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July 2013 Graduate Class

July 2013 Class Photo

Meet our Residential Graduates
Angela & Sonya
Tori & Avis
Chelby & Gianna
Sofia & Karleen
Gabe & Posh
Graeme & Adrianne
Brad & Sharla
Cheyenne & Flynn
Debra & Chance
Maria & Carlton

Home Training Graduates
Sarah & Christine

Many thanks to our instructors
Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Stephanie Koret, Class Instructor
Caryn Fellows, Class Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Erica Lichtman, Instructor Assistant

Special recognition and thanks to our 2013 Graduation Sponsor, Sally Stokhamer

Angela and Sonya

Connecticut resident Angela was matched with female yellow Labrador Sonya, her first guide dog.

Angela’s vision loss is the result of choroidal sclerosis, a rare eye disease that begins with night blindness. She holds a degree in childhood education and is currently employed as a property manager at a senior housing facility. Angela is passionate about animals, particularly horses. In 1997, she started a nonprofit therapeutic riding academy for children with disabilities.

In 2000, Angela’s veterinarian told her about Guiding Eyes. She decided to apply when it became difficult to perform her every day chores. Angela is looking forward to going back to work with her guide dog, and her son and five grandchildren can’t wait to welcome Sonya into the family.

Congratulations to puppy raisers Avis Hull and Barbara Close!

Tori and Avis

Tori traveled from Virginia to be matched with male black Labrador Avis, her first guide dog. Although new to the school, she is not new to Guiding Eyes – she has been a Guiding Eyes puppy raiser for six years. When asked if it’s hard to let go of a puppy she replies, “seeing your dog graduate makes it all worthwhile.”

Tori was born with cataracts. Her vision loss is the result of Aphakia – absence of the lens due to surgical removal. She can read large print and attends mainstream schools. Right now, she is a senior in high school. For Tori, blindness isn’t a disability; it’s a “differ-ability” – she does the same things as everyone else, just a bit differently. During her free time, she studies American Sign Language. She is also a girl scout and a cheerleader.

Tori is looking forward to senior year with Avis. He will help her succeed as she prepares for college. She plans to continue raising puppies for Guiding Eyes; her firsthand experience with a guide dog makes puppy raising that much more meaningful.

Congratulations to puppy raisers Christopher and Kristin Martin!

Chelby and Glenna

Chelby will return home to Texas with female black Labrador Glenna, her first guide dog.

Chelby was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a rare congenital disorder caused by underdevelopment of the optic nerve. She has experienced vision loss since birth and has dreamed about getting a guide dog since she was a child. Chelby attends mainstream schools – she loves sports and excels in archery. During her free time, she creates video diaries of her life as a blind teen, which she posts on her personal YouTube channel.

Glenna gives Chelby a new feeling of independence. She looks forward to going out with her friends more often. After high school, she plans to attend Texas Women’s University where she will major in early childhood development. She is excited to introduce Glenna to her pet Chihuahua, Chloe.

Congratulations to Glenna’s puppy raisers – the Clark Family!

Sofia and Karleen

New Yorker Sofia was matched with female black Labrador Karleen. This fall, Karleen will accompany Sofia to Princeton University where she will major in politics.

Sofia was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia as a baby. When she was 13, her family moved from Columbia to the United States. After moving, she started using a cane and learned how to read Braille. She is grateful that her visual condition is stable, and hopes the security Karleen provides will bring her family comfort.

Sofia enjoys talking to people, especially when the conversation involves varying opinions. She was on the debate team in high school, which allowed her the opportunity to travel to St. Petersburg, Istanbul. Sofia enjoys meeting new people and looks forward to attending college. With Karleen at her side, she will be unstoppable.

Congratulations to puppy raiser Shawn Carstens and family!

Gabriel and Posh

Gabe will return home to Florida with female yellow Labrador Posh, his first guide dog.

