The Seeing Eye Guide
A Magazine for Friends of The Seeing Eye
Volume 75, Number 3
A silver-haired woman is walking toward the camera, being led by a black Lab Seeing Eye dog along a winding sidewalk. She is wearing a red fleece jacket that has the words “The Seeing
Eye” on the chest. ththThe text reads, Inside: Our 15,000 Partnership, Josephine DeFini and Zion; 80 Anniversary
Celebrations; Pennies for Puppies.
A Seeing Eye Perspective
For many of us in the world of non-profit organizations, the end of 2009 could not have come soon enough. Given the state of the economy, one might think that in such a challenging year, it would be hard to find much of anything to celebrate. But here at The Seeing Eye, there has been great cause for celebration. Yes, it was – and continues to be – a difficult environment in which
to fundraise. Our donations were down considerably at the end of our fiscal year on September 30, but thanks to a decades-long commitment to fiduciary responsibility, The Seeing Eye was prepared and weathered the storm. When you think about it, that alone is cause for celebration.
Added to that source of optimism were a number of events that reconfirmed for us that ours is a thmission that resonates with old friends and new. Throughout our 80 Anniversary year of
celebrations, people surprised us with their passion, their commitment, and their dedication. We saw this time and time again, including during the Reunion, when we were joined by 200 graduates who traveled to our campus despite the recession, followed closely by our first-ever online auction during which friends and complete strangers helped us raise $75,000. In this issue of the Guide, you‟ll read about similarly inspiring events such as a Seeing Eye Friends reception
that generated $120,000, and the day that our local U.S. Representative asked all of Congress to express appreciation to our organization.
You‟ll also read in the following pages about two municipalities that demonstrated their support
by dedicating historic markers at The Seeing Eye‟s previous locations, and about several dozen small celebrations held by graduates and puppy raisers across the United States and Canada. As ththe year drew to a close, we announced the graduation of the 15,000 Seeing Eye team, pictured
on the cover of this issue. So, 2009 will be remembered here, not so much for its challenges, but for its affirmations.
This past year offers an interesting parallel to 1929, the year Dorothy Harrison Eustis, Morris Frank and a small cadre of instructors and canine specialists founded The Seeing Eye and launched the dog guide movement, built on the energy and passion of those who believed in their mission. The momentum they created carried them through the stock market crash after being in
existence only nine months, and through the ensuing Great Depression. Thanks to you, our friends and supporters, that momentum persists today, some eight decades later. In 2010 and beyond, we count on you to continue, and even increase, your support for our important work.
As President and CEO of The Seeing Eye, I am proud of the hard work and commitment of all our employees and volunteers and grateful for the loyalty and generosity of all our supporters. As a graduate of The Seeing Eye, I am so thankful for the life-changing dog that is always at my side and for those dogs that stood in Colby‟s place before him. This exceptional partnership, and
the 15,000 others made possible by so many hands, is what each and every one of our anniversary celebrations was all about. Although the year is over, the celebrations continue any time someone picks up a harness and gives the command to a Seeing Eye? dog … “Forward!”
Letters to The Seeing Eye
(Editor’s Note: In December, The Seeing Eye sent its graduates a CD that contained audiotaped
highlights from the graduate reunion held last August. We received the following letter in response:)
Dear Seeing Eye:
On a wet, Monday afternoon, under the influence of headphones, my mind and I went back to a warm, hectic, yet joyous weekend in August when Bailey and I ventured forth into history.
It began as a little idea, somewhere, and grew, and grew – something like that famous beanstalk
we read about as youngsters. We were aware of the bad economy, and yet ... we came. We flocked actually, and gathered to celebrate 80 years of independence provided to us by wonderful dogs, and those who so selflessly gave of their time, talent and money to make such a difference in our lives.
Sometimes, when I read publications put forth by organizations of and for the blind, I read of lawyers, doctors, teachers and educators who‟ve gained independence because of their dog
guides, but as I listened to the reunion CD, I was impressed over and over again by the regular ordinary folk who came because they loved what The Seeing Eye has done. They came because of what had blossomed in their lives on the other end of many leashes.
The joy that came over the miles and through the voices of so many really embodies what love is all about. It is like a candle that will never burn out in my heart. I could have received no finer gift than to share those precious moments with all of you who were able to attend, and even now share them with those who are bonded together because of our dogs.
When times are tough (and they can be), when we disagree with one another (and we sometimes do), I'll think of the conversations, the laughter, the tears and the heartfelt thanks that happened at this 80th reunion.
