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July 2017 Graduating Class

July 2017

Congratulations to the July 2017 graduating teams. Our sponsorship is in loving memory of our parents: Mildred and Edward Foley and Marjorie and Willard Flynn, who had a lifelong commitment to community service. We also honor the GEB Brood Stud Program and thank them for the opportunity to foster broods Halsa and Evita. Halsa’s pup Keith and Evita’s pup, Macallan, are graduating today!

Bette Lee Foley-Flynn and Dan Flynn

In memory of Henry Safer—January 19, 1922 to June 14, 2017.

Jacqueline and Michael Poritz

We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.

Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.

Residential Graduates:
Amanda & Keith
Angela & Hara
Christine & Kylie
Darrell & Amos
Donald & Grady
Erick & Macallan (S)
Gerald & Yella
Jabriel & Jack (S)
Jane & Kira (P)
Patrick & Ernest

HOME Training
Judy & Hamish
Pat & Beacon
Rachel & Heloise

P: A Pathfinder Society Member—someone who has remembered Guiding Eyes in their estate plans and has received this dog’s progress reports and photos from puppyhood.

S:  The donors listed below made a special gift to personally name the following dogs:


Congratulations to our graduating class!

Many thanks to our instructors:
Class Supervisor: Miranda Beckmann
Class Instructors: Michelle Tang, Shannon McGee, Deanna Lentini

Special Programs Trainer—Running Program: Nick Speranza

Instructor Assistant: Marybeth Heady

HOME Training:
Graham Buck, Assistant Director of Training
James Gardner, Director, Home Training
Maureen Mellett, Field Representative


Amanda & KeithA. Baker & Keith

Amanda was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 at nine months. “I was five when, all of a sudden, I went blind due to a tumor,” she says. “I went from reading kindergarten worksheets to not seeing them at all.  I’m totally blind in my right eye, and I can only see shapes and shadows in my left.”

Amanda has one year left of her two-year master’s degree program at the University of North Carolina where she is majoring in information science with a concentration in data analytics. She is the president for the local chapter of the Special Libraries Association and treasurer for the Association of Science and Technology Professionals.

Until recently Amanda relied on a white cane to navigate to her classes and clubs on campus. Now that she’s been partnered with Keith, her yellow Guiding Eyes Lab, she says, “Not only am I going to become more independent, I’ll have more confidence in where I’m going. No more bumps and bruises, no more crashing into things. Dogs are obstacle-avoiders. Canes are obstacle-finders. It’s a 30-minute walk from my apartment to my classroom. Often there are no sidewalks and, if there are, they’re uneven, so I have to figure it out. With a guide dog it’s going to be more efficient. There’ll be a flow. Keith is going to help me get to where I need to go. It’s a totally different way to travel.”

Amanda has already formed a strong bond with Keith. “No matter what you say to him he wags his tail. How can you be sad around this dog who is always happy? I will be able to share adventures with him. And he gives me an awesome outlook on life!”

In addition to enhancing her independence around campus, Amanda is looking forward to Keith accompanying her on the plane to and from her home in North Massapequa, NY, and college in North Carolina. As for her future, she says, “I’d like a career in the service field. I’ve thought about becoming a research analyst for the CIA, but I’m not sure. Keith and I will figure it out together.”

Congratulations to Keith’s puppy raiser, Bethany Reinhardt!


Angela & Hara A. Villota & Hara

Angela has wanted a guide dog since she was ten, and every year on her birthday she asked her mother if she could make that happen. The countdown came to an end when she graduated from high school at 18 and Guiding Eyes partnered her with Hara, a black female Lab.

Angela was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer. She lost vision in one eye at 14 months and in the other eye when she was six.

“In high school I was a cheerleader, competed in swimming, and ran track,” she says. “I was totally blind, and I just dealt with it. Inevitably, someone would trip over my cane and it would break. I got tired of that happening.”

Angela will attend Farmingdale State College in the fall as a freshman, majoring in psychology. “Hara will give me companionship. She’ll also keep me from crashing into fences and poles. With the white cane I find the curb. With Hara, she finds the curb.”

Hara will also help Angela meet new people, make new friends, and go to new places. “I’m going to focus on school work and finding internship opportunities,” she says. “Then I’ll graduate college, get a good job, buy a house, marry, and start a family. All these things are in my future plans, and Hara’s going to help me get there. Hara and I might even travel to England someday.”

Congratulations to Hara’s puppy raiser, Tonya Cole!


Christine & KylieC. Ross & Kylie

Christine is totally blind due to retinal detachments. “It’s been over 25 years, and I was devastated when I lost my sight because it came on suddenly. It took a while for me to come to terms and adapt. A loving partnership with my Guiding Eyes guide dog, Kylie, will make me feel whole again.”

