October 2019 Graduating Class
Congratulations to our October 2019 Graduating Class!
“Priceline is thrilled to celebrate this graduating class. Guiding Eyes for the Blind does invaluable work and we are proud to be among the many who support and admire them.”
Brooklyn and Liam
Cynthia and Fagan
Deborah and Everest
Deborah and Glenna
Dylan and Nikon
Kathleen and Henrietta
Les and Kam
Mariana and Hodge
Wendi and William
Home Training Graduate:
Christine and Bando
Many thanks to our Training Staff:
Class Supervisor: Kathryn Poallo
Instructor: Deanna Lentini
Instructor: Allison Greenberg
Running Guides Specialist: Nick Speranza
Instructor Assistant: Kim Hansen
Home Training: Jessy DiNapoli
Watch Graduation Live Stream
Watch Narrated Graduation Slideshow
We gratefully acknowledge the Fain Family’s support of our video streaming capabilities.
Meet the Residential Training Graduates
Brooklyn comes from Plano TX, where she works in the insurance industry at a Fortune 50 company. She reports her office is huge; over 2 million square feet! She enjoys visiting the many restaurants and stores nearby. She is looking forward to the freedom of taking a walk on her lunch break whenever the weather is nice! When not working, Brooklyn enjoys spending time with her partner and her 18-year-old son whom she is very proud of. Brooklyn also enjoys visiting friend’s houses to play board games and the theater or aquarium. She cannot wait to head home with Liam and spend time outdoors with him.
How would you describe your guide dog? “First and foremost, Liam is super focused, loves to work, and is highly intelligent. He’s very intuitive and really does have a drive to work. When the harness is on, he tends to be really calm and focused, but allows himself to be sillier when he’s not working. Liam loves his tennis balls and can fit three in his mouth at the same time!”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When I first looked into getting a guide dog, I was 18 years old and had just graduated high school. I did a bunch of research on the best schools and the name that kept coming up was Guiding Eyes. I have gotten so much support from Guiding Eyes over the years – there’s always people I can reach out to. I’ve always appreciated that about the Instructors. They don’t jump to say you’re doing something wrong; they work with you as a team to solve problems.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Confidence. It sounds like a small thing, but when you’re approaching a building you aren’t familiar with, having to trail the wall when strangers are watching and asking if you’re okay, can make you feel very small. But when I’m approaching with a guide dog I can just say ‘to the door,’ and people realize I don’t need help. Those little moments build up over the course of the day. It changes the way the world looks at you and just makes everything a little better.”
Were there any training highlights? “The first time we walked together, Liam was so focused I could feel it through the handle. It’s like driving a little sports car; my little Liam-borghini. The trainers here are amazing at figuring out what you need in a dog, and what the dogs need in a handler. Another thing I love about coming to Guiding Eyes is that I can come to a world that is designed for us. People announce themselves when they walk in the room, tap out seats and banisters, and things are appropriately labeled; it’s so comfortable here.”
Congratulations Liam’s Puppy Raisers, Jeanne Dregalla and The Larry Dean Family!
Cyndi comes from North Carolina and loves to meet people, making friends wherever she goes. She loves spending time with her long-time boyfriend, Tommy, or playing in her blind bowling or blind darts leagues. She also enjoys doing watercolor paintings or playing music on her keyboard. Currently a sewing machine operator at IFB Solutions, Cyndi has also done some acting; she has appeared on multiple shows, including “Gotham” and “Orange Is the New Black”. Cyndi is looking forward to introducing Fagan to everyone back home and all of their future adventures.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Fagan loves to work so much that when I get his harness, he runs over and sticks his head right in it. He loves to play too, of course. He has a favorite toy – a squeaky ball with feet. Once he found that one, no other toy could take its place.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I thought about getting a guide dog many years ago, but decided that I wasn’t ready at that point. Now I feel like it’s the right time for me. I can get frustrated because there are some places I hesitate to go. That’s hard for me because I’m an active person. I felt like a guide dog would be a better fit for me now.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “I already feel more confident and continue to gain confidence as Fagan and I work together. We’ve been building trust with each other and this experience has been a really good thing for me.”
Were there any training highlights? “The staff here is wonderful and I feel very comfortable at Guiding Eyes. I think we’ve got a really good group; everyone gets along and it’s been nice. The students are really accepting of each other. This has been a new experience for me and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s been so great.”
Congratulations to Fagan’s Puppy Raisers, The Newman Family!
Now retired, Deborah worked in Vending for many years alongside her husband. Deborah loves the outdoors, cooking and baking and being active. Having previously participated in beep ball and goalball, as well as gymnastics and swimming, she is currently enjoying playing in a blind darts league. Deborah is looking forward to spending a lot of time with Everest in the park near her apartment, where she knows he will love the fountain and the ducks and geese that reside there. She sometimes spends her weekends camping with friends and family and is looking forward to many future hikes with Everest!
