Close this search box.
Close this search box.

September 2011 Graduating Class

September 2011 graduating class
Dawn Brush & Breezy
Jacquie Bukolt & Oak
Daniela & Salem
Paula McPherson & Lang
Miguel Palomar & Abraham
Sandra Parisi & Daphne
Maria del Carmen Pimentel Colin & Amore
Maria Sanchez-Lopez & Clayton
Robert “Kevin” Skelsey & Hanny

Home Training Graduates
Marvin Langanki & Gonzo
Andrew Preller & Fanta
Jamie Lynn Smathers & Yasha

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
James Gardner, Home Training Instructor
Kristina Andersen, Home Training Instructor
Andrea Martine, Special Needs Home Training Instructor
Shane Chadbourne, Instructor Assistant

Dawn Brush and BreezyDawn Brush and Breezy
Dawn Brush returns from South Dakota for her second guide dog, Breezy – a female black Lab.

Dawn has her retired guide Whimsey at home, along with Queen Mia, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Breezy will be have lots of fun playing with her new friends.

Premature birth caused Dawn’s sight impairment and she has lived with retinopathy of prematurity. She attended South Dakota School for the Blind and Northern State University where she majored in sociology, human services and gerontology. Now employed as a blind rehabilitation teacher, Dawn works with elderly people experiencing sight loss. “Independent living is our goal.” State statistics have proven the program keeps people out of nursing homes longer. She has a driver for work and is looking forward to continued independent travel with Breezy.

Dawn’s hobbies include reading, music, cooking, house-hunting and caring for and enjoying her dogs. She came to Guiding Eyes nine years ago because of the schools reputation.  “Having individual rooms is wonderful. It’s easier to bond with your dog and you know when the bonding takes place. Their mannerisms change, their personalities come out and everybody relaxes more.”

Jacquie Bukolt and OakJacquie Bukolt and Oak
Jacquie Bukolt is a native New Yorker.  Black Lab Oak is her fourth guide dog.

An insulin dependent diabetic since the age of three, diabetic retinopathy and a moderate concussion caused her sight impairment. She was introduced to Guiding Eyes at a presentation during rehab training. After more mobility training, Jacquie had a tendency to veer. Finding herself in the middle of an intersection, she realized how helpful a dog would be, and she applied before returning to college.

Jacquie majored in social work and holds a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College and a masters from the University of Buffalo. She was employed for 16 years with the Erie County Health Department as a case worker, but was laid off last December when the program’s funding was eliminated.

She is an avid hockey fan and creates latch hook rugs and other small items. She enjoys reading and time with family.  She has a brother, sister-in-law and two nephews. Her retired dog is with her cousins while she bonds with Oak.

Jacquie is looking forward to the freedom of getting around safely with Oak.

Daniela and SalemDaniela and Salem
Daniela will return to school in Germany with her first guide dog Salem, a female black Lab.

She is studying music education and will begin teaching when she graduates. When she is not studying, Daniela enjoys listening to music, spending time with friends, and talking on the phone.

Bicycle riders are a bigger hazard in Germany than cars. While crossing the street she was run over by a bicyclist that couldn’t see her cane. Her first thought after hitting the ground was that it probably wouldn’t have happened with a guide dog.  “It didn’t feel quite real at first. I kept thinking I would wake up and Salem wouldn’t be with me. I am very overprotective of her and I am confident we will be a great working team when I return to school.”


Paula R. McPherson and LangPaula R. McPherson and Lang
Paula R. McPherson traveled from Virginia for her second guide dog Lang – yellow male Lab.

Paula was diagnosed at birth with Aniridia. She has a son and daughter and Blythe, her first guide dog, is retired with her.  Paula has a degree in healthcare management and graduated cum laude; she works as a professional advocate for the disabled.

She loves long walks, window shopping, watching General Hospital and enjoying life. She is a member of Toastmasters International and placed second in a recent regional meet. Paula finds her guide dog raises public awareness.

Paula’s boss was once working with another advocate on a social security hearing and told the peer about Paula’s guide dog.  The man decided that if he won the case, he would give his share to Guiding Eyes.  He ended up donating over a thousand dollars to the school, without ever having met Paula’s dog.

Lang is about the same size as Blythe which enabled Paula to win the September class “guess the weight of your dog” challenge. She first came to Guiding Eyes because she needed a well behaved, quiet dog that would not annoy others or cause distractions.  She’s found that again in Lang – and a whole lot more.

