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October/November 2012 Graduating Class


Thank you to our November graduation sponsor – Dr. Mayda Arias. “Congratulations to all the graduates. I wish for all of you many years of happiness and success with your guide dogs.”

Meet our Graduates:

Thomas & JJ
Susan & Liza
Cindy & Gardenia
Kenn & Johnny
Richard & Cameron
Kimberly & Marli
William & Lincoln
Diane & Pekoe
Murray & Larissa
Javier & Foster
Jose & Roger
Maria & Rhyme
Kevin & Liberty

Home Training Graduates:
Bonnie & Ramona
Deanna & Bismark

Many thanks to our instructors:
Miranda Beckmann, Class Supervisor
Graham Buck, ACTION Instructor
Michelle Tang, Class Instructor
Lori Busse, Class Instructor
Jolene Hollister, Support Instructor
Susan Kroha, Special Needs Instructor
Gerald Brenninkmeyer, Home Training / Supervisor
John Dettloff, Home Training Field Representative
Annie Savo, Instructor Assistant


Thomas and JJ

Tom traveled from Wisconsin for JJ, a male yellow Labrador and his first guide dog. Tom was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease and has been legally blind since he was seven. He attended mainstream schools, married his high school sweetheart and they now have a son and daughter.

Tom earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and holds two master’s degrees – one in earth science and one in education. He retired from teaching secondary education and now enjoys many hobbies: canoeing, scuba diving, down hill and cross country skiing, snow shoeing and sailing. He raised coonhounds and foxhounds and won many competitions with them. He shares his favorite activity with his wife – historic reenactments of the French and Indian War and the Great Lakes Fur Trade.

When they return home, JJ will attend blue grass festivals, ride on canoes and be entertained by Tom playing a banjo, fiddle or mandolin while his wife plays a mountain dulcimer. He is grateful for his new guide dog and for the compassion and dedication from everyone involved with Guiding Eyes. He looks forward to walking around his hometown and hearing people say, “Hey, there’s Tom and JJ – they’re a team.”

Congratulations to Carol Rogers of the Maine region.


Susan and Liza

Susan and black Labrador Liza will go home to Indiana. Susan’s mom had German measles during pregnancy and Susan was born blind. After graduating from Perkins School for the Blind, she went on to earn her bachelors degree in Spanish from Beloit College. She now works as a phone agent for the national 800 number for Social Security. Her dual language skills allow her to help a variety of people every day – offering encouragement while providing information.

Susan is passionate about education and volunteers twice a week reading to children. With her guide dogs by her side, she uses picture books that are written in Braille. She plans to tutor at the local elementary school when she retires.

Liza is a perfect match. She is responsive and heels like no other dog. Susan shares, “I had to travel with a cane for 4 1/2 months while I was between dogs. The difference between using a cane and partnering with a Guiding Eyes dog is the difference between a single note and an entire symphony.”

Congratulations to Tiiu Mayer and Linda Cross of the Baltimore region.


Cindy and Gardenia

Cindy is from Maryland and was matched with her first guide dog, yellow lab Gardenia. Cindy was born with congenital glaucoma. She had partial sight until 15 months ago when she loss her remaining vision due to a blood clot behind her eye. Cindy has never considered herself disabled and says that “a handicap is a golf term.”

She enjoys hiking and camping and loves spending time at the beach. She is Vice Regent of her DAR Chapter and president of the Capital ACB Chapter. She runs her own consulting business and assists people on SSI and SSDI transition into employment.

Gardenia will allow Cindy to travel easily to clients’ homes and businesses. Their introduction was very emotional; Cindy started to cry with joy when Gardenia entered her room and Gardenia started licking her tears away. “It was instant, unconditional love. Gardenia snuggled up with me and we bonded immediately.” Cindy is looking forward to the ease of working with Gardenia and to traveling the D.C. subway system together.

Congratulations to Wendy Minske of the Prince William region.


Kenn and Johnny

Kenn will return home to Pennsylvania with a male black Labrador named Johnny. Kenn was born with a congenital disease that led to glaucoma and cornea problems. He’s always found his cane frustrating, feeling that he is slowed down by frequent reference point checks. He says that walking with Johnny feels like flying.

Kenn has both his undergraduate and master’s degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in human performance. He enjoys his own workouts and is employed as a strength training and weight lifting coach. When he isn’t working, Kenn enjoys spending time with his wife Jenn and woodworking. He looks forward to introducing Johnny to his two small dogs and to his friends with guide dogs from Guiding Eyes.

Congratulations to The Hodge Family of the Virginia Beach region.



Richard and Cameron

Rick is from New York and returns to Guiding Eyes for his fifth dog – male yellow Labrador Cameron. Rick was born with glaucoma. His career is taking a new course as owner and operator of a Laundromat business with two locations. Cameron will make traveling so much easier and safer than it was before.

Rick enjoys relaxing with his girlfriend, tandem bike riding and working out at the gym. He talks about Cameron, “This dog is unique, and he’s a really good guy. Cameron is great at keeping me on course. We hit it off the first day and when he could be free in my room, I woke up to him sleeping with his head on my shoulder – my new partner!”

Congratulations to Jennifer Heinemann of the New York City region.


Kimberly and Marli

Kimberly was matched with Marli, a female yellow Labrador and her fourth guide dog. She was born totally blind from retinopathy of prematurity and was a senior in college when she got her first guide dog. Her family always advocated for education, and she holds bachelors’ degrees in German and Spanish, a master’s degree in Spanish and a PhD in educational policy and leadership from the University of Kansas. Kimberly is employed at the world headquarters of as a communications coordinator. She also offers consulting services for the visually impaired.

