I've been involved as a Puppy Raiser volunteer for Southeastern Guide Dogs for over 12 years and as a member of the Board of Directors for 9 years. I've seen the organization go through tough times and good times. Through it all, they've maintained a high degree of integrity and positivity. I'm honored to be a part of this organization which changes lives in a very unique and individualized way - one dog and one person at a time. If you love dogs, this organization celebrates the elite of the service dog worlds. If your passion is helping people with one of the most challenging of physical challenges - loss of eyesight, this organization celebrates the abilities and independence of a population of America that is historically underserved. Your involvement with Southeastern Guide Dogs, as a volunteer, student, graduate or donor, is an experience that is life-changing.
This is an extremely well run organization, that places guide dogs at no cost to the recipient. These dogs are transformational.
I have been involved with Southeastern for more than a decade, beginning as a "puppy raiser" and now as a member of the Board of Directors. My time is scarce -- and the fact that I am connected with a Florida entity although I live in Texas I believe speaks to how much I value the work that SEGD does, and how effective they are in addressing the independence of the visually impaired. This is a charity that doesn't have a lot of money, but what they do have is the almost boundless enthusiasm of volunteers and a core group of staff that is extremely good at what they do. There is absolutely nothing as inspiring as hearing the story of someone who is visually disabled and has really been given their freedom back through the use of a guide dog. Great work being done by SEGD in Florida.
Blindness is a life altering disability. One must be dependent on others for even the basic needs, especially mobility. Our school breeds, raises and trains dogs to serve as guides and partners for our blind clients. These clients come for all backgrounds and lose their sight from illness, accidents, genetic conditions, and, tragically, as a result of war activities while serving their country. My involvement began with raising puppies for the school. I thought it would be great to be able to take a dog with me anywhere! After 18 months, Kandi, my first pup, was returned to school for training. Five months later, I met her blind owner, heard her story and realized I was doing so much more than raise a puppy. Four of the six dogs I have raised to date are working with their blind owners. The last, Angel, with a 26 year career Army Col, is allowing her owner to, truly, make a difference in the world. The cost of producing a dog who can guide is high, some say too high, relative to the needs of others in the world. Our Board and our organization is constantly looking for ways to improve our product, our service and keep our costs reasonable. A visit to the school is life changing. If lucky, the puppy kennel will be open for the popular public "puppy hugging" event. You will not be the same afterward.
We are a local home grown organization dedicated to serve the visually impaired and blind. Now 30 years later a self sufficient non governmental institution serving our clients throughout Florida and the Southeastern USA. We also have a special relationship with all our volunteers and donors who give of time and money. We are proud of our efficiency never wasteful of our resources. We have a special duty to our armed services who deserve a special place when we can help. Its about the people; it is a second family.
As a 10 year Board member of Southeastern Guide Dogs (SEGD), I have witnessed the miracle and life changing event each time our guide dog school provides a FREE guide dog and training. Our blind clients arrive at our school for a 26 day training class with their new guide dog that is given to them after they arrive. They are afraid, alone, and dependent. They leave with a new sense of purpose - with a newly felt independence, freedeom & dignity and happiness - if that is now fullfilling for those who serve as volunteers, then NOTHING will. My heart soars like an eagle each time I see our graduation class tell their story - how they lost their eye-sight & how their new guide dog will change their life. I wish more people could witness this miracle - I have no doubt that God smiles when he looks down on our beloved school and also know that when he looks down at graduation, it brings a tear to His eye! Our Paws for Patriots program also elicts the same feelings. The best example is retired US Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell - the Lone Survivor of a 2005 mission in NE Afghanistan. His 4 man crew was surprised by 150 Talaiban and 3 died after bravely holding off the enemy for hours. A Special Operations Chinook helicopter was sent after them & shot down by a Taliban RPG - 18 Navy Seals and Special Operators were killed - the worst loss of life for US Special Operations ever. Marcus Luttrell, severely wounded with an AK-47 bullet in his leg and a broken back, crawled 7 miles on his hands and knees to a Pastun village who protected him. He wrote a book called Lone Survivor and became the #1 seller on the NY TImes Best Seller List. A movie is being filmed in the Spring of 2011. I received a call from the US Special Operations Care Coalition asking us if we could supply a SEGD Therapy Dog for Marcus as he was having trouble sleeping, had aniexty, & other PTSD issues. After doing our due diligence, we supplied him with Rigby, a yellow lab from our school - it has changed his life and he has now dedicated his life to his new Lone Survivor Foundation which will provide a peaceful multi-acre getaway where would soldiers and their families can rest, fish, horse-back ride, etc ......recover from their wounds - both phyical and mental. Yes, Southeastern Guide Dog is making a huge difference in the lives of thousands!