How would you describe your guide dog? “Everest is very laid back and has a personality of his own. He is so smart and sweet; he likes to nibble on your chin and give kisses. Just getting to know him more has been nice. He loves to watch the leaves fall. He gets so focused when he works; he even stops at cracks in the sidewalks which was amazing to me. He’s very cautious when he’s guiding me, and always looking back to check in with me.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Before I got my first guide dog, I was living in Chicago and I missed a barricade for a construction site. They had dug a large hole and I could have fallen in. That made me realize how helpful a guide dog might be. It allows you to be more laid back. I can be more comfortable with a guide dog.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “The friendship, the companionship, the freedom; I can really trust him and go wherever I want to go; I don’t have to rely on others to get around. And people interact differently; working with a guide dog is less isolating.”
Were there any training highlights? “The trainers at Guiding Eyes are amazing. They have always been there for me and are always so understanding and patient. The students are all great too, we all get along really well. Everybody helps everybody else. Everyone is so kind here.”
Congratulations Everest’s Puppy Raiser, Mekalea Chambliss!
Deb has never been one to sit still; she is always on the go. She worked in management for most of her life and has sat on Executive Boards for quite a few organizations. Deb and her husband Ken have been together for 20 years and met playing pool, a hobby that Deb has always enjoyed! Deb has always worked with animals and also loves gardening and doing different crafts and donating them to those in need. She cannot wait to head home with Glenna and introduce her to Ken and all their loved ones.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Glenna is my perfect match. She has a beautiful little temperament; she’s spunky, loves to work and cuddle. She’s a very fast learner and when she puts the harness on, she is so in-tune with me.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I received a list of guide dog schools from the CNIB and did a ton of research on different schools. I spoke with Ben from the Admissions Department at Guiding Eyes and the reassurance he gave in answering all of my questions made me feel at ease.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog has afforded me freedom, confidence, pride, and independence. It makes a big difference in your life. I can’t wait to get home and show her off; she is such a sweetheart. My husband Ken can’t wait to meet her.”
Were there any training highlights? “The compassion of the trainers. They’re pretty amazing people. I just retired my previous guide dog, Beau, and that was so difficult for me. The understanding and patience the trainers showed me was huge. My class supervisor, Kat Poallo was just great.”
Congratulations Glenna’s Puppy Raisers, Hugh Sigmon & Paula Wiles Sigmon, The Petillo Family, Carol Malenfant, and The McNulty Family!
Dylan returns to Guiding Eyes for his second guide dog. Although he keeps busy, when there’s free time he enjoys video games, movies and reading. Speaking with a pleasant tone, Dylan is self-employed and making a living doing voice work. He looks forward to bringing this beautiful long-haired shepherd, Nikon, back to his home to share in his daily life.
How would you describe your guide dog? “He’s a beautiful Shepherd with personality. We’re getting along really well together and he’s doing a good job. He reminds me of my first Guiding Eyes dog Berta. She was an amazing and wonderful dog and they have the same ‘Shepherd work mentality’. When he’s out of the harness he’s very playful and when he’s in harness, he’s all work.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I started using the cane regularly after high school, but I thought a dog would give me more freedom. I was in college when I heard of Guiding Eyes from the Cleveland Sight Center and applied for my first dog. When I was in class with Berta, I thought it was an enjoyable program and a great school, so I returned here for my next dog.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “Having a guide dog allows me much more freedom, safety and better mobility. When we return home, Nikon and I will go out walking to the store, bank or other errands or to the park for exercise. We’ll go to the local Farmer’s Market – he’ll enjoy that.”
Were there any training highlights? “He was really good at everything. I enjoyed seeing how quickly he adapted to working with me and also how quickly I was adapting to working with a new dog.”
Congratulations Nikon’s Puppy Raisers, S. Renee Hance and The Nelson Family!
Kathleen is a retired a social worker; a profession she held for 45 years. She’s a dedicated, weekly volunteer at her local Senior Center, who loves to walk, whether on the bike path, the track or on hikes with her husband. She’s excited by great finds acquired by digging around antique stores and enjoys her mahjong group, reading and exercise and dance classes for seniors. Kathleen and her family are local residents and have been familiar with Guiding Eyes’ work for many years.
How would you describe your guide dog? “She’s the sweetest little girl. When I met her, it was like, oh yes, this is my dog. She loves to lick your face and when you scratch her ears she happily wiggles and waggles her body. She’s a very affectionate dog.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “When I mentioned Guiding Eyes to my vision specialist, she said, Yes, that’s the one! For years, we’ve been seeing the dogs and trainers or volunteers in town, whether on the street, at the bank, supermarket, scout meetings, church or local events. We’ve known adopters of a released dog, puppy raisers, a volunteer driver, etc. I felt – this is home. It’s that whole sense of community.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “So many things! To get out and about again with that extra security when walking in town; no longer walking with my head down. I look forward to getting her acclimated to home and introducing her to my family and those at the senior center. My family has always had dogs, including labs, so they are really looking forward to meeting her. And at the Center, the Seniors are waiting!”
Were there any training highlights? “I was impressed by the times she was safely in front of me, preventing me from taking a step forward off the curb as cars went by. Also, this is an amazing organization with such a supportive and understanding staff. The building is very blind friendly – it feels so safe here. It really brought my comfort level up.”
