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May 2016 Graduating Class

May 2016 Class

Congratulations to all the May Graduates. Our donation to Guiding Eyes is in loving memory of our dearest Alli Cimring, who also dedicated her life to helping others with physical and emotional disabilities. With this gift, we hope to honor her noble work, her love for dogs, and continue her legacy of giving.

Zimmet Healthcare Services Group

 We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our

video streaming capabilities.


Watch this month’s graduation live by clicking here.


Residential Graduates:
Cindy Lou & Jada
Douglas & Tommy (S)
John  & Yeoman
Maria  & Toula
Matthew & Squire
Melissa & Aron
Nelson & Andre (S)
Samuel & Yolo
Bill  & Rio (S)

HOME Training

Christopher & Kara
Bill & Sammi (S)
Abigail  & Kit

(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: Woody Curry, Mike Ceglio, Cara Ebeling
Instructor Assistant: Deanna Lentini
International Training: Graham Buck
Interpreter: Nuno Gouveia
Visiting Instructor: Sabina Teixeira


HOME Training:
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training Instructor
Jessy DiNapoli, Special Needs Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor


Melissa and AronM. Carney & Aron

Melissa finished her freshman year at Mount Holyoke College this spring and arrived on our campus soon after to meet Aron, a yellow male Lab.  “It’s a breed of dog,” Melissa says, “that has such a good heart—and loves to work. In fact, Aron is restless when he’s not working.”

One could say the same thing about Melissa.  She lost her sight at the age of two when she developed cancer—retinoblastoma—in both eyes. And yet her childhood was filled with adventure and accomplishment. Her parents’ go-to- advice was simple: “Why don’t you give it a try?”

Melissa rides horses (people help with verbal cues), skis in tandem with her mom, and rides on a two-seated bicycle with her Dad who says they’d never make it up the steep hills without her. She’s performed with her choir in concert, singing 24 Italian arias. When asked if she and Aron are a good match, she says, “It’s like the Guiding Eyes staff took a brain scan of me and then went out and found me the perfect dog.”

Congratulations to Aron’s puppy raisers: The Holloway Family!


Matthew and SquireM. Carello & Squire

Matt was born with a form of glaucoma. Although doctors predicted he would be totally blind by the age of three, he maintained some vision into his twenties, when he experienced a torn retina.

Matt lives in Chicago and works for Fedora Outlier LLC, teaching people who are blind or DeafBlind to use Apple devices. Living in the city, he needs to negotiate a lot of traffic getting back and forth to appointments with clients. But Squire, a black male Lab (and his third Guiding Eyes guide dog), handles it really well, Matt says confidently. “I feel very connected to the dog’s intentions through the harness. Squire’s an excellent worker with the harness on—and full of energy and fun when the harness is off. He’s something like Superman and Clark Kent!”

Matt is serving his first term on the Guiding Eyes Graduate Council.

Congratulations to Squire’s puppy raisers: Jenny McMichael and Betsy Cohen!


Samuel and YoloS. Natario & Yolo

Samuel remembers Christmas Day three years ago very clearly. He was in Palmela, Portugal, his home, when he began to lose his sight very suddenly. There had been no headaches, no pain or warning signals. Doctors found a cyst on his brain and removed it, telling him that his sight should return within six months. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

A period of recovery and rehabilitation followed, with Samuel learning how to manage without his sight. Now that he has been matched with Yolo, a yellow male Lab, Samuel is excited about returning to Portugal and to his job with Volkswagen. Yolo will go with him to work and to places like a beautiful local park he has wanted to explore on his own. Through it all, Benedita, his young daughter, has been a great inspiration. Samuel was thrilled that he was able to introduce her to Yolo over Skype before he headed home, just him and his dog, ready for adventures, big and small.

Congratulations to Yolo’s puppy raiser: Lauren Stier!

Nelson and AndreN. Nava & Andre

As a teenaged gang member living in southern California, Nelson was shot twice during a gun fight, once in the head and once in the neck. Nelson’s brain had swelled so badly doctors advised the family to take him off life support. But Nelson’s mother had had a dream that morning and felt God urging her to protect her son. And so she said “no” to the doctor’s recommendation. Instead, she said, the family needed to pray.

Two-and-a-half hours later, the swelling began to subside. Nelson’s sight could not be saved, but doctors called his recovery a miracle.

