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January 2015 Graduating Class

January 2015 Graduating Class Group Photo
January 2015 Graduating Class

 Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s graduation ceremony:

Residential Graduates:
George and Pike
Randy and Eric
Paul and Jeremiah
Rusty and Gideon
Stephanie and Frisbee
Andrea and Lee
Erin and Quincy
Rich and Romy
Jerry and Dobi
Jessica and Kilo
Jim and Irwin

Home Training Graduates:
Angela and Wylie
Edna and Gerta
Elaine and Ken

Many thanks to our instructors:
Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Jessy DiNapoli, Support Instructor
Michelle Tang, Class Instructor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Jim Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Gary Jakubos, Home Training Field Representative
Morgan Vail, Instructor Assistant

G. Ashiotis and Guide Dog Pike

George and Pike

George, an ACTION student, has been matched with his fourth guide dog – male black Labrador, Pike.

George has retinitis pigmentosa inversa, which affects his central vision. A dedicated student, George graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College, and later received a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. George retired as artistic director for Theatre Breaking Through Barriers, and taught technology to blind and visually impaired students. His time is filled with voice and piano lessons, playing in a band, singing with a quartet and a choral group and reading.

George loves the fluidity of motion you get with a dog, and shares, “the cane gives you a lot of information, but a dog lets you move with confidence.”

Congratulation’s to Pike’s puppy raisers – the Parkins family!


Randy and EricR. Dyck and Guide Dog  Eric

Randy traveled all the way from Louisiana to receive Guiding Eyes dog Eric, a male black Labrador.

Randy’s vision impairment is caused by retinoblastoma. A father of two sons and one daughter, Randy’s oldest son works with him on his sixty-acre farm where he raises beef cattle. Two horses also live amongst the cattle on Randy’s farm and he rides them regularly.

Living in a rural neighborhood, Randy was confident Guiding Eyes could help him learn to shoreline, or navigate in an environment without sidewalks. He appreciates the speed and agility Eric brings to his work, which allows him to maneuver effortlessly.  He is excited to introduce Eric to his neighborhood.

Congratulation’s to Eric’s puppy raisers – Brian Tedd and Victoria Rooks!

P. Ferrara and Guide Dog Jeremiah
Paul and Jeremiah

Paul will be returning home to Kentucky where his wife is excited to meet his third guide dog – male black Lab Jeremiah.

Paul’s vision loss is due to retinopathy of prematurity. He works full time and holds a part time position as an assistive technology specialist. Combining his love of baseball, football and basketball, Paul co-hosts a weekly Internet radio show known as The World of Sports.  Music, playing drums and reading are amongst Paul’s other hobbies.

Paul looks forward to working Jeremiah at home, sharing, “Jeremiah is smooth as he guides me around obstacles.  I look forward to navigating our neighborhood.”

Congratulations to Jeremiah’s puppy raisers – Luan & Jim Harneson and Brian Davis!


Rusty and GideonR. Gallant and Guide Dog Gideon

Rusty came from Maine to be matched with his first guide dog, a male black Labrador named Gideon.

Rusty’s vision loss is caused by retinitis pigmentosa, which has only recently started to affect him. A former student of Falmouth High School, Rusty started working at the young age of sixteen. In October 1993, Rusty began working as a housekeeper in a home for the visually impaired.  When he completes work, he spends his afternoons walking three to four miles, stopping at the local shops and enjoying a meal or having a quiet evening at home.

Gideon and Rusty will have many adventures and Rusty shares, “Gideon is now the king of the castle. He is everything I envisioned in my heart and mind and I am grateful he is part of my life.”

Congratulations to Gideon’s puppy raisers – Jocelyn & Tom Pritchard and the Albergas family!


S. Gibbs and Guide Dog FrisbeeStephanie and Frisbee

New Yorker Stepahnie has been matched with her first guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Frisbee.

Stephanie’s vision loss is caused by Stargardt’s Disease, which was misdiagnosed until a year ago when she went to the Lighthouse in New York. Stephanie is a married mother of seven and worked as a teacher’s assistant. She looks forward to her return to college next fall. Stephanie is also passionate about photography, seeing the camera as a second set of eyes.

Depending on a cane made Stephanie feel vulnerable, but now Frisbee is her eyes and allows her to travel safely and independently.

Congratulations to Frisbee’s puppy raisers – the Lo family!



Andrea and LeeA. Marley and Guide Dog Lee

Andrea returns from Ohio for her second guide dog, a male black Labrador named Lee.