Christine is the secretary and treasurer for the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians. She also participates in cross country skiing and curling through Manitoba Blind Sports Association. Kylie, a female yellow Lab, will assist in getting Christine to her clubs and activities either by bus or by foot. “Kylie will give me independence and more freedom,” she says. “I can travel to my many activities on my own and feel safe crossing the street and avoiding obstacles.”

Of her experience at Guiding Eyes, she says, “It’s been great. l would recommend this organization to anyone. There’s also the added benefit of meeting new people and making friendships.”

Christine traveled from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is from a large family of seven sisters and five brothers. She has her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with a minor in Native studies and, later, she also earned a bachelor’s in social work.

Congratulations to Kylie’s puppy raisers, Patrick Will & Greg Phillips!


Darrell & AmosD. Furgoch & Amos

Darrell has choroideremia a rare type of retinal degeneration. He was 13 when he was diagnosed and visually impaired by the age of 34. “It’s a slow process,” he says. “I’ve lost my peripheral vision, and I also have night blindness. My two brothers have the disorder also. It’s passed on to the males in the family.”

Guiding Eyes partnered Darrell with Amos, a male black Lab.  As the secretary of his local chapter of the Canadian Counsel for the Blind, Darrell will have Amos by his side when he attends meetings. “I’m always on the go,” he says. “Amos will give me more freedom and more confidence whether I’m walking, traveling by plane, or on a train.”

A marathon runner, Darrell participated in the Guiding Eyes Running Guides program for anyone with vision loss who would like to run recreationally. Amos has been extensively tested and trained to ensure that his guide work is reliable at higher speeds. This doesn’t mean Amos will run a marathon with Darrell. But when he’s training, Amos will guide him for limited periods of time.

“The Guiding Eyes staff will help me develop running routes,” says Darrell. “Amos will be expected to stay focused on work, clear me of any obstacles, and stop for changes in elevation. People tell me that I’m an inspiration. I don’t think I am. If I can run, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be running. I say ‘Don’t stop. Keep living your life.”

Married for 37 years to his wife Kelly, Darrell lives in Pembroke, Ontario, and has three grown daughters. “Guiding Eyes is like my family too. I feel like I’ve known the staff forever. Amos and I have already bonded, and I couldn’t be happier with my partner.”

Congratulations to Amos’s puppy raisers, Mary Savitsky & Dave Falkenstein!


Donald & GradyD. Christie & Grady

At age 80, Donald decided it was time to get a guide dog. He turned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind after being told he exceeded the age limit at another school. Like many older people, Donald learned he had macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition. And the type he has requires regular eye injections to slow the progressive vision loss.

Donald hasn’t let his visual impairment or treatment slow him down, though. He typically walks a mile or two every day and is looking forward to sharing those walks with Grady, his new partner, his very first guide dog, a black male Lab.

Donald looks back on his time at Guiding Eyes as transformative, remembering that he cried the first time he independently crossed an intersection in White Plains with Grady leading the way. The whole training experience has been a positive one, he says. “Guiding Eyes is like a ten-star hotel. The services are wonderful, and I would recommend it to anybody.”

Donald and Grady will return to Sharon, Pennsylvania, where they will be greeted by Donald’s son and begin a journey of independence together.

Congratulations to Grady’s puppy raisers, The Kirkwood Family!


Erick & MacallanE. Rosso & Macallan

It was a rough semester at college that made Erick realize he needed a guide dog. He spent a lot of time bumping into things and wandering onto side streets not knowing where he was going. He had been confident with his white cane but the campus proved to be complicated.

Erick will begin his sophomore year at New York’s Farmingdale State College, a campus with over 380 acres. Guiding Eyes partnered Erick with Macallan, a yellow male Lab. “I’m confident that with Macallan,” says Erick, “I’ll be able to get around campus more confidently and take new routes. I was hesitant to go anywhere new, because as soon as I stepped off the path, I was lost. With Macallan I feel comfortable following him, and he feels comfortable leading me. My partnership with him is more than I expected. He’s so smart. He knows to stop in a driveway to make sure it’s safe for me to pass. Plus I have a companion and independence.”

Erick has been blind 12 years. It was a gradual loss. Glaucoma and retinal detachment were the cause. “I was confused, and I didn’t understand what was happening. I went to a school for the blind and started using a white cane when I was 11. I was resistant to using it because it didn’t look cool. People view a person with a white cane as someone who needs help. A guide dog is a sign of independence, a sign that that person knows where he’s going.”

