June 2015 Graduating Class
Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s class:
- The Jacksonville Beaches Lions Club.
- Dr. Etta Eskridge
- We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our video streaming capabilities. Click here to watch the June 2015 graduation.
Amanie and Tori
Kimberly and Krista
Lena and Elora
Michael and Daquiri
Nesa and Gaila
Sheniqua and Gucci
Joey and Gunner
Jessica and Orchid
ACTION Training Graduates:
Art and Peyton
Peter and Kin
Home Training Graduates:
Janet and Beatrix
Katherine and Derry
Pauline and Ava
Many thanks to our instructors:
Benjamin Cawley, Class Supervisor
Lori Busse, Class Instructor
Alyssa Tilley, Class Instructor
Eileen Thompson, Class Instructor
Melinda Angstrom, ACTION Instructor
Miranda Beckmann, Home Training Instructor
Jim Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Dan Weesner, Instructor Assistant
Joey and Gunner
Joey has come to Guiding Eyes for his first guide dog, a black Labrador named Gunner. They will return to Florida where Joey will begin his senior year of high school. He wanted to start working with Gunner now so they will have a year together before going to college where he will major in music composition.
Leiber’s Congenital Amaurosis caused Joey’s vision loss. He counted down the days to starting class at Guiding Eyes, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Joey is president of a successful debate team that ranked 16 in the Nationals, won the Blue Key Round Robin Tournament and traveled to Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Emery for competitions. He lives on a lake and enjoys wake boarding, riding a tandem bike with his dad, reading and playing the piano. Joey feels at home at Guiding Eyes; the trainers are always happy and smiling and a nice mix of new students and returning students offers support and advice. The best advice he has received came at dinner when he tried to settle Gunner. His instructor told him, “It’s about both of you winning, you are a team.”
Congratulations to Gunner’s puppy raisers – The Kelly Family and Cathy Meredith!
Lena and Elora
Lena lives in California and is receiving her second dog from Guiding Eyes, a female black Labrador named Elora.
Lena was born prematurely and her vision loss is caused by retinitis of prematurity. She earned her Master’s degree in Community Development from the University of California at Davis. Lena is now retired from her career as an independent provider of services for those who are disabled. Her time is filled with volunteering and lecturing on various disabilities, and her hobbies include reading, taking long walks, hiking and listening to the birds. She enjoys making pine needle baskets and teaches the craft skills to others. Elora’s pace is exactly what Lena needs and she is looking forward to her active lifestyle. Her previous guide retired six weeks ago and afterward, Lena experienced working with a cane again. She shares, “With a cane it feels like I am invisible; people don’t want to talk to me. With Elora, everyone wants to stop and talk.”
Congratulations to Elora’s puppy raisers – Michele Capellupo and Barbara Kowulich!
Pete and Kin
Pete came to Guiding Eyes for his first dog in January 2005. He is participating in the accelerated ACTION program and will return to Florida with a male yellow Labrador named Kin, his second guide dog. Their final training will continue at home.
Pete has Stargardt’s Disease. He worked in the maritime business supervising the loading of cargo ships and running the marine terminal. His vision loss forced him to stop driving 19 years ago. Pete learned about Guiding Eyes For The Blind through his son’s mother who was a puppy raiser. His first guide opened a brand new world for Pete. He learned about the Lions Club and is current President of the Jacksonville Beaches Lions Club, sponsors of the June graduation. They have an annual fundraiser in October called Barktober with monies raised supporting Guiding Eyes. Pete served on the Grad Council for Guiding Eyes, conducting exit interviews with students and quarterly conference calls for graduates. He helps graduates with fundraising efforts and encourages them to get involved with their local Lions Club. Pete performs professionally with Kenny Holliday Productions playing base guitar. He is married and lives on an eight-acre horse farm where his wife and sister-in-law ride, show and care for 15 horses. Pete recently started taking riding lessons.
Pete is looking forward to many years of working with Kin. He shares, “My guide dog’s presence impacts many people in many ways; for example, Karloff helped a young girl overcome her deathly fear of dogs. I can’t wait to see how Kin and I impact the future.”
Congratulations to Kin’s puppy raiser – Erica McPhail!
Sheniqua and Gucci
Sheniqua is matched with a female yellow Labrador named Gucci, her first guide dog. She can’t wait to introduce her to her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
Sheniqua has retinal dystrophy, affecting her vision since birth. She worked at a call center for three years and now is a full-time student at City College in Ft. Lauderdale. She will earn her Bachelors degree in business management in December 2016. She finds time between her studies and caring for her children to listen to audio books. Sheniqua expected Gucci to be very different from a regular dog as a “working dog”; while Gucci is focused in harness, “when the harness is off, she is a big ball of fur and fun.” Sheniqua shares, “It’s amazing how different I feel. With a cane, I walk shy and shuffle, with Gucci we are running through the building and cruising around obstacles.”
Congratulations to Gucci’s puppy raisers – Carol & Terry Hamilton!
Amanie and Tori
Amanie lives in New York. Tori, a female black Labrador, is her first guide dog.
Amanie was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was one year old and her eyes were replaced with prosthetics when she was three. Amanie earned her Bachelors in psychology with a minor in early childhood education from Mercy College in May. She starts graduate school at Hunter College in September majoring in teaching students who are blind and visually impaired. Amanie has many hobbies including singing, composing music, writing poetry, listening to audio books, spending time with friends, trying new restaurants and traveling to new places. Tori brings greater independence to her life. She knew it would be easier to navigate with a guide dog and it’s better than expected. Amanie shares, “the easiest part of the process has been establishing our bond. I have a lot of trust in Tori and she doesn’t let me down.”
