October/November 2010 Graduating Class
Valarie Anderson & Bev
Dana Avant & Aidan
Myra Brooks & Vangie
Joyce Chasson & Icabod
Toni Fraser & Ace
Rodger Lemons & Fancy
Nancy Murray & Goldie
Lindsay Shemella & Floss
Timothy Spencer & Iggie
Brenda Springer & Kentucky
Home Training Graduates
Virginia Jacko & Kieran
And many thanks to our instructors…
Melinda Angstrom, Class Supervisor
Jean Kolor, ACTION Instructor
Erik Wright, Class Instructor
Jamie Viezbicke, Class Instructor
Krissy Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Val has two sons and now four grandchildren. They live only forty minutes away so she gets to spend a lot of time with them.
Bev is Val’s fourth guide dog, but first from Guiding Eyes. Bev has always known her dogs to give her the ability to enjoy her independence and improve her mobility. They have been guides as well as companions.
As a child, Val survived an explosion but it took her sight. Today she is a metaphysical consultant and psychic who loves the computer for reading, likes nature and taking walks and enjoys people.
She went to a boarding school for the blind in Ontario and has a General Arts and Science Diploma from College in Canada.
When Val and Bev were first introduced to each other it was pure excitement. Bev was exactly the dog she wanted; small, yellow, and a little girl. She is looking forward to working with Bev and developing their relationship. When they get back home, she will introduce Bev to her lap cat.
For Bev, “This class has an incredible chemistry. We work hard but play hard. We are a very close knit group. Some strong bonds have formed here and they have been made possible by the dedicated trainers who have a strong work ethic in addition to a sense of humor. Everyone that we come in contact with at Guiding Eyes has made this experience better.”
Dana Avant and Aidan
Dana Avant is from New York and was matched with Aidan, a black male Labrador. Retinopathy of prematurity caused Dana’s sight impairment; he had a successful cornea transplant which lasted longer than normal – almost 20 years. Dana feels fortunate that his sight loss happened only one year before his retirement.
Dana holds a BA in Sociology from Hunter College and a Masters from NYU in Social Work. He worked for Child Welfare and Human Resources in New York City where he taught parenting classes for 15 years.
Aidan is the sixth dog Dana receives from Guiding Eyes. His experience with Guiding Eyes dates back to 1968 when he received his first guide dog. He has seen a lot of positive change in the program over the years. His last dog, Alf, is retired, and will stay at home; Dana looks forward to introducing the two.
With Aidan by his side, Dana can continue his active life and stay independent. A Jazz singer who loves cruises, skiing and travel, he hopes to get into the studio soon to record his album – a Brazilian album in Portuguese. The Lincoln Center Music Library is very helpful with this endeavor. He also looks forward to going to Maine for Alpine Skiing.
Myra was diagnosed at birth with albinism. She was considered legally blind yet always worked hard to do everything people said she couldn’t.
The reputation of Guiding Eyes brought her here. Myra enjoys speaking in schools to educate children about guide dog work; she looks forward to continuing this work with Vangie.
Myra went to school in Massachusetts. She is a certified nurse’s aid and specializes in kid cuddling at her local hospital. She also did child care in her home for two children from infancy until five years old. Myra enjoys cross stitch with plastic canvas, singing, reading and, most of all, being out and about with her guide dogs.
Myra looks forward to introducing Vangie to the big family that awaits them at home.
Joyce was diagnosed in her twenties with retinitis pigmentosa and received her first Guiding Eyes dog in 1987. The last two guide dogs have been Golden Retrievers and Joyce wondered how affectionate this little lab would be; Icabod is very loving and full of adventure. One of Joyce’s favorite training memories is from a day in the river town of Cold Spring. After passing through a tunnel, Icabod stuck his head through the railing to look at the river. Not exactly guide behavior – but Joyce couldn’t help smiling at his playfulness.
Joyce has one daughter who is married with three little boys. She gets to see them more in the summer when school is out.
Recently retired, Joyce was the Secondary Ed Director of Disability Services at Cape Cod College. While working at the college, they received a grant that built the O’Neill Center for Disability Services. Joyce was involved from the beginning with development and future use of the center. She now wants to volunteer with the reconstruction of her local library. Joyce hopes to take her work experience to the new library, bringing in avenues of reading for the visually impaired.
Joyce is always on the go, and Icabod is more than ready to keep up. She enjoys reading, working out, computers and her involvement with the church. She graduated from Boston University College of Management, in a class of seven women, and 300 men.
Toni attended high school in Michigan and has taken college courses. She listens to music, reads, enjoys movies, and writes books. Her first book, a computer manual, was just published by the National Braille Press; ‘Exploring Microsoft Word 2007 with JAWS’. She built her own website and has helped others with web development.
Toni’s hearing loss made it tough for her to travel with a cane; her guide dog ends up being her eyes and her ears. Ace checks in with Toni when she is being cautious; he looks back, slows down, and touches her knee with his nose. Ace knows Toni has trouble with stairs and he takes them very slowly. She is looking forward to being more mobile, getting up and out every day, and traveling to more places independently.
“Everyone in this class has great personalities and a tendency to play practical jokes. Fortunately the instructors have a good sense of humor.” Her dog Ace seems to have his own sense of humor. He does funny, goofy things that make her laugh. As an example, he picks up sticks just to walk around with them. Toni is excited to get home with Ace and begin their future together.
Home Training: Virginia Jacko and Kieran
Virginia Jacko and Kieran, a yellow male Labrador, live and work in Florida.
Kieran is the third guide dog Virginia has received from Guiding Eyes. Because of her extremely busy schedule, Virginia was trained at home. “Home training is wonderful for a busy professional who is unable to go to New York for an extended period of time.” Kieran quickly learned her regularly traveled routes- to the gym, the park, her condo and to work. He is very patient and settled – often spending time in Virginia’s office or accompanying her to luncheon meetings.
