I started working at Guiding Eyes almost five years ago, and my role in development has given me unique opportunities to interact with people involved in every aspect of the organization. From volunteers to graduates to donors to staff – I’m consistently inspired by the people who I’m lucky enough to spend time with every day.
Last weekend I went to New York City’s upper west side for “Nightwalk in New York,” a walkathon fundraiser organized by Bruce Stark and his family. Bruce’s sister, Marcia, received two guide dogs from Guiding Eyes, and Bruce was amazed at the difference these dogs made in her life. Each year, Bruce spends months speaking to students in local elementary schools and encourages them to consider an early start in philanthropy. His energy and enthusiasm are palpable, and the result is an entire community – children, families, friends, neighbors – coming together to support Guiding Eyes.
We’re already working hard on next year’s Golf Classic, and perhaps more than anything else, this event has brought hundreds of incredible people into my life. The Golf Committee Chairman is Al Maiolo, and he’s been a driving force behind the event’s success since its inception in the seventies.
Through the Golf Classic, I’ve also had the chance to get to know two champions – blind golfer Patrick Browne, Jr. and NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning. It was Pat who initially requested Eli’s support of Guiding Eyes, and 2013 will be the 7th year Eli serves as the Golf Classic’s host. I’ve watched over the years as Eli’s affinity for Guiding Eyes has grown; he’s spent time with our entire team and he’s seen firsthand how our dogs enable people to live independent lives. I believe Pat and Eli represent some of the best humanity has to offer, and it’s been an honor to know them.
Each person I work with brings something special to our organization. From Yorktown to Patterson to our remote crew around the country, Guiding Eyes staff members go above and beyond each day because they believe deeply in our mission. Our team rises in the middle of the night to help whelping broods. They train dogs outside in every type of weather, and they keep them clean and happy in the kennels 365 days a year. In the offices, data is entered, spreadsheets are balanced and budgets are planned carefully because it’s important to make sure every cent possible goes to placing dogs with the people who need them. The roles are extraordinarily diverse, but we all connect on one fundamental point: our work changes lives.
I’ve written about graduate Ricky Jones many times, but I believe his story truly captures the essence of what we do. I’ll never forget the night I met Ricky. I was headed out of the building and saw him in the hallway. He had worked his new guide dog, Pearson, in New York City earlier that day and the experience had deeply moved him. Read Ricky’s full story here, and you’ll understand his intense feelings of triumph. A few months after that late night encounter, I began raising a Guiding Eyes puppy.
Puppy raising gave me an intimate look at another side of Guiding Eyes, and I was exposed to a new group of inspirational men and women. With staff member (and my personal hero) Linda Damato at its helm, our puppy program continues to prepare dogs for guide work using the most positive, innovative techniques in the world. Volunteer puppy raisers give so much of themselves to raising these special dogs, and they too go above and beyond in every aspect of their roles. Not a day goes by during which I don’t speak to enthusiastic raisers who have exciting ideas. Just to name a few –Jessica Carey, Gina Rose, Julia Lancian and David Rucquoi – they are some of the many smiles that make up my work day.
Our beautiful dogs are the product of thousands of people who devote their energy to Guiding Eyes. These people are the catalyst for my love for my work, and I am so grateful to have them in my life.