I wonder if heaven might be just a little bit like what we experienced.
Kae Seth and Bailey
Seeing Eye Graduates
(Editor’s Note: The following letter and beautiful pencil drawing came from noted artist Hava
Hegenbarth, who had a winning bid during our online auction to spend a day with a Seeing Eye tructor:) ins
Dear Seeing Eye Friends:
Thank you so much for the chance to spend a day with Seeing Eye instructors and dogs. It was a fun, educational, and wonderful experience of a lifetime! I shall never forget it and tell anyone who will listen all about it.
I deepened my appreciation for the work that you do so well. Again, heartfelt thanks and highest regards!
(Pencil drawing of adult and puppy German shepherds)
To the Staff of The Seeing Eye:
I am writing to express a huge sense of gratitude for the gift of this beautiful Seeing Eye dog named Anita. Not only has she given me greater safety as I walk down and cross streets, she has been an absolute joy to have in our home. I also want to thank all of you so much for treating me so well during our month of training to become a Seeing Eye team.
I learned early on when I got Anita how much pride she takes in doing a great job. We have had
a trip to New York City already, and she was stellar. She was great getting me across the busy streets of the city when I went from one meeting to another over a five-block distance. On one occasion, when we walked with my colleague, she kept me from getting hit. With my colleague walking behind my right shoulder, I gave Anita her forward command to cross Second Avenue.
No sooner had I stepped off the curb, Anita stopped abruptly. My colleague told me later that it
was a car turning in on the street and at a speed that forced the driver to stop very abruptly when they saw us crossing. She said that she had to just trust we knew what we were doing and didn‟t try to grab me or alarm Anita. I was so proud of Anita‟s good work.
I was reminded of the fabulous training Anita and I got from (Instructor) Denise Semchyshyn
and all of the support and encouragement we got from all of you. So, thank you!
Seeing Eye Graduate
A History-Making Partnership thThe Seeing Eye Announces Its 15,000 Match
by Michelle McQuigge
Josephine DeFini‟s first Seeing Eye dog guided her through the streets of Paris, the halls of her first college campus, and the hospital wards where she honed her skills as a social worker.
Seven more canine companions strode by her side as she wracked up graduate honors, forged a successful career, and traveled the globe from India to Africa.
And on his very first day on the job, DeFini‟s 9th dog guide led her straight into the annals of
Seeing Eye history.
DeFini and a boisterous black Labrador retriever named Zion became the 15,000th pair to
emerge from the Seeing Eye‟s training program and embark on a complex and rewarding partnership. News of the landmark match came as a shock to the life-long Manhattan resident, who maintains she is not easily surprised.
“I was astounded. It kind of put my whole life in front of me,” DeFini said. “It strengthens my
sense of connection to the school. They‟re a true part of my past and present, and they hold a special place for me.”
DeFini‟s deep-rooted relationship with The Seeing Eye extends over more than 50 years and contains dozens of happy associations, but began almost under duress. Taking her family‟s supportive advice, she went to the school in 1957 as an 18-year-old on the brink of her college days.
DeFini says her parents believed that a dog would maximize both her safety and independence as she traveled on campus. Halla, the German shepherd who became her first guide, was in fact the first service dog to grace the halls of Long Island‟s Adelphi University.
Her parents‟ foresight proved accurate, and DeFini lost no time in putting her new partner
through her paces. Just a year after leaving The Seeing Eye, Halla accompanied DeFini on an
exchange program through Europe, including a solo detour to Paris caused when the dog was turned away from the British border.
There was no lack of challenges on home soil, either. DeFini and Halla navigated campus
corridors and bustling Manhattan streets alike, working all the while to battle negative public perceptions about working animals.
“There was less tolerance in public settings, less appreciation of what a dog could do,” DeFini
said, adding that restaurants were particularly closed-minded back then. “I had to be prepared to
take a stand or even call in the Department of Health, which I did.”
DeFini also encountered prejudice in the hospitals where she was expected to advance her career as a social worker. Dogs were not permitted in most wards, and she says it took years for administrators to fully accept her canine companions.
DeFini‟s career flourished despite these barriers. After completing her master‟s degree at New York University and working briefly at a Catholic charity, she embarked on a two-year stint at the Lighthouse International rehabilitation agency for the visually impaired. This was followed by 20 years at Manhattan‟s Beth Israel Medical Center, where she worked with drug rehab patients as well as those in the in-patient psychiatric unit.
