March 2015 Graduating Class

 In Graduations, News & Events


March  2015 Graduating Class

March 2015 Graduating Class

 Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s class:

  • Harold Skolnick, who sponsored the training of Guiding Eyes guide dog Eden.
  • Spencer Cox, from SST European Auto Repair in Danbury, CT.
  • We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our video streaming capabilities. Click here to watch the March 2015 graduation.

Residential Graduates:

  • Edita and Gwenyth
  • Molly and Presley
  • Dorothy and Toggi
  • Florence and Effie
  • Peter and Eliza
  • Diego and Pixel
  • Chris and Eden
  • Lori and Houston
  • Tom and Ireland
  • Ann and Bailey

Home Training Graduates:

  • Kimberly and Patty

Many thanks to our instructors:

  • Dell Rodman, Class Supervisor
  • Kate Gardner, Class Instructor
  • Stephanie Koret, Class Instructor
  • Jolene Hollister, ACTION Instructor
  • Allison Greenberg, Instructor Assistant (not pictured in the class photo above).
  • Jim Gardner, Home Training Instructor

Molly and PresleyMolly and Presley

Molly has been matched with her third Guiding Eyes dog, a male yellow Labrador named Presley. Together, they will return to Pennsylvania where her boyfriend and his five grandchildren are thrilled to welcome Presley into the family.

Molly lost her vision to a rare form of albinism. She has two sisters with the same condition and a sighted brother. Molly graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in English literature and works in the Department of Environmental Protection for the State of Pennsylvania. She loves to read, crochet, knit and enjoys many outdoor activities, especially hiking. Molly retired her last guide a year and a half ago and missed working with her guide. She shares, “Presley is an extension of my left hand. Working with him reduces anxiety and strange environments are not as daunting.”

Congratulations to Presley’s puppy raiser – The Thorpe Family

Dorothy and Guide Dog ToggiDorothy and Toggi

Dorothy, her husband and daughter live on a farm in New York where they raise beef cattle. She has been matched with a male black Labrador named Toggi, her fourth guide dog.

Diabetic retinopathy caused Dorothy’s visual impairment. She first came to Guiding Eyes in 1991 and her guide dog accompanied her to Genesee Community College where she earned her AAS degree in occupational therapy with a background in psychology. Dorothy worked as a certified occupational assistant in a nursing home for 14 years before retiring. Her hobbies include antiquing, gardening and baking. Her guide dog gives her the freedom to walk around town without depending on the transit system. Toggi will have the company of her retired guide and the entertainment of the barn cats on her farm. Dorothy is excited to start the scrapbook for Toggi, a tradition she started for all her guide dogs.

Congratulations to Toggi’s puppy raisers – Nancy & John Maschmeier!

Florence and EffieFlorence and Guide Dog Effie

Florence traveled from Michigan for her second guide dog and first dog from Guiding Eyes. She is matched with Effie, a female black Labrador.

Florence was born with retinitis pigmentosa. Her parents raised her to live a normal life – no matter how long or short her vision remained. Florence’s vision loss was gradual until six years ago when she lost all usable sight. She earned her associates degree in early childhood development and worked with children who are blind and visually impaired. Florence hopes to get a job in this field. Her husband passed away and Effie is giving her the confidence to remain independent. She enjoys shopping, movies, roller skating, audio books and music. Florence is looking forward to taking walks with a friend who is also a Guiding Eyes graduate and sharing adventures with their guide dogs.

Congratulations to Effie’s puppy raiser – The Marth Family!

Peter and Guide Dog ElizaPeter and Eliza

Peter and his first guide dog Eliza, a yellow female Labrador, will return home to Georgia.

Two conditions cause Peter’s vision loss; retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. He majored in history in college, taking an extended break when he lost all vision in his right eye. Peter belongs to a race group of 2,400 members and is very involved in competitive street, trail and obstacle course racing which are based on military boot camps. Peter is taking computer courses to improve his skills so that he may transition into the business side of the races. He enjoys walking, audio books, music and writing and is looking forward to many new adventures with Eliza this summer.

