Close this search box.
Close this search box.

February 2008 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated on January 26.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Jason Brown and Kelsey

Two new partners: Guiding Eyes dog Kelsey and fiancé Amanda

Jason Brown, 25, lost his vision as the result of a serious brain injury and a series of subsequent concussions. Although he also suffers from severe nerve pain, Jason maintains an upbeat outlook; his future includes marrying his sweetheart of five years Amanda this summer. He came from upstate New York to receive his first guide dog, Kelsey upon the recommendation of a former Guiding Eyes student. “Kelsey is an affectionate, alert and motivated worker and I know I will be more confident and enjoy a greater measure of independence with him at my side. Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a great school. They have been extraordinarily understanding and helpful in dealing with my chronic nerve pain. I can be very difficult at times – thank you, Guiding Eyes.”

Denise Chamberlin and Carla

A well-balanced family life for Canadian mother

Denise Chamberlin, 47, came to Guiding Eyes from Canada for her second guide dog, Carla. Denise was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when she was nineteen. Like so many students, she came to Guiding Eyes upon the enthusiastic recommendation of a former student. Denise, a mother of two, describes herself as a “lady of leisure” who, along with her volunteer work speaking at focus groups, enjoys hooking heritage rugs. Denise’s husband is also sightless, but between them, they have entered into an interesting “division of labor agreement.” Very simply, Denise is the “kennel keeper” with two dogs at home, she will feed, exercise and tend to their needs. Her husband does the cooking, at which, she says, he excels. Denise knows that while Carla has a sweet, cuddly personality, she also has a solid work ethic. “With Carla at my side, I don’t walk, I fly. We are one. Thank you, Guiding Eyes.

Tony Colon and Kylie

Young, active grandfather takes on new role as public speaker

Father of four and grandfather of five children, 52-year old Tony Colon came from Illinois to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, Kylie. Tony experienced night blindness until the age of five, at which time he was officially diagnosed as having retinitis pigmentosa. His mobility instructor recommended Guiding Eyes to him, based on its proven record of high quality training. Tony is a bilingual Business Management graduate of the Illinois Institute for the Visually Handicapped. He retired five years ago from being a Cafeteria Manager, and now speaks at schools and summer camps. He enjoys computers, loves books on CD and walks on a regular basis for exercise. “Kylie is a wonderful match: she is very mellow, an excellent worker and vibrates with an eagerness to please. She has already become a valuable partner in my busy life. She is an outstanding product of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the best school in the country. And may I add… where the instructors are also superb.

Nolan Crabb and Juliet

Guiding Eyes dog joins computer expert on Big Ten campus

Nolan Crabb returned to Guiding Eyes from Ohio to receive Juliet, his second dog from the school. He originally chose Guiding Eyes on the advice of a long-time friend who had had experience with other guide dog schools. Born in 1957 with retinopathy of prematurity, Nolan enjoys a full and productive life. He has been married 28 years and has four daughters and two grandchildren. He is a computer consultant, author of newspaper and magazine articles for the visually impaired, and currently the Director of Assistive Technology at Ohio State University. Also a voracious reader and a ham radio operator, Nolan says that he spends most of his leisure time with his family. Nolan predicts that Juliet, with her free spirit, driven by a wanting-to-please work ethic, will enable him to safely cut 30% out of his travel time each day. He also knows that she will be a remarkable goodwill ambassador on the college campus. Nolan’s assessment of Guiding Eyes is concise: “It is the best there is.

Harry Epstein and Georganne

Construction industry consultant begins life a new with Guiding Eyes shepherd

Harry Epstein lost his sight about one year ago as the result of surgery for a non-cancerous brain tumor. His mobility instructors at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind recommended that he come to Guiding Eyes for a guide dog. With several graduate degrees from the University of Michigan under his belt, Harry had successfully enjoyed a career working in project management as a consultant in the construction industry. Harry has two children, ages 23 and 19. He is now semi-retired and lives with wife Johanna in Pennsylvania, where fishing, hunting, bowling and exercise continue to be an important part of his life. Harry is convinced that Georganne, his playful but serious German shepherd Guiding Eyes dog, is indeed the best means for him to re-establish his independence. His wife and four dogs anxiously await their arrival at home. Harry expressed his praise for Guiding Eyes loud and clear. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Arnold Fieldman and Jeff

Retired doctor continues exercise regiment with Guiding Eyes dog at his side

Arnold Fieldman, 84, came to Guiding Eyes from Connecticut to receive his first guide dog, Jeff. A 16-year bout with macular degeneration followed by a more recent diagnosis of glaucoma caused Arnold to seek help. He applied to Guiding Eyes at a friend’s advice. Arnold is a Yale graduate, holding a Bachelor of Science degree. He then went on to receive his medical degree from Tufts University and practiced medicine for 14 years. Following his advice to former patients, he now walks two to three miles per day, conducts physiotherapy exercises in 93 degree water, and listens regularly to NPR, a public radio news and classical music station, which, he says, “is relaxing and also enables me to keep up with what’s going on in the world.” “Jeff is a sensitive, obedient and wonderful leader I think he’s actually smarter than I am.” Arnold is confident that Jeff will successfully guide him on his daily walks and jaunts into the city. This doctor would confidently prescribe the school for those without sight who seek complete independence and mobility. He lauds the school’s readiness to work with visually impaired students with additional disabilities.

