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Powerful Stories

Paul Ellner and Guiding Eyes dog Ray
Paul Ellner and Guiding Eyes dog Ray

Hundreds of people have come through our doors over the past 12 months.  Here are some of their stories.

Since they met in July 2013, Sofia Gallo and Guiding Eyes guide dog Karleen have completed their freshman year at Princeton University. While the pretty black Lab slept through most of her handler’s political science classes, she was vital to Sofia’s ability to navigate the busy campus.

Summer classes are frequented by our youngest students. In August 2013, Nicholas O’Clair was matched with guide dog Archer and Brandohn Gabbert was matched with Taft. Both have since completed their freshman years of college, with Nicholas studying environmental science and Brandohn majoring in history.

Five parents with children on the autism spectrum joined us in September 2013. Mom Emily Fontana shared, “I could never have imagined that out of such grief and heartache our family could receive such joy. Our Heeling Autism service dog has transformed our lives.”

Janie D’Anna works part time as a receptionist and spends the rest of her days enjoying her thirteen grandchildren. She was matched with Palmer in October 2013 and shares how he’s a welcome addition to her busy home. He helps her travel safely and he’s adored by her entire family.

November 2013 graduate Paul Ellner is a professor emeritus of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He’s also retired from the US Navy and flew search and rescue missions for the Civil Air Patrol. Now 88, Paul is enjoying his retirement through writing fiction and practicing yoga. Guiding Eyes dog Ray makes it much easier for him to live independently.

Betsy Bradley was matched with Token in December 2013. She lives in North Carolina with her husband Bill, a Golf Classic sponsor. Betsy shares, “Through the roller coaster of losing my vision, it was my Guiding Eyes dog that showed me I could continue to live an active life.”

January 2014 graduate Howard McCleary told us of difficult times immediately following the motorcycle accident that caused his vision loss. He’s worked hard to regain his mobility – particularly so he could be a good father to his four children. Black Labrador Kimberly will certainly make Howard’s travel easier; he’s also hugely appreciative of the love and support she provides.

Jessie was matched with Linda in February 2014 and shared how “it took her a long time to get here” at the graduation ceremony.  She went on to quote, “once I was blind and now I can see.”

March 2014 graduate Christina Granquist graduated with a psychology degree just before coming to Guiding Eyes. Guiding Eyes dog Aloe accompanies her to her new job in a vision research lab.

Six Heeling Autism service dogs graduated in April 2014, joining the 49 service dogs who are working in families with children with autism. We marvel at the exponential impact these dogs will have in their new homes: they’ll help children and their parents, they will support siblings and friends, and they’ll strengthen families’ connections with their communities.

Spring 2014 Heeling Autism Graduating Dogs

Michael Coughlin arranged to take all of his finals early so he could join our May 2014 class. The college student is double majoring in business and computer science. He’s active in several sports, including goalball and beep baseball. With Guiding Eyes dog Dot by his side, he looks forward to much smoother and safer travel and significantly expanded horizons.

Our online auction helps graduates like these expand their horizons to achieve life’s goals.  

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