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July 2009 Graduating Class

Meet some of the members of our recent training class who graduated in July 2009.

And many thanks to our instructors:

Alex Alexander

Orville (Alex) Alexander of Texas has come to Guiding Eyes for Lambert, his first canine companion and guide. Alex lost his sight in April, 2004, as a result of diabetes and macular degeneration. Formerly employed as a chemical engineer, Alex is now studying to be a counselor. A number of activities occupy Alex’s spare time; he enjoys walking, biking, and fishing, and finds relaxation in yoga and meditation. He has a keen and quirky sense of humor and loves to laugh even at himself. Lambert, he says, is assertive and very curious. Alex is thankful to have a partner who offers him increased mobility and companionship.

Frank Barnes and Samuel

When complications from diabetes caused Pennsylvanian Frank Barnes to encounter progressive vision loss, he came to Guiding Eyes for a guide dog. He was matched with black Labrador Samuel. Following a seven-year managerial position at Wal-mart, Frank will now return to his alma mater, Slippery Rock University, to equip himself for a new career in rehab education and counseling. Frank is married and has two children. A true sports fanatic, he has umpired baseball, basketball and football and, of course, attends all of his kids’ sporting events. Frank knows that Samuel, with his alert yet relaxed personality, will be ready to face his new lifestyle in the Barnes household. “We are truly a team!” Frank was impressed by the partnering process and well-structured teaching methods he encountered at Guiding Eyes.

Darrell Bowles and Oslo

Darrell Bowles traveled from a small town in Tennessee to receive Oslo, his first guide dog. Darrell studies music and his goal is to do free lance work as a vocal (baritone) instructor. He is also an avid computer user and keeps current on information regarding what’s new in the “world of the blind.” Gifted with a bubbly sense of humor, Darrell loves to make others laugh. Darrell is hugely thankful for Oslo, a lovable and obedient lab; he knows that this new relationship will change his life completely. “The staff here is excellent; I feel totally supported ‘one little piece at a time!’”

Teal Bloodworth and Barton

Teal Bloodworth suffered both audio and optic nerve damage as the result of an automobile accident three years ago. As a cane-user, she shares that she “could never walk a straight line or avoid obstacles.” This realization inspired her to come from Kentucky to be matched with Guiding Eyes Barton. Teal chose Guiding Eyes because of the school’s reputation for taking students with both vision and hearing disabilities. Teal enjoys playing the piano, listening to music and socializing with friends. She also somewhat proudly confesses that she’s a true country girl who walks barefoot on gravel! Teal is very appreciative of her new canine companion’s obedient and happy personality. They will attend college together when Teal pursues a degree in Social Work. Describing her life being full of ups and downs, Teal now looks forward to a brighter future with Barton at her side.

Katherine Michelle Chavez-Chavarria and Olivia

Katherine Michelle Chavez-Chavarria has set serious goals and has high expectations for her life as a psychologist or lawyer. A native Honduran, Katherine is fluent in both Spanish and English. Diagnosed at the age of six with retinoblastoma, Katherine, now 16, is about to enter her senior year in high school and plans to attend Arizona State University in 2010. Katherine is a cheerleader and enjoys hanging out with her friends, shopping, watching TV, and singing. Her upbeat, positive and open personality has garnered many good friendships. Katherine says that Olivia, whom she has lovingly nicknamed “The Queen,” has a focused and sweet personality, and is really very much like herself. “We understand each other.” Katherine expects that Olivia will help her to move independently, and to smooth out some of the “wrinkles” in her life.

Roni Cole and Tuesday

Retinitis pigmentosa and Ushers syndrome caused Roni Cole to lose substantial hearing and sight in 2006. This month, Roni graduated with yellow Labrador Tuesday, her very first guide dog. She now considers Guiding Eyes to be her “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Roni studies business at Rasmussen College and eventually would like to run her own design establishment. Spare time is spent with husband Scott and eight year old daughter Astra. The family enjoys hiking, camping, and fishing. Roni believes that Tuesday will be an excellent addition to their family. Already the dog has enhanced her confidence; Roni shed tears of joy when the team first worked together in the dark.

Max Edelman and Tobin

Holocaust survivor Max Edelman, 86, of Ohio received his third guide dog, Tobin. Max’s decision to get a guide dog nearly 20 years ago was not one he took lightly; though he envied the freedom of mobility and independence some of his blind friends with guide dogs enjoyed, Max required a bit of reassurance to begin his own journey with a guide. Some of the events he had experienced caused him to have trepidation with dogs, but he overcame these feelings and went on to have a more fulfilling life almost forty years after first becoming blind. When Max first came to the school, his trainers were sensitive to his needs, bolstering his confidence with his dog. Heartened, Max took his guide dog home and began to form a bond with him that was based on mutual trust. Now an experienced guide dog user, Max cannot imagine his life without a guide, and his most recent companion, Tobin, is enabling him to continue enjoying being an active grandfather and retiree.

Daniela Estrada and Beatrice

Daniela Estrada was born eighteen years ago with Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a rare inherited eye disease. This month, she came to Guiding Eyes and was matched with black Labrador Beatrice. The oldest sibling of three, Daniela plans to pursue a career of teaching history; she will attend the University of Chicago this fall as a freshman. Daniela attends church regularly, plays the piano and enjoys reading, knitting and taking walks. She says that her new canine companion and guide is a sweetheart; she is obedient, respectful and serious about her work. “With Beatrice as my leader, I will be surer of myself, feel protected and will be able to walk at a faster pace. I have high expectations for my future.”

Ryan Henders and Wilton

Ryan Henders has been without sight since he was nine after receiving a diagnosis of bilateral retinoblastoma. This fall, the 18-year-old youth from Illinois will enter his freshman year at Western Michigan University; he plans to study business, computers, and telecommunications. Ryan is ambitious he is an active band participant, playing the drums and bass guitar, and is certified as a computer repair technician. Ryan also plays ‘Goal Ball’ an exciting sport for the blind and visually impaired. Delighted with his new dog, Ryan has nicknamed him “freckle-headed Willy” because of the spots on his face. Ryan is sure that Wilton will be an excellent guide at college and will help him to make friends. “Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a great school; the experience has been exciting and life changing. They have truly given me a new life of independence.”

Robert Munro and Sable

North Carolina resident Robert Munro came to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog, Sable. His first dog, Pilaf, is retired and now lives with his parents. Blind as a result of bilateral retinoblastoma, Rob is proud to have surpassed many of his life goals while still in his mid thirties. Rob is a law school student and has worked in the public radio field and the non profit sector. He’s been married for two years, and jokes that first dog Pilaf helped him find his wife. He describes Sable as calm, with bursts of frantic activity, kinda like a greyhound dressed in a Labrador suit.” Rob was happy to express how he feels about Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “The school is full of ‘real people’ – who really like to be here! Thank you, Guiding Eyes!”

Felipe Rodriguez and Casper

19 year old Felipe Rodriguez is a Cuban native whom has lived in the United States for three years. He is a very motivated young man who has set challenging goals for himself: he plans to pursue a college education in law and psychology or in a distinctly different field – musical production. Felipe particularly enjoys the loving companionship of guide dog Casper, whom he views as an exceptional worker and playful friend.

Christina Towery and Herbert

Christina Towery was born with retinoblastoma. She married her high school sweetheart, and now at 32, she proudly stays at home with their two young children. Christina has been instrumental in starting vision loss support groups for both adults and children and actively raises funds for the cause. Matched with Guiding Eyes Herbert, Christina looks forward to a new life with her “capable and trustworthy leader.”