March 2017 Graduating Class
Congratulations graduates! Enjoy continuing to grow as a team and
exploring the world with your new guides!
– Guiding Eyes at Cornell
Congratulations to TEAM DENNIS! May you have many safe and happy adventures together. Thank you to Ruth and Larry McConnelee for their dedication and commitment to raising over 20 puppies for Guiding Eyes. Quietly leading by example, Ruth and Larry serve as mentors and role models for all. They truly represent the very best in puppy raising.
– Central New York Puppy Raising Region
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our
video streaming capabilities.
Adnana and Dennis
Brian and Yaz
Derek and Eddie
George and Gunther
Grainne (Grace) and London
John and Crosby
Linda and Pruitt
Ruth and Gladys
Betty and Justin
Kelsey and Enid
Lu Ann and Wrigley
Congratulations to our graduating class!
Many thanks to our instructors:
Woody (Curry) TenEyck
James Gardner, Director – Home Training
Megan Crowley, Home Training Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Instructor
Crosby – Erin Snedeco and Matthew Dixon, Bay
Teresa Woods, Delmarva DE
Dennis – Ruth and Larry McConnelee, Central NY
Eddie – Michael Strobel, Montgomery MD
Gladys – Linda Lowe, Shenandoah VA
Gunther – Beth Spivack, Dominion VA
London – Linda Eaton, Erie NY
Pruitt – Dan and Aimee Muller, Capital NY
Yaz – Fred and Sue Hurwitz, New Hampshire
Caralie Price, Montgomery MD
Enid – Amanda Martineau and Mark Sclafani, Dutchess NY
Justin – Carrie Barnett, Bay
Wrigley – Laurie and Cole Toupin, New Hampshire
Dennis is Adnana’s second Guiding Eyes guide dog. “I think that we’re going to be one successful and happy team, and we’re going to have a lot of adventures together. Everywhere I go, Dennis will be going.”
Adnana was born in Bosnia, where, at around 9 months old, her right eye began swelling up. It took a while for doctors to properly diagnose her with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer. When she was 2 years old, Adnana and her mother came to the United States to receive treatment. In 1995, she became completely blind with no perception of light or shadows.
Thankfully, Adnana is now cancer-free.
Today, in addition to pursuing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, she volunteers as a support agent for cancer patients at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, the very same hospital where she received care as a child. As for hobbies, Adnana is particularly accomplished in the literary domain; she recently published a story called “Rollercoaster to Darkness,” wherein she explores how she lost her eyesight.
“It’s nice to have a guide dog, but it’s also nice to have a friend in the house – and I think this little dog is gonna make a big difference in my life.”
Brian’s blindness was caused by a motorcycle accident in 2009, which also caused him to lose his sense of smell. He credits his children and the example set by his father – a Korean War veteran who lost both of his legs during the war – for encouraging him to stay positive and productive after his accident.
Clearly, Brian has what it takes to succeed in anything he puts his mind to. After graduating from the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, he joined the Marine Corps. After five years in active duty, he left as a captain. From stockbroker, to small business owner, to construction project superintendent, Brian has thrived in whatever domain he’s chosen to pursue. And blindness, not surprisingly, has not slowed him down.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) helped Brian gain crucial life skills, such as reading braille and using a cane. But it was the woodworking class he took at LCB that opened up a whole new world for Brian. After making a German-style pendulum mantel clock from scratch, he had enough confidence to apply for a job teaching shop for adults who are blind in Maryland.
“I just want to give a big thank you to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. It’s a wonderful organization, a fantastic organization. It’s the best school in the country.”
Derek has had retinopathy of prematurity since birth. The way he describes his vision is that while there is some light and shadow perception, nothing comes into focus for him. Derek spent the first 11 years of his life in Florida, where he attended a school for individuals who are deaf and blind, before moving to Tennessee with his grandparents in 2001. In 2010, the year he graduated from high school, Derek received a truly life-changing birthday present: Jeffrey, his first Guiding Eyes guide dog.
Today, with a freshly-minted IT degree in hand, Derek enjoys helping others with
tech-related issues. Eddie – “a wonderful dog” and Derek’s third guide – will no doubt provide Derek with a sense of confidence, pride and freedom as he begins his career. “We’re blind, but it doesn’t define us,” Derek says. “We’re not apart from mainstream society.”