Congratulations to Eliza’s puppy raiser – The Infarinato Family


Diego and PixelDiego and Guide Dog Pixel

Diego and a female yellow Labrador named Pixel, his second guide dog, will return home to Brazil.

Diego was born prematurely and lost his sight in high school as a result of retinal detachment. His mother died when he was very young. A fiercely determined kid, he hired his own English teacher at just 11 years old. Today, Diego teaches English to students who are blind who want the freedom to travel without the assistance of an interpreter. Diego holds a degree in business administration and works for the largest bank in South America as a strategic planning analyst. He plays guitar, sings, enjoys music, swimming and spending time with friends. Diego has a new apartment and a new business opportunity; opening a take-out restaurant that caters to all. Pixel has a lot of energy and Diego loves that she encourages him to be more active. Diego believes this year will be one of change and opportunity.

Congratulations to Pixel’s puppy raisers – Avis Hull and Barbara A. Close!

Christopher and Guide Dog EdenChris and Eden

Chris lives in Virginia with his girlfriend and her son. He has been partnered with a female yellow Labrador named Eden, his first guide dog.

Corneal sclera – a very rare condition – is the cause of Chris’s vision loss. He works as a contract close out specialist for the Department of Defense and is attending the Virginia Commonwealth University where he will graduate with a degree in IT. Chris enjoys fixing things and supplements his college tuition by building custom gaming rigs for clients. He has time for a few hobbies, including training people on Apple products, taking things apart to understand how they work and building with Legos. Chris is happy with his decision to get a guide dog, sharing, “I am a fast walker and use a 69” cane. My speed is limited by the reach of the cane. Eden lets me move with ease, efficiency and fluidity.”

Congratulations to Eden’s puppy raiser – Bethany Reinhardt & Family!

Lori and HoustonLori and Guide Dog Houston

Lori is participating in the accelerated ACTION program, spending time at the Training Center followed by home training in New York. Houston, a male black Labrador, is her sixth guide dog.

Lori has retinopathy of prematurity and has no vision. She holds a Masters degree in social work from Fordham University and is a social worker for Catholic Charities. She came to Guiding Eyes in high school and got her first dog at 17. Using a cane didn’t provide the “information” she wanted; she didn’t care about every crack in the sidewalk. Houston, like all her guide dogs, makes walking natural. “I can daydream between corners,” she shares. Lori loves to read and can’t wait to personally introduce Houston to her partner.

Congratulations to Houston’s puppy raisers – The Pierre Family and The Lea Family!

Tom and Guide Dog IrelandTom and Ireland

Tom is an ACTION student from Oklahoma. He is matched with his sixth guide dog and fifth dog from Guiding Eyes. His wife, two daughters and son are excited to welcome Ireland, a male yellow Labrador into the family.

Tom was born with cataracts and the treatment for them led to glaucoma. He is an Assistant District Attorney with a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. Tom is fortunate to have a large fenced-in yard where his last two retired guides love playing together. His hobbies include running, working out, membership in a visually impaired rowing team and participating in fundraising poker runs for downed officers. Tom shares that traveling to New York without a guide dog felt like something was missing – his left hand was empty and the comfort level was not the same. He also noticed that people treated him differently than they do when he travels with his dog. He is very happy to have Ireland now and will keep in touch with his guide’s puppy raisers. He wants them to know how much their work is appreciated.

Congratulations to Ireland’s puppy raiser – Charlene Kirkwood & Family



Edita and Gwenyth (not profiled):
Congratulations to Gwenyth’s puppy raisers – Eileen G. Bengtson and Nancy Teague
Edita and Guide Dog Gwenyth

Ann and Bailey (no picture and was not profiled):
Congratulations to Bailey’s puppy raisers – Pat & Mike Webber!