Gabe’s vision loss is the result of retinitis pigmentosa. He was born in Honduras and educated in American schools. He attended law school in Honduras then moved to Florida and joined the family business. Now, he attends Barry University and will earn his MBA in 2014. During his free time, Gabriel enjoys traveling, playing the piano and reading. His most memorable trip was to Austria to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his favorite composer, Mozart.

Moving to Miami has opened many doors for Gabriel. He previously used a sighted guide, which didn’t give him much independence. Walking with Posh will be different, allowing him to travel freely on his own. He is looking forward to working with her in Miami and no longer wasting energy in unproductive ways.

Congratulations to Posh’s puppy raisers – Ms. Adrienne Walters, Rebecca Deutsch and The Peterson Family!

Graeme and Adrienne

Graeme traveled from Canada to be matched with female German shepherd Adrienne, his sixth guide dog.

Graeme started experiencing vision loss at the age of 9 due to infantile glaucoma and sympathetic ophthalmia. Inflammation from surgery left him completely blind. He is a retired physiotherapist and treasurer of the Canadian Federation of the Blind. During his spare time, he runs half marathons, participates in weight lifting competitions and writes books.

Graeme is married with two sons and a daughter. He is author of The Politics of Blindness. With Adrienne by his side, he hopes to educate the public – sharing that blindness is not a disability but rather an inconvenience.

Congratulations to Adrienne’s puppy raisers – Betsy Kohl and The Stephens Family!

Brad and Sharla

Iowa resident Brad received female yellow Labrador Sharla, his first guide dog.

Brad was born with retinitis pigmentosa. When his vision started to deteriorate, he began mobility training, knowing he would get a guide dog one day. Now 50, traveling with a cane became troublesome; he has begun to experience joint problems, affecting the mobility of his elbow and shoulder.

Sharla marks a new beginning for Brad. For the first time in 30 years, he won’t have to depend on his wife as his sighted guide. He looks forward to taking long walks on the bike path and picking his granddaughter up from preschool. With Sharla, life will be more relaxing and enjoyable.

Congratulations to puppy raiser Barbara Close!

Cheyanne and Flynn

Cheyanne will return home to New Mexico with male black Labrador Flynn, her first guide dog.

Cheyanne was born with septo-optic dysplasia, a rare congenital disorder caused by underdevelopment of the optic nerve. This doesn’t hamper her artistic nature – she spends her down time reading, drawing and playing piano. Currently, Cheyanne attends New Mexico State University where she studies teaching for the visually impaired. She looks forward to returning to school with Flynn at her side.

Flynn has exceeded Cheyanne’s greatest expectations. “With Flynn, navigating my campus will be much easier,” she shares. “Flynn is smooth and efficient. We’re a good match.”

Congratulations to puppy raiser Rowan Schatz!

Debra and Chance

Debra traveled from Minnesota to receive her first guide dog – male yellow Labrador Chance.

Debra’s vision loss is the result of iritis, inflammation of the iris that causes glaucoma and cataracts. Her vision became seriously compromised six years ago. Recently, she left her career as a special education assistant and returned to school. Chance is joining her at the perfect time as she transitions into a new career path.

Now that Debra has Chance, she is excited to return to a more active lifestyle. He will encourage her to leave the house more – she looks forward to the companionship and independence Chance brings.

Congratulations to puppy raiser William Tokos!

Maria and Carlton

Maria matched with male black Labrador Carlton through Guiding Eyes’ ACTION program, an expedited training option.

Maria was born and raised in Mexico and became totally blind after graduating high school. She briefly attended a school for the blind in Mexico before moving to the United States to participate in a rehabilitation program. After finishing the program, she came to Guiding Eyes to train with her first guide dog, Dave. Months later, Maria began her college career. She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in Communications and is now a Level 1 Legal Interpreter and a certified Medical Interpreter. She currently works at the American Printing House for the Blind.

Congratulations to puppy raiser Catherine Stra!


Congratulations to Elizabeth Fridley and Louise Fletcher, puppy raisers for Glenna, placed through a home training.