She was eventually recruited back to the Lighthouse where she served as the director of the mental health center until her retirement in 2008. During that time, DeFini completed her Ph.D. at NYU and found time to travel extensively, often accompanied by her latest Seeing Eye dog.
thZion may have big shoes to fill, but DeFini reports the canine half of the 15,000 team is living
up to the challenge with poise and confidence.
His treks through downtown Manhattan are punctuated with frequent trips to the gym, soirees at local restaurants and lively play sessions with his favorite squeak toy. DeFini says Zion is
benefiting from the wisdom she‟s accumulated over the years and is getting a very different working experience than his predecessors.
“I‟m a much wiser parent,” she said, likening her earlier dog-guide partnerships to a mother
learning how to take care of her first child. “When I was a first-time dog user, I was more
embarrassed about things, but now I don‟t care. I go along the street talking to my dog all the time.”
DeFini says the bonding process remains the hardest part, saying that handlers of every experience level must learn to trust their guides while still remaining in control.
“One of the things that The Seeing Eye taught me is that making a mistake is not the problem; knowing how to correct it is what‟s important,” she said. “The skill is really knowing how to take charge of the situation.”
DeFini‟s stellar dog-handling abilities, impressive career and winning personality have made her a source of admiration for Dave Johnson, The Seeing Eye‟s Director of Instruction and Training.
Her place in Seeing Eye history is only appropriate, he said, adding that she epitomizes the independence and determination The Seeing Eye has always stood for.
“She has such a presence,” Johnson said. “She‟s had this list of extraordinary dogs and she‟s
traveled the world. It‟s only fitting that she be the one to fall into that place.”
For her part, DeFini gives credit to the school that made the match possible.
“I‟m a product of what The Seeing Eye has done and what they‟ve produced,” she said. “They‟ve helped mold my sense of independence.”
Photo of Josephine DeFini, kneeling down and holding Zion‟s face in her hands.
(Michelle McQuigge is a reporter and editor for the Canadian Press. She graduated with her third Seeing Eye dog, Reva, in the same September 2009 class with Josephine DeFini and ZION.)
One Story Among 15,000
In September 2009, as the class of 21 students walked through the front door of The Seeing Eye, led by their newly graduated dog guides, one team carried with it a special significance. This thparticular partnership represents the 15,000 time a Seeing Eye dog has been matched with and
graduated alongside a person who is blind.
The team‟s accomplishment is special, to be sure, but not at all unique. “Multiply the success of this new partnership by 15,000,” said President & CEO Jim Kutsch, “and you begin to understand the magnitude of the impact made possible by all those who have supported our thmission for the past 80 years. In effect, the 15,000 dog is really no different than number
14,999. Our promise is the same for all of our graduates – to provide ongoing support and
commitment to them by providing the best dog guides in the world.”
Changing Lives, One Penny at a Time
Almost 20 years ago, employees at the international pharmaceuticals corporation, Merck and Company, started a trend that hundreds of other organizations and individuals have since followed. The simple idea of educating others about The Seeing Eye and encouraging them to offer financial support has built awareness among thousands of people whose contributions now total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As the combined educational/fundraising campaign became formalized as the Pennies for Puppies?/Dollars for Dogs? program, it has become increasingly popular as a way for schools, churches, civic organizations, and businesses to participate in community service, spreading throughout the United States and into areas of Canada.
The Seeing Eye provides educational materials and, whenever possible, sends speakers to the participating organizations to increase awareness of the capabilities of people who are blind and the benefits they gain by partnering with Seeing Eye dogs. In one program, children might hold a car wash or organize a “read-a-thon,” while in a more corporate setting, employees might
donate a dollar each to wear jeans on a “denim day.” But whatever the methodology, the result is the same … even the smallest of contributions add up in a way that lives are impacted in a
While many volunteers assist in making the fundraising events possible, the bulk of the program‟s day-to-day tasks over the past four years have been accomplished by one volunteer, Meg Berlin, recipient of last year‟s Volunteer of the Year Award.
“The average amount raised is about $600,” said Berlin. “As important as the fundraising is, the educational component is just as significant. Each program is an opportunity to tell perhaps hundreds of others about the work of The Seeing Eye.” In the past fiscal year, 107 organizations conducted campaigns (“Pennies for Puppies” being the name usually used by schools or youth organizations and “Dollars for Dogs” by companies or adult-oriented groups).