Now freed of his anger, alcohol, and drugs, Andre calls his journey a “blessing.” He plans to make another life change, this time with Andre, a yellow male Lab, by his side. Nelson always wondered why he struggled so in school. Only recently did he learn he is dyslexic. He will return to school, he says. And when things seem daunting, he will remind himself of what he’s overcome already.

Congratulations to Andre’s puppy raiser: Pat Webber!

John and YeomanJ. Pasalaqua & Yeoman

John’s vision loss hit him hard. He was, he says, an avid reader, a man who even loved the smell of books. He has two master’s degrees, one in Philosophy from Fordham University and one in American History from Columbia University. His career was in criminal justice.

John was surprised to learn he had diabetes as he was symptom-free. He developed neuropathy in his feet and then his vision started to go. He remembers vividly the day he had to stop reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson. He was on page 179.

Receiving Yeoman, a big black male Lab, was like a Christmas present, he says.  He anticipates a whole new level of confidence and an end to the panic attacks he’s had crossing streets on his own. John and Yeoman will return to Virginia where his girlfriend’s family has a house with 80 acres of land. “This dog’s going to be one happy guy,” John says.” And thanks to a computer with a special magnifier, he has happily started reading again, picking up on page 179 of that Jefferson book.

Congratulations to Yeoman’s puppy raisers: Mark & Nancy Spaulding!

Cindy Lou and JadaC. Altman & Jada

Pennsylvania resident Cindy Lou has been matched with her second guide dog, a female yellow Lab named Jada. Cindy Lou was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa less than two months after she married her husband of almost 19 years. She is a trained hairdresser and managed an inn in Vermont before her current career as a call center operator.

Cindy Lou says that Guiding Eyes is an amazing organization, and she feels like she can never do enough to support the mission. She volunteers as a puppy raiser and sitter, and she’s had numerous Guiding Eyes pups come through her home. She’s also the Guiding Eyes Puppy Sitter Coordinator for the Baltimore Region.

Her vision loss isn’t stopping her active lifestyle. Cindy Lou travels extensively, runs 5K races with her husband, and participates in fundraisers for blindness organizations. Jada allows her to look up and see the world with fewer limitations. Cindy Lou’s motto is, “I can and I am!”

Congratulations to Jada’s puppy raisers: The McNulty Family!

Maria and ToulaM. Guerra & Toula

Maria traveled from Coimbra, Portugal, to meet Toula, a black female Lab. Maria lost her sight suddenly 40 years ago to uveitis, a disease that destroys eye tissue. She is familiar with the life-changing impact of a guide dog as her husband, also visually impaired, had one himself.  But tragically, her life partner died in a car accident. Now three years later, Maria has decided that she’s ready for a guide dog of her own.

Toula is already a great assistant when it comes to crossing the street or taking the bus, Maria says, and she is a wonderful companion. Maria’s 38-year–old son has been living with her to help out, and she hopes that with Toula at home, he’ll be more willing to move out on his own. When asked what she thinks of Toula, Maria says, “She’s awesome!” Maria thinks the same of the people at Guiding Eyes.  In fact, she says, “I feel so much at home, it’s like I’m in Portugal, not America!”

Congratulations to Toula’s puppy raisers: Rick & Cindy Davis!

Bill and RioW. Signs & Rio

As a member of the Naval Reserves, Bill has moved across the country from one assignment to another, even serving a half tour of duty in Vietnam before retiring. Bill’s sight deteriorated quickly in the year 2000 due to glaucoma and macular degeneration, leaving him with no sight in his right eye and minimal sight in the left.  The hardest thing for this military veteran was having to rely on others.

The Veteran’s Administration helped Bill keep moving towards independence, teaching him carpentry. He’s built wooden footstools and fishing poles, simple, useful items that have given him a sense of what he can accomplish.  Nothing has pleased him more, though, than traveling from New Hampshire to meet Rio, a female, yellow Lab.

“I think this dog knows a lot more than I do!” he says. “The trainers do an amazing job. I figure Rio and I will learn from each other—like the best teams do.”

Congratulations to Rio’s puppy raisers: The Carney Family!

Douglas and TommyD. Hawks & Tommy

Douglas worked as a systems programmer in the banking industry until he lost his sight due to a virus called cytomegalovirus retinitis, a viral infection of the retina. He beat CMV after chemotherapy and many surgeries but then experienced more complications, namely diabetes and glaucoma. Eventually he lost vision in his right eye and most of his vision in his left.