Miguel Palomar and AbrahamMiguel Palomar and Abraham
Miguel Palomar calls Texas home and will be returning with Abraham, a yellow male Lab and his first guide dog.

A pituitary tumor caused compression of Miguel’s optic nerves; surgery removed the tumor but the eye damage was extensive, and his sight will continue to deteriorate.

Miguel was majoring in speech pathology at Our Lady of the Lake University when his father became ill. He returned home to help support the family and was a wine sales rep for 22 years. The transition to visual impairment was difficult. He will attend the University of Texas and major in social work with a goal of working in rehabilitative services. He enjoys audio books and reading on his Nook.

The experience at Guiding Eyes has been incredible and emotionally overwhelming. Abraham is very smart and loving, and Miguel is amazed at everything the dog can do.   He is looking forward to the additional training he will receive adjusting to the college campus. His advice to someone considering Guiding Eyes: “Hold on, you are in for the ride of your life. These people are going to take care of you, and they are always just a phone call away.”

Sandra Parisi and DaphneSandra Parisi and Daphne
New Yorker Sandy Parisi has been matched with Daphne, a yellow female Lab and her second guide dog.

Sandy was born with retinitis pigmentosa and has limited central vision. She is the only member of her family that has it. Sandy grew up and raised her family in ski country; she has four boys, two girls and three grandchildren. The family lives nearby and visits often.

Sandy loves to cook and is a gourmet chef specializing in soups and pizza. She sews and makes quilts, and enjoys gardening. Summers are spent at the family home on the lake.

Daphne is her second dog from Guiding Eyes. “It’s like a family here.” Daphne is the total opposite from her retired dog Gail who is soft and mellow. Daphne is very assertive, feisty and playful. “Becoming one with the new dog, when everything comes together, is so rewarding.”

Sandy is looking forward to having Daphne for her morning walk and her volunteer work – reading at the local school and supporting Meals on Wheels.

Maria del Carmen Pimentel Colin and AmoreMaria del Carmen Pimentel Colin and Amore
Maria del Carmen Pimentel Colin is from Mexico.  Yellow Lab Amore will be her sixth guide dog.

Maria was born with congenital glaucoma and lost her vision at the age of nine. She shares her life with her husband, three children and three granddaughters, with a fourth one on the way.

She graduated from University with a degree in psychology and works in special education with blind children and teenagers. In her free time, she practices massage therapy specializing in pain management. Her hobbies include visiting with friends, music, parties, and  dancing. She has a passion for jewelry.

Maria was without a guide dog for a year prior to receiving Amore.  She is thankful and happy for the experience and looks forward to regaining her freedom and independence.

Maria Sanchez-Lopez and ClaytonMaria Sanchez-Lopez and Clayton
Maria Sanchez-Lopez is from Puerto Rico. She has been paired with her first guide dog Clayton, a black male Lab.

Late onset infantile diabetes caused Maria’s vision loss. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management.  She is a quiet, relaxed woman who enjoys listening to music, audio books, taking walks, and going shopping.

It was time for Maria to get a guide dog. Clayton will bring her more freedom to keep moving forward. She will be studying medical billing and plans to work from home. In Clayton she has comfort, friendship, someone who is always there for her. He will be more than her eyes; he will be a friend.



Robert "Kevin” Skelsey and HannyRobert “Kevin” Skelsey and Hanny
Canadian Kevin Skelsey was matched with yellow Lab Hanny through the ACTION program.

With three sisters, Kevin is the only boy in his family.  He considers himself a Renaissance man, majoring in business at Loyalist College and taking courses that interest him: media, business, finance, and his favorite field – technology. Kevin has a passion for movies and has a collection of 2000 titles – over two terabytes of movies.

Kevin was born with no sight in his left eye, and had an accident at 16 that caused the retina in his right eye to detach. Surgery reattached the retina but resulting scar tissue caused vision loss.

This time Kevin is paired with Hanny, a small, mellow dog. “She is a little princess with my type of attitude. I catch her giving people dirty looks while pushing them out of our way, all with a politeness that melts hearts.”  After two years of traveling with a cane, he welcomes this new adventure. “A dog draws more attention than the cane but it’s a different kind of attention. The dog is a friend, companion, she’s everything.”