Any organization raising $5,000 or more gains the opportunity to name a Seeing Eye puppy, just as any other donor at the $5,000 level.
To find out about holding a Pennies for Puppies or Dollars for Dogs event at your school, church, company, or civic organization, please email email@example.com or call (800) 539-4425.
(Photos of a group of children crowded around a golden retriever and of a woman in a classroom, seated beside that same dog. Caption reads: Pennies for Puppies? volunteer Meg Berlin and other representatives visit schools whenever possible, so participants in the program get a “hands-on” experience with a Seeing Eye dog.)
‘Take Your Child to Work Day’ Becomes a Way to Make a Difference
At the Bridgewater, N.J., office of Dr. Reddy‟s Laboratories, executive assistant Lynn Friend volunteered to help organize the pharmaceutical firm‟s popular “Take Your Child to Work Day.”
As a member of the organizing committee, Friend suggested that perhaps it would be fun for the employees‟ children to make the day about much more than just work. “Our company, which is based in India, is very involved in all types of worthwhile causes, so I thought it would be appropriate to support that sense of community involvement during this event for the kids.”
The Seeing Eye immediately came to her mind, since she has been a volunteer puppy raiser since 2007. About six weeks ahead of the event, Friend distributed piggy banks for the staff to take home to their children so they could begin to collect pennies well ahead of time. “I also put a big
piggy bank in our staff kitchen,” she said. “On Take Your Child to Work Day, we had about 26 kids here, and they all brought their piggy banks. A speaker from The Seeing Eye came with a dog and talked about blindness and about how the dogs help blind people.”
In past years, she said, Take Your Child to Work Day meant finding jugglers or animal experts to keep the children entertained. “This was a way for them to have fun but also to learn about something really important. It was a big hit … the kids loved it!”
(Photo of a large jar decorated with a photo of three puppies and the words “Pennies for Puppies.”)
Pennies for Puppies Creates a School Tradition
For many schools, whether public or private, community service is a significant part of the thcurriculum, even in the early grades. Four years ago, parents of 4 graders at St. David‟s School
in New York City made a service project decision that became a school tradition, almost overnight.
“The class parents were interested in finding a project the boys could really involve themselves thin and take the lead,” said Ali Aoyama, currently dean of students who was a 4-grade teacher at
the time at this private boys‟ school. “They didn‟t want another project that was simply a matter
of saying, „Boys, you need to bring in money,‟ but rather, one that the boys could own.”
One of the mothers, Connie Hayes, was battling cancer that fall of 2005, and she suggested they create a program to raise money for The Seeing Eye. Her son, Henry, took the lead, and even though he lost his mom that December, he and the other students only worked harder, making the Pennies for Puppies project a tribute to his mother.
th“Each year since, the 4 graders have continued to organize their own Pennies for Puppies thprojects,” said Aoyama. Henry is in 8 grade now, and he is one of the ambassadors whom the
younger students can depend on for advice in running the program. The boys brainstorm ways to promote and organize the fundraiser, including decorating collection boxes with Seeing Eye pictures, holding Valentines Day bake sales, creating posters, and making lunchtime announcements.
The educational part of the program lasts throughout the school year, as the boys learn about blindness and about sensitivity toward people with different needs, but the fundraising aspect lasts only one month. Near the end of the fund drive, Pennies for Puppies volunteer Meg Berlin and Seeing Eye graduate Alexandra Elman have attended a school assembly, and the boys get to see and hear first-hand how Seeing Eye dogs can change lives. “The boys introduce the speakers and chaperone Alex and Meg for the day,” said Aoyama. “This has been a great community builder, to see families come together and have everyone rally behind one cause.”
(Photo of nine boys in jackets and ties standing behind a table filled with baked treats. Caption reads: Students at St. David‟s School conduct a Valentine‟s bake sale to raise money for The Seeing Eye.)
Young Woman Adds Social Service to an Important Rite of Passage
As much as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a religious event to mark the end of childhood, this rite of passage is also a chance for many Jewish youth to demonstrate the social responsibility that comes with this next phase of life.
At age 12 for girls and 13 for boys, part of the Mitzvah process is to act on something they feel passionately about. For more and more youth, that act has been to conduct a Pennies for Puppies or Dollars for Dogs project within their communities. Two years ago, Montville, N.J., resident
Rachel Langer selected The Seeing Eye as her Bat Mitzvah project because of her passion for animals.
“If I could do something to help animals and people at the same time, that would be even better,” she said.