A few years ago Douglas retired and relocated from Michigan to Portland, Maine, an old and quirky sea town he had always loved. Doors are narrow, signs appear in the middle of streets, and nothing is symmetrical. Having Tommy, a male, yellow Lab, by his side will make life easier. “Tommy is a big goofball,” says Douglas, “but totally ‘on’ when he’s working.” Together they’ll take a ferry out to the islands in Casco Bay and spend the day, an excursion Douglas has imagined making on his own for a long time.

Congratulations to Tommy’s puppy raiser: Gayle A. Papesh!

Christopher and KaraChristopher&Kara

Chris has retinopathy of prematurity as well as some brain damage from birth, the latter causing him difficulty with orientation. He became legally blind at 18 while a freshman in college. His vision deteriorated thereafter over several decades until he became totally blind about ten years ago.

Chris participated in the Special Needs Program, designed for people with vision loss who have additional health-related or physical challenges, and he opted for Home Training. Kara, his yellow female Lab, learns routes very quickly. “That makes it much easier to get to where I need to go,” he says. And Kara helps in other ways. At 65, Chris says he’s not walking as fast as he used to, and Kara has a nice slow pace to meet this need.

Post college, Chris went to law school in Washington, D.C., where he had “the opportunity and honor” to work on drafting parts of the Americans with Disabilities Act during its legislative process in Congress. After the ADA became law, Chris was in charge of drafting, for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADA’s employment regulations and technical assistance material for employers. Eventually he opened and became the managing partner of the Minneapolis office of a large, national law firm.

Retired now, Chris lives in Minnesota with his wife Jo Taliaferro, a Presbyterian Minister, and her German Shepherd guide, Sophie.

Congratulations to Kara’s puppy raiser: Sheri Cross!


Bill and Sammi Bill&Sammi

Bill was 45 when a massive stroke left him without sight and with impaired mobility on his left side. At the time, he and his wife Jackie had three young children and a mortgage. The diagnosis was devastating for both of them, but together they made a plan. Bill was unable to work so Jackie, who’d been home with the kids, found a job as an accountant at a florist. Bill became an Ambassador for the Lions Clubs, traveling to nearly every state in the country, encouraging the visually impaired never to underestimate their possibilities.

Today Bill is 88 years old. His beloved Jackie, who had dementia, passed away in June 2016. They had been married 68 years. Over the last four years of her life Bill stopped traveling in order to spend more time with her. Every day, Bill and Sammi, a female black Lab and his second Guiding Eyes dog, would walk the quarter mile to visit Jackie in her long-term facility.

Bill participated in our Home Training Program. His Guiding Eyes trainer traveled to Virginia and taught Sammi to “harness high,” moving into her harness on her own to make things a little easier for Bill. Together, Bill and Sammi would head out to check on Jackie, keeping the commitment that mattered the most. They never missed a visit.

Congratulations to Sammi’s puppy raisers: Ruth & Larry McConnelee!



Abigail and KitAbigail&Kit

Abby’s parents always told her to “go big or go home.” She’s clearly taken that advice to heart. Diagnosed at the age of four with retinitis pigmentosa, she suffered a major vision loss at that time. In the last six years, it’s worsened to the point that she can make out only shapes and shades of color.

Kit, a yellow female Lab, is Abby’s second Guiding Eyes guide dog. She helps Abby navigate the busy streets of NYC and goes to work with her at Learning Ally, a non-profit sound studio that provides learning materials, like audiobooks, for people who need alternatives to printed reading material. With her busy schedule, Abby chose our Home Training program.

In her spare time, Abby is passionate about running half-marathons, marathons, and triathlons, which she does with a human sighted guide. Kit and Abby, however, recently participated in the new Guiding Eyes Running Guides Program. And so, on a run through Central Park, the two can take off through the leafy green paths together. It means independence for Abby as she doesn’t have to rely on sighted guides for training or these short impromptu runs.

In July 2013, Abby was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. She spent four months on chemo and one in radiation treatment. Once cleared by her doctors, the first thing she did was to sign up for a half-marathon. Not surprisingly, she ran well, completed the race, and signed up for another. After all, “going home” is not part of Abby’s game plan.

Congratulations to Kit’s puppy raisers: Dana Metheny & Anne Annala!