“One of the things about Guiding Eyes for the Blind is that they gave me confidence.”
George’s vision loss began with cytomegalovirus retinitis. Between 1995 and 2015, the condition progressed, and in 2015 he experienced sudden and dramatic vision loss. He describes it as only being able to see blurry, unfocused images – “kind of like looking through a small window in front of me.”
A Cuban-born Miami native, George studied botany at the University of South Florida, and went on to describe a new plant species as part of his master’s research. After a productive career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, George now devotes his time to two organizations in his hometown: the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, where he takes life skills classes, and the Miami Beach Council of the Blind, where he serves as chair of the events committee. George recently organized a touch-friendly art museum visit for Miami Beach Council of the Blind members, and has plans for many more outings to come.
“There’s a security. It makes me feel that London is watching out for me.”
Grace grew up in rural Ireland, and while problems with her vision began in childhood, they were not diagnosed early on. Grace went to college in London, where she studied physiotherapy, only to discover that her true passion was nursing.
With plans to specialize in anesthesiology, Grace enrolled in a nursing college in the United States. However, just seven months prior to graduation, she experienced significant vision loss. Ultimately, her vision impairment became a barrier to pursuing her lifelong dream of working in the medical field. However, Grace’s passion for caring for others took another form when she secured a job caring for a dementia patient for two years. Today, she’s doing similar work, caring for a patient in Florida.
London is Grace’s first Guiding Eyes guide dog.
Grace feels an immense sense of gratitude for the organization that made all of this possible. Speaking of the training staff, Grace says, “They’re angels of the Earth for me. Their souls are giving. It takes discipline, it takes dedication, commitment.”
“With Crosby, I’ll keep my independence.”
John was born with impaired vision, but had some usable vision until college, where he majored in human services. After 15 years of working in tech support at IBM, John now volunteers his time at the Library of Congress-affiliated Colorado Talking Book Library. As a computer enthusiast, he enjoys providing complimentary tech support in his community.
John is lucky to have lots of great friends – not to mention experience with four loving Guiding Eyes guide dogs: Dinny, Paddy, Vito, and now Crosby. Vito, age 9, will be spending his retirement years with his raisers, who cared for him as a puppy.
For John, one of the major benefits of having a guide versus using a cane is the quicker and safer mobility it allows.
Linda and Pruitt
“I have not fallen in love with my cane by any stretch of the imagination,” Linda laughs. “I instantly fell in love with Pruitt.”
Linda was born with tunnel vision, but her vision loss was not diagnosed until she was 10 years old. In her 30s, night blindness became a serious issue.
Linda is a skilled professional costumer for major stage productions, and is particularly excited about the tactile sculptures she creates to help express her personal perspective on vision loss, and which she loves to share with support groups.
A creative person through and through, Linda also expresses herself through a comic strip; her most recent piece, titled “My Light at the End of the Tunnel” was inspired in part by the experience of looking forward to getting her very first guide dog, Pruitt. She even plans to re-imagine this illustrated strip in sculpture form.
Getting Pruitt is a moment Linda has been looking forward to since she was just 10 years old and newly diagnosed, and her beautiful black lab clearly made a great first impression.
“I remember getting my first dog and feeling freedom for the first time, and companionship, and independence and empowerment. It was just incredible.”
Ruth’s vision loss dates back to childhood. Following high school, she enrolled at the Perkins School for the Blind, which she credits for giving her a sense of freedom and independence.
After Perkins, Ruth worked as a teacher’s assistant in Massachusetts for three years, before eventually marrying and settling down to start a family. Today, Ruth works for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Rochester, N.Y., where she helps sew the military physical fitness uniforms. After a day spent on the production line – work she truly enjoys – you might find Ruth relaxing at home, listening to music.
Gladys is Ruth’s sixth Guiding Eyes guide dog. Her most recent guide prior to Gladys, a wonderful lab named Chris, is recently retired and still lives at home. “The empowerment is great. I remember walking with my first dog and it was like ‘Wow! What a difference…'”