She learned about The Seeing Eye at school, she said, and in preparation for her project, visited the dog guide school during one of the regularly scheduled tours, about 15 miles from her home. “There was a woman there who came into the room with her dog and talked about how her life
was changed. What stuck with me was how the dogs have such an impact and help people have so much more confidence.”
Rachel asked a Pennies for Puppies volunteer to visit her Hebrew school and the pre-school to talk about dog guides and to kick off the campaign. Volunteers worked closely with her to provide appropriate literature and to answer all her questions so she would feel comfortable making presentations about The Seeing Eye.
Her mother, Madelyn Langer, cherishes an added bonus of her daughter‟s visit to The Seeing Eye. “She took her grandfather with her, and the bond they built was so nice to see,” she said. “We are very proud of Rachel. We could not be more impressed with her determination and success, and we appreciate The Seeing Eye allowing Rachel to participate in its cause.”
(Photo of Rachel Langer kneeling beside a young yellow Lab.)
For Merck Employees, the Giving Continues
Visit the Merck office in Rahway, N.J., and you will find the usual accessories on the desks of most employees: staplers, tape dispensers, pencil cups … paper bags?
That‟s right; paper bags. And when one of those paper bags gets filled with loose change, it will thbe replaced with an empty one. This year, for the 20 time, the Merck employees in the Rahway
and Westpoint, Pa., offices, as well as the world headquarters located in Whitehouse Station, N.J., will donate their spare change to The Seeing Eye as the very first and longest-continuing participant in the Pennies for Puppies program.
It all started with one employee, recalled Merck‟s Manager of Communications and Community Relations Gail Driscoll. “He was interested in The Seeing Eye and worked with them to come up with this campaign. It truly started out grassroots, and we‟ve just always continued it.”
Last fiscal year, the employees collected $4,396, all by keeping the tall, narrow bags on their desks and at key locations throughout the complex. Many employees take the bags home and empty the change from their pockets into the bags each night.
At Merck, the employee who kicked off the idea has since retired and the work falls to a small committee that makes sure to share announcements about the program‟s progress as well as information about the puppies that have been sponsored through their donations.
“It‟s all a reflection of our corporate commitment to promote volunteerism,” said Driscoll. “It‟s a connection outside of our Merck world to those in need, and a connection that‟s very much resonated with our employees. We all see how – even by just doing a little bit at a time – we‟re
able to make a difference in someone‟s life”
A Year of Celebrations
Grads & Puppy Raisers Spread the Anniversary Spirit
When Seeing Eye graduate Irma Smalley Herzog turned 80 last spring, she celebrated the milestone with more than 40 family members and friends at a restaurant near her Rochester,
N.Y., home. But Herzog made sure she and her dog Herbie were not the only focus of the party,
as she saw to it that another 80-year-old shared the spotlight.
In the months leading up to the event, Herzog asked her family to make it a party for The Seeing Eye, as well. As a result, other local dog guide users were present, and party favors and thank you cards were in Braille in addition to print. “Seeing Eye … you‟re only two months older than
I am!” she announced, as she thanked all her guests for their best wishes.
Across the United States and Canada, similar local get-togethers took place all year long, as thgraduates and puppy raisers found opportunities to salute the 80 Anniversary of The Seeing Eye.
During a year when good news was in short supply, it was heartwarming to hear about the many ways The Seeing Eye‟s friends found to celebrate the school‟s eight decades of helping people
who are blind change their lives.
Graduate Debbie Phillips, with her current dog Lamar, is known throughout her Colville, Wash.,
neighborhood for her beautiful singing voice, so when she was asked to sing at the annual block party, she took the opportunity to unveil an anniversary cake and tell the crowd about The Seeing Eye. She topped it all off by singing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” dedicating her performance to the instructors and others who made it possible for her to spend the past 28 years being guided by Seeing Eye dogs.
The Ocean County, N.J., puppy raising club and local Seeing Eye graduate Mike Moran, with his dog Kurt, attended a Brick Township council meeting, where the township entered a resolution wishing the school “a wonderful anniversary year and continued success in their
mission.” Moran and the puppy raisers received a town proclamation declaring March 18, 2009, as “The Seeing Eye Day.”
Nova Scotia graduate Meredith Ripley-Brown mentioned to her Halifax church that she wanted
to hold a celebration for local graduates and wondered if she could use the fellowship hall. Not only did St. Margaret‟s of Scotland Church donate the space, but on Sept. 26, the women‟s