Kimberly tells others, “My guide dog provides interaction with people while a white cane instills fear. My work and lines of communication are facilitated using a guide dog.” In her free time, Kimberly loves to knit and enjoys making scarves for the Special Olympics and chemo caps for the local hospital. She sings, plays piano and gardens regularly. In addition, she is a member of Toastmaster’s and was a guest columnist for the Kansas City Star. Kimberly is looking forward to renewed independence and dignity with Marli by her side.

Congratulations to The Kust Family of the Virginia Beach region.


William and Lincoln

Bill comes from Illinois for Lincoln, a black Labrador and his third guide dog. Bill was born with retinopathy of prematurity. He had limited vision until his remaining sight diminished due to glaucoma. At just eight years old, Bill knew he wanted a career in radio or television journalism. He has spent 44 years in broadcasting, 35 of which were with NBC.

Bill’s three sons are now grown and he enjoys spending time with his extended family. He has over 3,000 CDs and loves to recharge by listening to music. Guiding Eyes has always fulfilled Bill’s needs and he is forever grateful for the school’s support.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Larry Wyland and Lynne Post of the Virginia Beach region.




Eloise “Diane” and Pekoe

Diane will return to Oklahoma with a female black and tan Labrador named Pekoe. Diane has a genetic disease causing her to lose her sight throughout her childhood. She is also losing her hearing and experiencing balance challenges.

Diane works at a 911 call center with a wonderful group of people. The environment can sometimes be an obstacle course with wet floor signs and chairs in the middle of the path. Pekoe will be hugely helpful in navigating this space. Her co-workers are completely supportive of her guide dog and are excited to meet Pekoe.

To relax from stressful shift work, Diane listens to music and audio books. She is already so comfortable with Pekoe and can’t wait to introduce her to their pet dog and cat. Thanksgiving will be a special holiday; she’ll celebrate her 21st wedding anniversary with her new guide dog by her side.

Congratulations to Mr. & Mrs. Phillip McAllister of the Shenandoah region.



Murray and Larissa

Murray will return to Canada with his first guide dog, a female yellow Labrador named Larissa. Murray grew up on a ranch and spent many hours in the saddle, some competing on the rodeo circuit. He was diagnosed with diabetes at 24, and while three successful eyelet cell transplants made him no longer insulin-dependent, his eyesight still suffered. He was forced to retire from his truck-driving career.

Murray has three daughters, a grandson and granddaughter. His brother encouraged him to get a guide dog and after many close encounters with cars, he applied to Guiding Eyes. Larissa, nicknamed “Miss Confidence” by her puppy raisers, is already changing Murray’s life. He walks about three miles a day and is excited to work with Larissa back home; he feels much safer crossing streets now. Murray believes strongly in educating young people about blindness and the benefits of guide dogs, and he’s scheduled to speak to local students in the beginning of December.

Congratulations to Amanda Ferguson of the Northern New York region.


Francisco Javier and Foster

“Javi” comes from Spain through Guiding Eyes’ affiliation with “ONCE,” the Spanish school providing services for the blind and visually impaired. Spanish citizens often wait more than four years to be matched with a guide dog. Javi was partnered with black Labrador Foster and will return home to his wife and four-year-old son. His sight loss is due to retinitis pigmentosa and it began to affect his vision when only eight years old.

Javi works for the Spanish lottery and with Foster on his team he is secure, confident and safe. The dog gives Javi the feeling he can do things on his own again. “It is a difficult decision to leave your home, family and friends and travel to the United States but once you meet the dog, nothing else matters and it is all worth it.”

Congratulations to Katie Maley of the Erie region.




Jose and Roger

International student Jose was matched with his first guide dog – black Labrador Roger. He was born premature and always had bad vision; his right eye was replaced by a prosthetic in 2008. Jose has a large family with four brothers, one sister and many nieces and nephews. He turns 50 in November and was fortunate to retire young from the computer industry. Jose enjoys bird watching, listening to music and reading.

Jose will ultimately lose his remaining vision and knows he will be able to do much more with Roger by his side. He is glad he came to Guiding Eyes and compares it to a second home.

Congratulations to Vaughn Stewart & Meghan Lyon of the North Carolina region.




Maria and Rhyme

Maria is the third international student and was matched with a female yellow Labrador named Rhyme, her first guide dog. Maria was born with retinitis pigmentosa and is totally blind. She shares her life in Spain with her boyfriend and has two brothers and both parents nearby.

Maria works for ONCE and studies psychology at her local university. She loves to read, travel to friends’ homes and entertain in her own house. Maria shares, “Excitement best sums up my feelings towards having Rhyme. There will be new responsibilities and we will share a prettier life together.”

Congratulations to The Doyle Family of the Southwest Connecticut region.




Kevin and Liberty

Not Profiled











Volunteer Cathy Capasso has been interviewing our students for the past three years. This month she shared these thoughts:

“A common thread in all the interviews is the love and gratitude the students have for the school. They all speak about the compassionate, dedicated nature of the Guiding Eyes staff and that the level of standards they experience are well above expectations. Even with the difficulties of Hurricane Sandy, the class remained positive. I am sure they were disappointed when graduation needed to be cancelled, but again, I didn’t hear anyone complaining or saying anything negative. I found that to be amazing.”