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July 2010 Graduating Class

Photo of July 2010 graduating class

Tina Ciarciello & Khaki
Marco Luiz Da Rocha & Keegan
Sergio Faria & Camber
Ethan Holliger & Francis
Derek Neach & Geoffrey
David Patton & Sabrina
Kenneth Shelton & Will
Kirstie Simmons & Sebastian
Michael Wassel & Gavin
Gilbert Whitmore & Vancouver

Home Training Graduates

Carl Celalla & Withers
Ruth Ann Gurney & Chris
Cheryl McNeil-Fisher & Sanka

And many thanks to our instructors…

Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Woody Curry, Class Instructor
Stephanie Koret, Class Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
John Detloff, Field Home Training Instructor
Julie Angle, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Shane Chadbourne, Instructor’s Assistant

Tina Ciarciello and Khakiphoto of Tina Ciarciello and Khaki
Connecticut resident Tina Ciarciello was very enthusiastic about receiving her third Guiding Eyes dog – yellow Labrador Khaki.  Tina was diagnosed with Retinopathy of prematurity at birth and has partial vision in her right eye.  She was delighted to receive a yellow lab because she can see some of the expressions on Khaki’s face.

Tina has always been a dog lover.  She shares that her guide dogs have meant companionship, independence and freedom.

Tina enjoys walking, hiking, and does volunteer work. She is on the advisory committee for people with disabilities in her hometown. Tina loves music and singing and hanging out with a large group of friends.  She joked that her community is very aware and offers lots of services for people with disabilities. Sometimes she will go out to dinner with six friends, all of whom have guide dogs, and the group gets a lot of attention from other patrons at the restaurant.

Tina feels the atmosphere at Guiding Eyes is like a family. “I love the instructors. Everyone is so warm and bubbly here.”

photo of Sergio Faria and CamberSergio Faria and Camber
Sergio Faria, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is enthusiastic about bringing his new guide dog, Camber, home. Sergio, who is married with two teenage daughters, describes how yellow Lab Camber will fit right in with the family’s many animals – three dogs, an aquarium full of fish, and a couple of birds.

Sergio had an aggressive tumor as an infant; he lost his eyes when doctors removed the tumor to save his life.  Sergio began researching guide dogs at the encouragement of close friends.  Already, he is reaping the benefits as he feels more secure and relaxed while walking.

Sergio leads an active lifestyle.  He loves sports and exercises daily.  He also enjoys traveling with his wife. Sergio works as an information technology consultant for various American organizations. He has taught information technology classes to blind students and has lectured about social inclusion.

Sergio shares, “I am totally surprised because the dog did things I couldn’t imagine.  The learning process is fantastic. I needed to work on bad habits built from years of using a cane; the instructors have taught me so many helpful techniques.”

Ethan Holliger and FrancisPhoto of Ethan Hollinger and Francis
Eighteen year old Ethan Holliger was born with normal vision.  During a routine screening for preschool, his family learned that he had vision loss and was beginning to have balance issues.  After numerous medical tests, no diagnosis has been made to explain Ethan’s vision and balance loss.

Ethan learned Braille when he was in kindergarten.  In junior high school, he used a support cane, and by the time he reached high school he was up to two canes – one for support and one for a mobility aide.  A mobility instructor thought a guide dog would be of huge assistance.   Ethan chose Guiding Eyes for its renowned Special Needs Program.  This month Ethan was matched with black Labrador Francis, a dog specially trained to accommodate his needs.

Ethan is a member of his church youth group. He was a member of the Boy Scouts and attained the level of Eagle Scout.  He and his family have participated in 4H activities – raising and showing chickens.

Ethan will attend the University of Toledo in the fall.  He wants to major in computer science and engineering technology.  He would like to work as a programmer upon graduation.

Photo of Marco Luiz Da Rocha and KeeganMarco Luiz Da Rocha and Keegan
Marco Luiz Da Rocha traveled all the way from Brazil to receive his first guide dog, yellow Labrador Keegan. Marco learned about the benefits of having a guide dog from friends in Brazil who also received dogs provided by Guiding Eyes. After contacting other schools, Marco is convinced that Guiding Eyes has the best dogs and program.

Eight years ago, Marco went to the hospital to be treated for a simple eye infection.  He lost his sight when the doctor on call prescribed the wrong medication.

Marco is very enthusiastic about learning to work with his new partner, Keegan, stating that it will enable him to gain much more freedom. Marco stated that it is very difficult to navigate in the area he lives in due to the poor quality of the sidewalks.

Marco works as a telemarketer. He is a musician and plays both the piano and flute. He enjoys going to the beach, fishing and loves to learn new things. When asked about his experience at Guiding Eyes he replied, “I am trying to do my best and trying to feel what the dog is telling me.  It has been a beautiful experience – beautiful trainers and happy people.”

Derek Neach and GeoffreyPhoto of Derek Neach and Geoffrey
Derek Neach of Tennessee was paired with his first guide dog – yellow Lab Geoffrey.  He feels optimistic about the positive impact his new partner will have in his life.  Derek lost most of his sight at birth due to Retinopathy of prematurity.

Derek graduated from the Tennessee School for the Blind and will be a freshman at Eastern Tennessee State University in the fall.  He plans to major in computer science and would like to later gain employment at the internet company Cisco Systems. Derek loves to play football, work on the computer, and listen to all types of music.