Congratulations Henrietta’s Puppy Raisers, Kristen Schott and Frances Chen!
Born in Tacoma, WA, Les attended the School of Piano Technology for the Blind. Afterwards, he began a piano tuning business in Tulsa, OK, which he ran for 38 years. Les even returned to the school for 6 years to give back and teach courses himself. In addition to tuning pianos, Les loves to play both guitar and bass. Les and his wife have been married for about one year, having met at an NFB Chapter meeting. He enjoys attending church, audiobooks, and is a HAM radio operator. Les has 4 kids, 6 grandkids, and 1 great grandchild, and cannot wait to return home and introduce everyone to Kam.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Kam has a very sweet personality, and we’re actually very similar. He’s amazing; I didn’t realize that he would be able to do some of the things that he does. We’ve been working together a short time, but I can tell he loves me – we’re a good pair.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “I’m older now and I’ve encountered a few situations where my cane wasn’t able to solve the problem. Things like unexpected cars and loud environments can be tough, but Kam gives me confidence that I’m safe out there. My wife has had two guide dogs from Guiding Eyes and she suggested that I look here first.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life “When the trainer took the support leash off for the first time and Kam just kept guiding me effectively – that was a huge moment. It showed me that I could trust him. That was really big for me.”
Were there any training highlights? “The attentiveness of the trainers and the willingness of the kitchen staff to work with you on any dietary restrictions. The whole staff is willing to do whatever it takes to make us comfortable here. The trainers give their all to make the dogs successful with us; that goes a long way for me.”
Congratulations to Kam’s Puppy Raisers, Allison Fenton and Jessica Meyer!
Mariana is working towards a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with future plans of an advanced degree in physical therapy. In addition to attending college, she is employed as a Claims Specialist. Mariana likes to play the guitar and hang out with her friends. She enjoys all outdoor activities, like walking on the beach or in the park or tandem kayaking.
How would you describe your guide dog? “Hodge really enjoys giving kisses to people. This is my first guide dog, and for me, it is super exciting that he is so friendly when he’s off harness, but when he is in harness, he’s super focused. He knows the difference! Personality wise, we are a perfect match… and I can walk fast with this guy!”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “Previously, I didn’t think I had a need for a guide dog yet, but my vision has changed. When I was in college, I was encouraged to consider a dog. I took this decision seriously because a guide dog is a commitment, but I thought it would help me be independent. Now, being here with him gives me so much confidence – even though I’m walking on streets that I’ve never been on before. Miami lighthouse recommended this school and I did a lot of research online. I loved the sound of Guiding Eyes’ program the best.”
What are you looking forward to about returning home with your guide dog? “My schedule is a busy one and I’ll feel more comfortable doing things and be able to get around faster. I have really relied on my Mom for so much, and I think not only will he give me confidence, it will give her peace of mind to know he’s with me. Walking with a guide dog is such a big difference and it feels so good!”
Were there any training highlights? “Well, of course his walking speed. Also, I’m a ‘newbie’ and this might seem like the silliest thing to experienced guide dog handlers, but targeting spots was mind blowing to me! When he would guide me, he’d stop at the right spots. He is amazing.”
Congratulations Hodge’s Puppy Raiser, Mrs. Linda Saylor!
Wendi makes her living as a Warehouse Specialist with Austin Lighthouse, where she packs special orders for the US Military. She enjoys being an active member of River Bend Church and participating in Bible Studies classes. Wendi likes reading and watching Netflix and looks forward to getting into hiking, particularly around local lakes, when she returns home with William.
How would you describe your guide dog? “William is smart, energetic and adventurous. In the harness, he is pretty serious. He knows when he is going to work! He’s just amazing…I’m so amazed. William is going to lead me into the next chapter of my life. I’m ready to get out there and do all the things I haven’t been able to do.”
What made you decide to apply for a guide dog from Guiding Eyes? “The experience with my first dog, Rory, was so positive. I knew I wanted to come back for another Guiding Eyes dog. I also have two friends at work who have Guiding Eyes dogs.”
How has having a guide dog impacted your life? “It’s allowed me to be independent and confident. It feels great to walk with my head high and shoulders back again with William. I can’t wait to get him home and adjusted to everything. Everything is ready for his arrival! The bible group at my church is excited to meet William. My last dog was in our class photo and William will be as well!”
Were there any training highlights? “Our class is such a highlight! We all get along so well. The trainers are so fun – they keep us calm and positive. This has been the best experience of my life.”
Congratulations William’s Puppy Raisers, David and Lynne Bishop, Leslie Ring and Dillon Hicks, and Phyllis and Stanley Wojcoski
Meet the Home Training Graduates
Graduate Team: Christine and Bando
About the Team: Bando, a male black Lab, is Christine’s 2nd Guiding Eyes dog
Hometown: Billings, Montana
Christine lives in the beautiful state of Montana with her husband and returns to Guiding Eyes for her second guide dog. She looks forward to safe and independent travel around her neighborhood, as well as downtown Billings, with Bando by her side.
Congratulations Bando’s Puppy Raisers, Sue & John Beatty and The Rand Family