October 2014 Graduate Class

 In Graduations, News & Events

October Class of 2014

Thank you to the sponsors of this month’s graduation ceremony:

  • Linda Connelly: Congratulations to all the new guide dog teams graduating today. I would like to thank Chevron Humankind for sponsoring this graduation on my behalf. I was inspired to become a Guiding Eyes volunteer in memory of my beloved golden retriever, Sandy. Embrace your independence!
  • Marty Zeldin and Carol Parish, raisers of Dell, Nordic, Gage and Harmon: We are proud to sponsor this graduation in celebration of a new team – Ben and Nordic! May you enjoy many years of love, companionship and safe adventures. We were honored to raise Nordic. He was a fantastic puppy who has matured into an intelligent and loyal dog worthy of being a guide. Good luck to all of the graduating teams.
  • Sally Stokhamer, annual graduation sponsor.

We are extremely grateful for Harold Skolnick’s generosity to special name Guiding Eyes Hilda.

We also thank the Fain Family for their support of our video streaming capabilities. Click here to view the October graduation online.

Residential Graduates
Ben and Nordic
Sandra and Dahlia
Angel and Nutmeg
Jacque and Gracie
Laura and Jameson
Donna and Nell
Lisa and Radar
Steve and Farrah

Home Training Graduates
Blessing and Jordan
Rebecca and Brocade
Jessica and Matthew
Carl and Merrick
Stacey and Kirk
Karen and Hilda

Many thanks to our instructors
Ben Cawley, Class Supervisor
Kat Poallo, Class Instructor
Kate Petersen, Class Instructor
Melinda Angstrom, ACTION Instructor
Jessy DiNapoli, ONCE Instructor
Stephanie Koret, Home Training
Chrissy Vetrano, Home Training
Susan Kroha, Home Training
Jim Gardner, Home Training
Julie Angle, Home Training
Saxon Eastman, Instructor Assistant

Ben and NordicBen and Nordic

Ben lives in New York with his wife. He has three stepchildren and four grandchildren. Male yellow Labrador Nordic is his first guide dog.

Ben graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in biology. He began to lose his vision to Stargardt’s disease while he was in graduate school and opted to become a restaurateur instead of a doctor. He enjoys advertising, building restaurants and antiquing. Ben shares, “You never know what life has in store. In high school I wrote about a guide dog school; later, my restaurant hosted an annual party inviting 50 Guiding Eyes dogs, their handlers and family. Today I am working with Nordic.” Ben no longer has to shuffle when transitioning from light to dark because Nordic keeps him on track and safe.

Congratulations to Nordic’s puppy raisers – Martel Zeldin & Carol Parish, and Wendy Minke!

Sandra and DahliaSandra and Dahlia

Sandra returns to Guiding Eyes for her third guide dog. Dahlia, a female yellow Labrador, will enjoy guiding Sandra in the warm Florida sunshine.

Sandra was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in her mid forties and is now totally blind. She has three siblings with normal sight and her vision impairment went unrecognized for many years. She thought she was clumsy and it affected her confidence.

Sandra loves going to the gym and plans to become a certified fitness instructor. She was a hairdresser for many years and offers this advice, “Don’t stop doing what you love. If you are passionate, you will find a way to continue.”

Her grandsons have her retired guide and treat her like one of the family. Sandra is looking forward to her morning walks and once again crossing the busy streets to get to the gym, grocery store and nail salon. “I won’t have to depend on someone else to take me where I need to go.”

Congratulations to Dahlia’s puppy raisers – The Beach Family!

Angel and NutmegAngel and Nutmeg

Angel is an international student from Spain. A female yellow Labrador named Nutmeg is his second guide dog.

Angel is the younger of two boys. He graduated from University with degrees in human and social relations. Spain offers a specialized employment program for people who are visually impaired and Angel works as a coupon-seller for the lottery. He loves music and travel and is passionate about cars and Formula One racing. His favorite race is the Grand Prix in Madrid, which he has attended on a few occasions and hopes to go again with Nutmeg.

Angel’s vision loss was caused by glaucoma and he has been totally blind for the last 8 years. He retired his first guide dog in 2005 and is looking forward to the independence and freedom that Nutmeg will bring to his life.

Congratulations to Nutmeg’s puppy raisers – The Bartz Family!