While working at Purdue University, Virginia was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, the condition which would eventually cause her to go completely blind. Virginia was referred to Guiding Eyes in 2001 by her Orientation and Mobility instructor at the Miami Lighthouse.
With the support of her family, Virginia embarked on a new path which brought her to The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired where she is now President and CEO. Under her direction, there has been a 500% increase in membership due largely to Virginia’s passion to help people see. She has a very strong business and development background, holding a Bachelors Degree in Finance and a Masters Degree from Purdue University where her husband Bob is a Civil Engineering Professor. Her two daughters and one son are now grown.
Virginia describes Kieran as a real lover. He likes to work hard and play hard. One of his favorite things is to lay on his back and get belly rubs.
Rodger Dale Lemons and Fancy
Rodger Dale Lemons, a local New Yorker, will have Fancy, a black female Labrador by his side. Born and raised in Amish land in Pennsylvania, Rodger came to New York to be an actor and never looked back. “Once you get New York City blood, you don’t leave.” An aneurysm on the optic nerve caused his blindness.
Rodger has two boys and one grandson who plays hockey and aspires to be a rock star. His older son lives in Pennsylvania and they talk all the time. His younger son is traveling the world as a volcanologist.
Rodger holds a Bachelors degree in Music and a Masters in Psychology and Social Work. Retired now, Rodger does a lot of volunteer work. Acting and singing are his favorite hobbies. He is a member of the Lighthouse Vocal Ensemble in New York City and the All Male Chorus Downtown Glee Club and practices with both a vocal coach and an acting coach.
Fancy is Rodger’s first guide dog. He was having trouble hearing traffic and was almost hit twice. He is looking forward to the freedom Fancy brings to him. He lives in an apartment building with three hundred units; all the kids in the building are so excited to meet Fancy.
The first time Rodger walked with Fancy it felt so natural – like he did this all the time. Without fear, Rodger is looking forward to new adventures with Fancy.
Nancy lives with her husband. She enjoys spending time with her friends and partaking in church activities. When she returns home, Nancy wants to participate in the hospice program at her local hospital.
Using an ADHD card reader, Nancy loves to read books – especially mysteries, thrillers, police stories. She downloads digital from The National Library Service.
Goldie is her fifth dog from Guiding Eyes and the first female she has ever had. They’ve already formed a strong bond, and Nancy looks forward to hearing back to her home in the country, and exploring new routes with Goldie by her side.
Lindsay was born with retinitis pigmentosa and was left totally blind in her right eye after an unsuccessful surgery. Lindsay likes to swim, read, computers, board games, and has always loved dogs. She has an eight month old Pomeranian at home named Julian. She thinks Floss and Julian will love each other.
Floss is Lindsay’s first guide dog. When looking into schools, Guiding Eyes made her feel warm. It felt like a friendly, happy place to be. The website strongly influenced her decision. Reading the testimonials on the site and engaging with students from different countries and different parts of the world made the decision to come to Guiding Eyes an exciting choice.
The class is a fun group and they tease each other often. Having a Canadian in the class has generated a lot of teasing, especially when it comes to spelling. It has been wonderful for Lindsay to meet everyone and share experiences and stories.
Lindsay has great plans for her future now with Floss by her side. She has always wanted to give motivational talks at schools and hopes to pursue this dream with Floss when they return to Tennessee.
Timothy F. Spencer and Iggie
Illinois resident Timothy Spencer was matched with Iggie, a black male Labrador. Tim has a wife and a three year old son. He is going back to school full time as a Psychology major and wants to work with families dealing with illnesses during childhood.
Tim’s sight impairment comes from retinoblastoma, a childhood cancer. Diagnosed at two years old, Tim went totally blind about two years ago. His wife is a high school teacher and Tim left his job with the Chicago Lighthouse to stay home with his son, who has also been diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Aggressive treatment through surgery is maintaining his son’s sight.
Iggie is Tim’s first guide dog. When he called Guiding Eyes and spoke with Bev, he knew Guiding Eyes was the place he needed to br. His experience here has proven the decision was the right one. “It is going awesome. Everything Guiding Eyes said they would provide has been provided.”
Tim is an athlete who loves to run, workout and spend a lot of time outdoors going to the park with his son. He’s a real hands-on dad, which he attributes to his own dad being his best friend. Tim hated using a cane because he couldn’t get a good stride. The first time the safety leash came off, Tim and Iggie walked down the street smiling. “It was a wonderful feeling of independence.” Tim is looking forward to a lot of activities with Iggie and his family.
Brenda A. Springer and Kentucky
Brenda A. Springer and Kentucky, a yellow male Labrador, return home to Indiana. Born with glaucoma, Brenda was never diagnosed as a child. She always made jokes about her clumsiness: walking into walls, not seeing the blackboard clearly, and poor driving skills.
Brenda went to school at Indiana University’s South Bend campus. She has a Bachelors degree in History with a minor in Political Science, and a Masters in Sociology. Her glaucoma was discovered during her time working as a veterinary technician.
Kentucky is her first guide dog from Guiding Eyes. Kaiser, her retired guide dog, will be introduced to Kentucky when the team returns home. Brenda has two daughters. Her older daughter is married and has “grand dogs”. Her younger daughter insists she is never leaving home because she ‘can’t afford a house as nice.’
Brenda loves horses and is looking forward to shopping, going out with her daughters and the freedom Kentucky brings to her life. With Kentucky, she has no worries about running into walls. She was so happy when they were introduced and knows they are going to share many wonderful moments together.