Andrea has a degenerative eye disease, which progressively worsens and causes her vision loss. In her role as a teacher for the visually impaired, some of her time is spent instructing adults to use assistive technology. Andrea is a graduate of the University of Toledo and has a bachelor’s degree in special education as an intervention specialist with a concentration in vision impairments. She is also working towards her Masters of Science in Vision Rehab Therapy from Salus University in Pennsylvania. When she is able to find time in her busy schedule, Andrea likes to be with friends and sing at local events and fundraisers.

Lee will be critical in helping Andrea travel between the multiple schools at which she teaches.

Congratulations to Lee’s puppy raiser – Mary Ann Toia!


E. Milde and Guide Dog QuincyErin and Quincy

Erin has been partnered with her first guide dog – male yellow Labrador Quincy. Her husband and two young daughters are counting the days until they return home to Massachusetts.

Cone rod dystrophy caused Erin’s vision loss and became progressively worse as she grew older.  Erin is a stay at home mom who loves to make her own laundry detergent, personal soaps and scrubs using essential oils and holistic and organic ingredients. She also loves to garden, specializing in raised bed gardens and using some of the items she grows in the home products she makes. Erin also enjoys volunteering at her local library.

Quincy will help her be independent and do everything the other moms are doing without depending on her husband or daughter as a sighted guide.

Congratulations to Quincy’s puppy raisers – the Gentry family and Chris Silvey!


Rich and RomyR. Nieves and Guide Dog Romy

Rich and his first guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Romy, look forward to returning home to Florida. He is excited to introduce Romy to his pet dogs – a Maltese and a Dachshund mix.

Rich’s vision impairment is caused by retinitis pigmentosa. He is married and the father of a daughter in college. Rich majored in sociology at Fort Hayes State University and is now a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist at the Lighthouse of Broward. He is also ACVREP certified and certified to teach Braille. Rich has an extensive list of hobbies including watching movies, reading, exercising, barbecuing and soaking in the hot tub.

Romy is affording Rich the ability to travel alone safely and effectively, changing everything for him. Now he won’t have to think twice about running errands and won’t need to plan every little outing. He is looking forward to future travel and the adventures he will share with Romy.

Congratulations to Romy’s puppy raiser – Kevin Simpson!


G. Richer and Guide Dog DobyJerry and Doby

Jerry, who lives in New York, is excited to be paired with his first guide dog – male black Labrador Doby.

Jerry has congenital glaucoma and was able to see until the age of sixteen. A graduate of SUNY Potsdam with a degree in physics, he worked at MIT, Lincoln Labs and eventually the Navy as a civilian employee computer programmer. Jerry met his wife while on the recruiting committee to hire people with disabilities to work for the Navy. The couple owned a music store in California for 10 years before returning to New York. Jerry fills his days with container gardening, hydroponics, music, cooking and making cheese and sausage.

With Doby by his side, Jerry is looking forward to long walks and safely navigating his rural neighborhood.

Congratulations to Doby’s puppy raisers – Dan & Aimee Muller!


Jessica and KiloJ. Snyder and Guide Dog Kilo

Jessica was paired with her second guide dog – male German shepherd named Kilo.

Retinopathy of prematurity is the cause of Jessica’s vision loss.  Jessica graduated from Lake Erie College with a psychology degree and works for the IRS in their customer service department. She is trained in identity theft and finds her job very interesting. Jessica has a history with Guiding Eyes that began before her first guide dog. As a teenager, she volunteered with the Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising Region in Cleveland. She has many hobbies, including skiing, reading and traveling to visit friends.

Jessica can’t imagine life without a guide dog. Kilo seems to read her thoughts and his favorite game is playing fetch with his tennis ball. Returning home to New York is the beginning of their future together and the many wonderful journeys they’ll share.

Congratulations to Kilo’s puppy raisers – Mary Glassco, Blythe Windle and Amy Thaler!

J. Walton and Guide Dog IrwinJim and Irwin

Jim lives in Ohio with his mom, grandma and sister, and is excited to introduce them to his first guide dog – male black Labrador Irwin.

Jim’s vision loss is caused by retinopathy of prematurity. He holds a certificate in Microsoft Network Administration, and works in the school he attended assisting the technology director and the teachers with the computer systems. In addition to enjoying building and fixing computers, Jim also plays the guitar. He looks forward to returning to college next fall to complete his Associates Degree.

Jim first considered getting a guide dog when his O&M instructor saw he was a good candidate and encouraged him to apply. He is looking forward to bringing Irwin to work, as the elementary school is a fun environment and the students always say what is on their minds. Jim shares, “Irwin and I will show everyone what we can do. Together we have no limits.”

Congratulations to Irwin’s puppy raisers – Elizabeth Kopniske and Gayle Papesh!