Jacque and GracieJacque and Gracie

Jacque and her third guide dog, a yellow Labrador named Gracie, will return home to Arizona where her husband is looking forward to meeting the new blond in the family.

Jacque has Usher’s Syndrome. She received her bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition and her master’s degree in food science. She worked in quality assurance and is now retired and pursues a variety of passions. Travel tops the list and she has been to Spain, Canada and Brazil. At home, she loves to walk and to volunteer; she assists local guide dog users and trains bus drivers to assist people with visual impairments. She also teaches a pottery class. Jacque knows Gracie will help her continue to do all the things she loves.

Congratulations to Gracie’s puppy raisers – Barbara Ward-Blank & Family!

Laura and JamesonLaura and Jameson

Laura is the youngest in the class and an international student from Spain. She was matched with Jameson, a yellow Labrador and her first guide dog.

Laura was born with a condition that limits her to central vision only. She lives with her family and attends University where she is studying modern languages. She loves that her home is on an island and she can ride horses along the beach or into the mountains. Jameson will bring independence to her life; she will be able to go shopping and out with her friends and “be like everyone else.” He will keep her safe and she is confident she can travel wherever she wants to go. Her younger sister asks about him every time they talk and can’t wait to meet him.

Congratulations to Jameson’s puppy raiser – Stephany Dungan!

Donna and NellDonna and Nell

New Yorker Donna was matched with a female black Labrador named Nell, her first guide dog.

Donna is married and the mother of five grown children. Her vision loss was caused by diabetic retinopathy. Donna studies yoga and will soon earn her 500-hour teacher training certification. She decided it was time to get a guide dog when she no longer felt comfortable going out at night. Nell has renewed her self-confidence. “I haven’t been able to see this well since I was nine years old. I no longer stare at the floor; I walk with my head held high on a straight path as she guides me along.”

Congratulations to Nell’s puppy raisers – Honey Weiss & David Lewis!

Lisa and RadarLisa and Radar

Lisa returns from Delaware for her second guide dog, male German shepherd Radar.

Lisa has retinitis pigmentosa. She is a licensed practical nurse and volunteers with women struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Lisa enjoys playing piano and learned to play guitar this past year. She performs socially and enjoys the social interaction the guitar offers. Lisa loves the bond that forms with her guide and has a pet German shepherd who will play with Radar when he isn’t working. She is grateful for the unique way Guiding Eyes matches students with the guide dogs that best fit their needs. Radar has an active future with camping, fishing, scuba diving and skiing on the horizon.

Congratulations to Radar’s puppy raisers – The Caamano Family and Nicole L. Guite!

Steve and FarrahSteve and Farrah

Steve is a first time guide dog user from New Hampshire. Female black Labrador Farrah will accompany him on future adventures.

Retinitis pigmentosa is the cause of Steve’s vision loss. He attended the University of New Hampshire and has bachelors’ degrees in psychology and disability studies and a master’s degree in assistive technology. He loves reading Sci-fi and historical books and spending time with friends. Steve and his family aren’t new to the Guiding Eyes family; they volunteered as puppy raisers. Now his own guide dog will provide structure to his life and open up his world.

Congratulations to Farrah’s puppy raiser – Deb Dik!

Blessing and JordanBlessing and Jordan

Blessing was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at age six, to receive treatment for glaucoma. When he was nine years old, he became totally blind. Blessing turned to music and learned to play the piano. He came to Guiding Eyes for his first dog and shares that with his guide by his side, he had the confidence to move to New York City and pursue his dreams. Blessing is a musician, composer, arranger and lyricist. He opened for the Temptations and Tower of Power, performed at the Kennedy Center three times and was a 2010 VSA International Young Soloists Award recipient. He also contributed “Winter Wonderland” to a compilation Christmas album with fellow artists Aaron Nevel, Amy Grant and The Beach Boys. Blessing has spent this last year crafting and perfecting new songs for his upcoming release with EMI. Blessing currently resides in Queens, NY with Guiding Eyes guide dog Jordan.

Congratulations to Jordan’s puppy raiser – Casey Duncan!

Congratulations to the raisers of the guide dogs placed through October Home Trainings:
Brocade: The May Family
Hilda: Linda Lerch & Family
Kirk: Len Luchowski & Christine Cych
Matthew: Pamela W. Stevenson and Madalyn Deason
Merrick: Mrs. Michael C. Trapani

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