Shiffon Gray and Felix

Shop manager relies on Guiding Eyes dog to sustain a busy life

Shiffon Gray came to us from Maryland for Felix, her second dog from Guiding Eyes. Shiffon was born with retinopathy of prematurity. Her initial search for a school focused on one that would accommodate her own needs and offered a “down to earth program.” Shiffon is certified in the field of Business Management and manages a gift shop for the blind. She says that she especially likes being her own boss. Her favorite physical activities are bowling, skiing and other outdoor activities; she also loves to read biographies and history. Shiffon describes Felix as “a good boy, playful, but serious about his job.” She feels they are well matched, as she is very serious about her professional responsibilities. “Felix will play an important role in my life by giving me a strong portion of independence in my travels, shopping and on the job. Guiding Eyes is a wonderful place: here, top of the line expertise is exercised with patience, skill and care in a warm and encouraging environment.

Stanley Heiniger and Samantha

Guiding Eyes dogs set retired factory worker on steady life course

Stanley Heiniger, 63, came from Wisconsin to receive Samantha, his second Guiding Eyes dog. Diagnosed in 1967 with keratokonus complex, a disease of the cornea, Stanley chose Guiding Eyes after thorough internet research and the advice of a family friend, a fundraiser for the school. He operated heavy equipment in a factory for 29 years, but when he lost his sight he suddenly became “a ship without a rudder”. Married with three older children, he and his wife are now raising an 11-year-old grandson. Stanley enjoys a long, healthy walk every day and loves to take trips near and far. His second Guiding Eyes dog Samantha is a loving, loyal and obedient Glab (golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix) that already has given him a new “leash” on life. Stanley described his most recent experience at Guiding Eyes this way: “The food here is great, the staff is phenomenal. They make your stay here valuable, in an effective and enjoyable manner and all of that in up-to-date renovated quarters.V

Veronika Kanya and Winfrey

Biologist and kidney transplant recipient finds second home at Guiding Eyes

Hungarian-born Veronika Kanya was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at the age of 23, and today is totally blind. She was directed to Guiding Eyes by a mobility instructor at Winnipeg’s Canadian National Institute for the Blind and was at Guiding Eyes to receive her second dog, Winfrey. Veronika holds a degree in Environmental Science and is currently employed as an Assistant Research Biologist by the Manitoba Conservation Provincial Government. She and her husband Chris have been married two-and-a-half years and are related in another very special way: he gave her the gift of his kidney just three days before their first wedding anniversary. A few of Veronika’s athletic interests include walking, Aikido and belly dancing; she also finds time to read and meditate. Winfrey, an affectionate, serious and beautiful German shepherd, will join Pan, her retired predecessor, at home as well as a Heinz 57 pup. Veronika knows that Winfrey will greatly improve her independence as she travels about the city and environs. Describing Guiding Eyes, Veronika exclaimed: “This place is heaven – out of this world. I know that I’ll cry when I leave here.”

Lynette Lewis and Whim

Community college student forges on with second Guiding Eyes dog

Lynette Lewis, 36, came from western Pennsylvania for Whim, her second Guiding Eyes dog. When she was fourteen she suffered a burst blood vessel in her eye, followed by retinal detachment, culminating two years later in optic nerve damage. Totally unsatisfied with other mobility alternatives, she followed her mobility instructor’s recommendation to apply to Guiding Eyes. Lynette is currently enrolled in her local community college and working towards a degree in social work. Her new dog Whim has a keen intelligence and is always intently focused on what is expected of her. Lynette notes with satisfaction that Whim will always be a conversation piece, taking the focus off herself. As for Guiding Eyes, Lynette praises the level of dedication, patience and excellence of the trainers whose primary goal is for each Guiding Eyes team to be successful.

Lori Scharff and Kelley

Five-time Guiding Eyes student earns graduate degree in social work and builds successful career

A native of Long Island, Lori Scharff has been totally blind since the age of six as a result of retinopathy of prematurity. She came for her fifth Guiding Eyes dog, a golden retriever named Kelley. Lori chose the school after attending a Guiding Eyes class graduation in December 1991, and enrolled here for the first time in 1992. Lori earned her Master’s degree at Fordham University in Social Work in 2001 and is now happily working in that field. Lori enjoys traveling to professional conventions and when she is home, she relaxes by reading non-fiction books, attending plays and eating at local restaurants. She looks forward to renewed freedom and independence with Kelley at her side. Kelley, Lori says, has a mind of her own, but is affectionate and a wonderful worker and guide. “There have been so many great changes since I first came here in 1992. The dogs are phenomenal, the training, positive and affirming and every student has a brand new room, fully furnished with a TV and internet access.”