Erick is majoring in computer programming and information systems. When asked about his plans for the future, he says, “I want to get an internship, find a job, and travel.” Erick has an ambitious goal to travel the world—Europe and South America, in particular. “Macallan and I will make that happen.”

Congratulations to Macallan’s puppy raisers, Breann Jefferds, Allison Agate, Kelsey Elliot!


Gerald & YellaG. Crocitto & Yella

Jerry, as he prefers to be called, is a Vietnam veteran. Guiding Eyes matched him with Yella, a yellow female lab. Jerry was diagnosed in his early 30s with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition which causes gradual retinal degeneration. “I had been a white-cane user and decided to get a guide dog before my eyesight became worse. I want to keep my independence, and I felt a guide dog was the best way to accomplish that goal.”

It didn’t take long for Jerry to bond with Yella. “I was amazed at how quickly I formed a partnership with Yella. She’s going to help me better my life.”

Jerry is looking forward to going places, safely and efficiently, with the assistance of Yella. “I’m planning on taking longer walks in my community, going to the supermarket, and walking on the beach. Yella’s even been cruise-approved.”

Jerry has been married for 42 years and has three grown sons. He lives with his wife in Bluffton, South Carolina.

Congratulations to Yella’s puppy raisers, Mr & Mrs. Richard Sheldon, Amy Sander, The Sandy Family!


Jane & KiraJ. Ulrigg & Kira

As a white-cane user, Jane relied on her husband as her guide, taking his lead so she didn’t bump into things. Once Guiding Eyes partnered Jane with Kira, a female yellow Lab, Jane retired her husband from his duties.

Of her decision to get a guide dog, she says, “I wanted more independence and to be able to do things on my own. My goal is to become a strong team with Kira before I totally lose my vision. Right now, it feels like I’m getting my independence back.”

Jane was a pediatric nurse for 27 years at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. Her career was cut short in 2009 when retinitis pigmentosa affected her peripheral and night vision. “It was a shock, but not totally surprising,” she says. “My son, who was 21 at the time, was diagnosed with it during his exit exam from the military.”

Jane gave up driving and her job. Then a diagnosis of breast cancer in her 50s tested her resolve again. She was integral in the formation of Sisters in Scars, an international support group for women who have had mastectomies. “This group allows me to give back to others. Being a nurse is in my nature. It was my identity. I want to help people, and this group gives me a purpose. I take one day at a time, one thing at a time. There are always speed bumps through life. There’s hills, there’s valleys, and you make your way through and know at the end you’ve done it.”

Jane lives with her husband in Port Orchard, Washington, and babysits her grandson once a week. They raise chickens and pigs, sharing their bounty of pork and eggs with neighbors and friends.

“I feel blessed to have been partnered with Kira,” she says, “and I feel blessed to have been offered the opportunity to train at Guiding Eyes. The facility is awesome, and the staff is excellent. They patiently worked with me and encouraged me, even if I made mistake. No words can accurately convey how much the puppy raisers and the donors have given us. The opportunity to achieve independence is priceless.”

Congratulations to Kira’s puppy raiser, Janet Newcity!


Patrick & ErnestP. Deer & Ernest

Patrick will be a freshman at Tennessee Technological University. He will move into his college apartment on campus in the fall with his Guiding Eyes guide dog Ernest, a black male Lab.

“Ernest will help with travel on and off campus,” Patrick says. “If I give a wrong command, like crossing the street when a car is coming, he’s trained to disobey me. He really enjoys his work.”

At the age of six, Patrick was diagnosed with choroideremia, a rare form of retinal degeneration. The disease causes a gradual loss of vision, starting with childhood night blindness, followed by peripheral vision loss, and eventually the loss of central vision.

Patrick had been uncomfortable using a white cane because he felt it made him different from his peers. He also doesn’t like asking for assistance. His mother suggested he get a service dog. She did the research, and Patrick decided to apply to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. “The staff is fantastic, and the training is phenomenal. I like that they custom-fit the training.”

Patrick has not allowed his visual impairment to define him. “In high school I proved I could do anything. I played football for a while, became the manager of the team, was head anchor for the school news club, and joined the criminal justice club. This past year I was class treasurer. I wanted to see Europe before I lost most of my vision. I raised enough money in high school to join a trip to Dublin, London, and Paris. I’m fortunate—I got to travel extensively and even saw the Mona Lisa.”

Patrick has two brothers and two sisters and is the eldest of a twin brother. He plans on traveling with Ernest and would like to study abroad. Patrick plans to become an attorney. His long-term goal is a career in politics.  “Make sure you vote for me when I run for President,” he says.

Congratulations to Ernest’s puppy raisers, The Mooney Family!