Congratulations to Tori’s puppy raisers – Emily & Susan Holodak!
Art and Peyton
Art lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, who is also a Guiding Eyes graduate working with her sixth guide dog. He is matched with a yellow Labrador named Peyton, his sixth guide dog. They are participating in the accelerated ACTION program, on campus for 10 days and returning home to complete the training. Art is proud of having 33 years of working guide dogs from Guiding Eyes.
Art was born with vision loss caused by retinitis pigmentosa which is complicated by cataracts. He attended SUNY at Brockport for three years and graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a computer science major and music minor. He worked in the research and development lab for the Department of the Army as a civilian employee while attending RIT. His computerized database analysis gave the molecular biologists and metallurgists compiled data which saved months of development time. He now works for a non-profit teaching individuals who are blind and visually impaired people to use computers and Apple products. His passion is turning a wrench for fun; Art grew up in the family business of car, truck, farm and heavy duty mechanical repair. At the age of ten he was putting engines together. Art is involved with a transit museum that is preserving the old public transit buses and is currently in the process of rebuilding the engine of a 1961 GMC diesel bus. Next up is the restoration of the 1970 Chevy Nova with the 283 engine sitting in his garage.
Congratulations to Peyton’s puppy raiser – Hannah Christian!
Mike and Daquiri
Mike is starting his sophomore year majoring in information technology at Western New England University in Massachusetts. He is matched with his first guide dog, a female black Labrador named Daquiri.
Retinopathy of prematurity caused Mike’s visual impairment. He attended a seminar at Guiding Eyes and after walking with a guide dog, he knew he wanted to travel with one. Mike feels the cane is very awkward as it can’t go around storm drains or manholes and gets stuck in cracks, making it slow and difficult to get anywhere. He is surprised by how quickly he adapted to working with Daquiri and had expected a longer learning curve, similar to learning to use a cane. The team got comfortable working together very quickly. Mike is looking forward to the rest of the summer enjoying time outdoors and introducing Daquiri to his friends and family. Navigating the campus will no longer be a chore and he can focus on his studies and mingle with the other students because it will be easy to get to places with Daquiri.
Congratulations to Daquiri’s puppy raisers – Courtney R. Peters and The Green Family!
Kim and Krista
Kim and her husband live in Oregon with her retired guide dog, a smooth coat collie and a Maine Coon cat. Kim fell in love with the German shepherd breed as a child. She had four pet shepherds before getting her first guide dog. Krista, a German shepherd, is her fourth guide dog and first dog from Guiding Eyes.
Kim’s vision loss is caused by cone-rod dystrophy. She learned to use a cane at 39 and her O & M instructor recommended a guide dog. She shares, “It was the best thing I ever did.” Kim holds three Bachelors degrees; a horticulture degree she used to open a plant shop in Sacramento, a Bachelors degree in fine arts with a specialty in pottery and a Bachelors and Graduate degree in counseling from Antioch University. She was a psychologist specializing in issues facing inner city youth before transitioning to working as a counselor with a non-profit organization. Kim relaxes with gardening and crochet. She wanted to make pine needle baskets for years and Lena, her classmate, is going to teach her. She is happy she traveled cross country for Krista. She shares, “I have never been so relaxed in a training.”
Congratulations to Krista’s puppy raiser – Susan Porteous!
Nesa and Gaila
Nesa lives in Florida and will start college at Northeastern University in Massachusetts in September. She is matched with her first guide dog, a female black Labrador named Gaila who will make the transition to a new school in a new environment much easier.
Nesa has oculocutaneous albinism, the cause of her visual impairment. She is an only child and started volunteering with horses at 15 when she sponsored a horse and helped rehabilitate him. She purchased her first horse in 2013, and recently her second horse. She is training them for event competitions in dressage, show jumping and cross country. She likes to play piano and loves to write. Nesa hopes to publish her first novel in the fantasy or Gothic romance genre in the next two years. Her studies will keep her busy with a major in biology and minor in classical studies or English with a career goal of becoming a pediatrician. She is impressed with Gaila’s work ethic. She shares, “She gets so excited when I take the harness out. When I take it off, she almost looks disappointed.” The training is better than expected. Nesa thought it would be all work and loves that Gaila is so playful and affectionate. “There is a lot of trust that goes into the work and the bond that forms is very rewarding.”
Congratulations to Gaila’s puppy raiser – Trevor Moore!
Jessie and Orchid
Jessie is matched with her second guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Orchid. She returns home to Delaware where her husband and 10-yea- old daughter are excited to welcome Orchid into the family.
Jessie was born without sight in one eye and lost the remainder of her vision due to neuromyopathy. She was an armed security officer and juvenile correction officer prior to losing her vision. She attends Wilmington University where she majors in psychology and minors in drama. Her goal is to be a therapist working with 8 to 17-year-old patients. She is an advocate for mental health and a peer counselor for those who are newly blind. She is chair of the group that fosters independent living. Her hobbies include listening to music and practicing martial arts. She will obtain her martial arts black belt within the next 9 months. Jessie thanks Guiding Eyes for the wonderful gift of her guide dogs and the training that goes with it. She shares, “I wouldn’t be in school today pursuing my goals if it weren’t for Guiding Eyes For The Blind.”
Congratulations to Orchid’s puppy raiser – Jennifer Tiedeman!
Congratulations to the raisers of guide dogs placed through June Home Trainings:
Ava: Raised by the Cromwell-Reed Family – Congratulations!
Beatrix: Raised by Mollie Faccio – Congratulations!
Derry: Raised by Jessica Burgess – Congratulations!