Derek reflected on his experience at Guiding Eyes by saying, “It has been a great, amazing experience. I have learned so much. It’s the best school in the country. The people here give 100%.”

Photo of David Patton and SabrinaDavid Patton and Sabrina
North Carolina resident David Patton is married and has four children.  He worked for many years as a truck driver, though his life changed dramatically when he suffered two strokes in 2008.

David hoped that a guide dog would help him regain his independence.  After researching numerous schools, David decided on Guiding Eyes because he learned on their website that they offer service dogs to children with autism.  David and his wife Tanya have a nine year old daughter with autism.  This July, David was matched with yellow Labrador Sabrina.

David’s goal is to go back to school and become certified as a vocational rehabilitator for the blind. He loves to help others, and credits his children as the motivator for his never give up attitude.

David is a wood carver and enjoys crafting assistance aides for the blind and visually impaired.  One tool assists people with hammering nails and another prevents burns while using the oven.  David never accepts payment for his products.

Making fancy cakes is another hobby of David’s. Baking and decorating elaborating cakes became a stress reliever when he lost his sight.  He has made numerous wedding, graduation, and birthday cakes – some large enough to feed over 200 people.  He only charges for the cost of the ingredients.

David glowed when he spoke about his experience at Guiding Eyes saying, “These instructors are the sweetest, nicest people that ever walked this earth. The hours they work; it’s the love of the job that keeps them.  If you are searching for a guide dog school, your search is over.”

Ken Shelton and WillPhoto of Ken Shelton and Will
Ken Shelton, from North Carolina, was recently paired with his second Guiding Eyes dog, black Labrador Will. His first guide, Oak, is happily retired and continues to live with Ken and his wife.

In 1981, Ken was diagnosed during a routine eye exam with a very rare form of retinopathy that gradually caused scarring of the retina. Ken’s condition continued to progress and today he is totally blind.

Now retired, Ken held a variety of jobs. He graduated from The Maryland Institute with a certificate in drafting. Ken spent many years working as a draftsman and later worked as a residential plans reviewer. For a number of years he enjoyed working freelance out of his home.

Today Ken shares a busy life with his wife at their home near the beach, which the couple built together. In addition to walking, boating and taking in the cool breezes the North Carolina coast offers, Ken enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren.

Ken noted that the guide dogs are social magnets that have allowed him to meet new people. In addition to providing companionship they also offer safety, freedom and independence.

Ken has had wonderful experiences at Guiding Eyes stating, “Guiding Eyes offers well mannered dogs and training you can’t beat. The people are terrific around here and they really look out for you.”

Photo of Kirstie Simmons and SebastianKirstie Simmons and Sebastian
Kirstie Simmons is looking forward to starting her freshman year of college at Eastern University; she is incredibly excited that her new guide dog – yellow Labrador Sebastian – will be at her side through the whole process.    Kirstie wants to major in music education and her ultimate dream is to become a college professor.

Kirstie has Stargardts disease, a genetic disorder that caused deterioration of her central line of vision.  In just the few weeks she has worked with Sebastian, she feels more confident knowing he is there to help take care of her.

Kirstie enjoys many types of music. Her favorites include classical, Broadway tunes, Celtic, folk and some rock. She plays piano and alto clarinet. In addition to her love of music, Kirstie loves to write and enjoys reading, particularly mysteries and fantasies.

Kirstie was very pleased with her experience at Guiding Eyes. She said, “It has been an amazing experience. I am so grateful to have been accepted here and I love Sebastian.  I couldn’t have gotten a better dog.”

Michael Wassel and GavinPhoto of Michael Wassel and Gavin
North Carolina Central University student Mike Wassel was matched with his first guide dog this month – yellow Labrador Gavin. Mike lost his vision as an infant due to Retinopathy of Prematurity.

Mike’s mobility trainer recommended he look in to getting a guide dog. He began seriously researching the possibility at the end of his high school career. Mike thought it might be overwhelming to begin college and get a guide dog at the same time and waited until he completed his first year at the university before getting a dog.

Mike will be a sophomore in the fall studying computer information systems. He would like to work in the information technology field when he graduates. Mike likes to play electric guitar, enjoys working on his laptop and helping others who have difficulty using computers. He is an avid reader and his favorite authors are Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell.

Mike stated that he had an extremely good experience while training at Guiding Eyes. He is looking forward to the independence a guide dog will offer after using a cane for so many years.

Photo of Gilbert Whitmore and VancouverGilbert Whitmore and Vancouver
Gilbert Whitmore, a retired systems analyst manager, from Maine was recently matched with his first guide dog, yellow Lab Vancouver.  Gil’s wife Pauline is also a guide dog user, and was recently matched with her third Guiding Eyes dog.

Gil was born with congenital glaucoma and later developed macular degeneration. He sought a guide dog to help him travel the streets of the small city he lives in. After working with Vancouver Gil described his experience by saying, “A cane is like a bumper car; a guide is like being chauffer driven.”

Originally Gil attended Nasson College with the intention of becoming a math teacher. Upon graduating there were no teaching jobs available so he decided to go for further training in computer science. Gil has seen the development of computer technology since its inception. He worked for 33 years as a systems analyst for the state of Maine’s Department of Education. Today, he continues to do part time work at the same facility.

Gil enjoys playing in a bowling league. He also loves to fish and spends time with friends at a primitive camp in the northern woods of Maine. He joked that a priority will be to teach his new guide, Vancouver, how to find the outhouse!