ernie, she says. “My guide dogs have given me the ability to travel safely and expeditiously by myself. I totally believe that having a guide dog improves the quality of my life—and the bond that develops between a blind person and their dog is like no other.”