Success Stories

Ryan and Kappa

My name is Ryan and I live in Aiken SC. I received my MIRA dog in 2011 when I was 14 years old. Kappa has changed my life in many ways. I have always been active; I enjoy sports, being outdoors, hanging out with friends and my independence is very important to me. With Kappa, I can do all of these things. I run track with Kappa, and I run cross country for my high school team. I will begin college in September 2015 with Kappa by my side.

This summer, Kappa and I flew by ourselves to Baltimore, MD to attend a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics camp at Towson University. It was an awesome experience. Kappa helped me ALOT through the airport and around campus. I am glad that Kappa was with me; he gave me and my parents the confidence that everything would be fine. More importantly, I feel like I am ready for independent travel and even college!

I can’t imagine my life without Kappa and I am looking forward to the adventures that are in store for us!

Sammy and Gale

Welcome to my world, Samantha (Sammy) world. I am blind and have had to depend on others to help me get around. Two years ago, I was selected by MIRA USA to receive a MIRA guide dog and that has changed my life in so many good ways. The training necessary for getting a guide dog is intense. First is the selection process; then extensive training. Finally the success of having the guide dog.

My MIRA guide dog, Gale, is a delight. He is quiet and reserved, friendly, too, but when he is on harness, he totally concentrates on guiding me. People come up to talk with him but I have taught him to take a step back and just stay right by my side. It gives me time to tell people that he is working and that they should not pet him. He is just about perfect.

We walk together and now it is fun to take walks because I don’t have to hold on to another person. We have learned many things together. He has kept me from walking into posts, and holes, and signs and people. He smoothly guides me around objects. He is very responsive to my commands.

High School is difficult when one can’t see. People are hesitant to talk with a blind person; even teachers sometimes think we can’t do things. With Gale, people are less afraid to come up to me and the teachers have gotten used to having Gale as a silent student in the classroom. Having Gale lets everyone see that I am capable and they respect me as an honor student. Students are curious about him and come and ask questions. Many feel more comfortable with me because of Gale.

This summer I went to a surfing camp and it was super fun. Gale came with me but no, he didn’t surf, but he sat on the sand and never took his eyes off me. I love to sing and write stories and I just finished a 5K run with Gale. He truly is a super guide dog.

I can’t tell you in words what Gale means to me. He gives me safety and freedom, he gives me independence and comfort. I feel so able to do things with him by my side. A guide dog is the perfect companion for a blind teenager. MIRA USA is the only group in the United States that gives guide dogs to youngsters under the age of 17. I love MIRA for what they have done for me with Gale.

I am now sixteen. People see sixteen as a special birthday and many people want cars or fancy parties and other things. What I want for my sixteenth birthday is for people to send money to MIRA in my name so I can help another blind child get a guide dog that will change that child’s life as Gale has changed mine. I hope you will help me reach my goal.

AJ and Martin

Meet Martin, my MIRA guide dog. I am AJ and Martin has become everything to me in so many ways. Let me tell you a bit of my history. There have been many things in my lifetime that have made me very uncomfortable and often this includes people and relationships. When one is blind, it is hard to imagine some things.

Think of the idea of a circle of friends. Most people can picture or imagine that. But, if you are blind, the idea of circle means nothing unless someone has introduced you to that shape physically and explained what it means. I did understand this and I knew that I was not in a circle of friends.

All through the first twelve years of school, I was an outsider. I was put in a special class. I was not taught the same things other students were taught. It was as if being blind meant that I had no brain and no feelings. Perhaps the teachers were never exposed to blindness before me. I can understand that but at least they could have tried to work with me. Instead, I think they were afraid of me so it was easier to have me out of sight. Of course, that meant that I didn’t have friends my age. Think of it…no education, no friends so what comes next, no future?

Some of my teachers and my guidance counselors told me that I would never go to college; that I couldn’t do it. Well, I made it out of the 12th grade and then, with great investigation on the part of my mother, we found MIRA and the people there treated me as someone who was capable and could learn things well enough to try for a guide dog.

I worked my butt off to learn what I had to learn in Orientation and Mobility. I could say that my white cane was on fire as I kept learning the things I needed in order to get a guide dog. Well, MIRA accepted me and I trained harder than I could ever imagine with Martin. We worked ever day, every hour for four long weeks.

Yes, it was exhausting but it was great. I was learning and I was doing things right because Martin followed my commands. At the end of the month, I felt like I was the person I could have been before, but now it was even better. No more white care to keep people away; no more bumping into things and scaring people by accidentally hitting them. No more people telling me I wasn’t able to learn things. I had Martin and he listened to me and I listened to him. We were a team setting out into my new world.

Now I am in college and doing well in my classes. I have a lot to learn since much of my education before was missing but I’m working at it and I’m proud of what I am doing. I am majoring in Education and hope to work in Early Childhood Education.

Remember that circle of friends I wrote about earlier? Well, I am in a circle of friends now. Martin helps with that. People think he is quite handsome and of course he is. I hang out with friends and it is fun to be part of this world. And, Martin and I were in the lead car in our local parade and our picture is on the front cover of our public phone book. That is pretty neat.

I owe this all to MIRA who had faith in me and of course, to Martin, my very best pal who has helped me find this great new world I now live in.

Michael and Robby

Hi, My name is Michael, and I am currently in college studying web design. I find it challenging and creative. My interests include: swimming, cooking, anything technology related, musical instruments, working out occasionally, martial arts, and of course, traveling with my guide dog Robby.

I received Robby from MIRA in 2011, and my life has never been the same since. He’s improved my quality of life in more ways than I could possibly hope to write down. He’s not only my eyes, but he’s the best friend and partner I could ever ask for.

Before Robby, traveling alone was extremely difficult, not to mention socially awkward. Now, not only do I travel alone with a ton more confidence, but I have a blast while doing it! Gone are the days of colliding with every single flower pot and table in my path, and being asked constantly, “Are you ok? Where’s your helper?”

Navigating crowds and obstacles has become so easy with Robbie in fact, that most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it.

This new-found independence is beyond anything I ever thought was possible. Now I know, however, that it is possible, because the people at MIRA and Robby have given me the confidence to make it so.

Now that Robby and I are a team, I feel that I can live my life to the fullest every day, and nothing is beyond my reach.

Meredith and Recchi

My name is Meredith Ballard and I graduated from Appalachian State University with a major in psychology. I began law attend law school September 2014. I was very unsure if I was ready for a guide dog or if it was the right thing for me. Before I could get my dog I had to go through a screening process to evaluate my skills in orientation and mobility.

During high school I had been fortunate enough to have great O and M instruction, so I felt comfortable with my cane and with navigation. This is the most important area for prospective students to focus on—you will always need to maintain your orientation and mobility skills, whether you have a guide dog or just a cane.

I’m so glad that I made the decision to get a guide dog, and specifically to get one from Mira. I’ve had my dog Recchi for two years now and I wouldn’t change anything about the experience because Recchi isn’t just a great guide dog, she is also an excellent companion. She constantly surprises me with how much she knows or remembers. I can revisit a classroom I used the previous semester and Recchi will remember what seat I sat in, or the route I took to leave the building. She remembers which machines I use at the gym and she can follow a hostess to a table in a restaraunt.

Sometimes the smaller things my dog can do make a huge impression on me—like finding an empty seat on the bus. For a blind person with a cane, that can be a difficult, often embarassing process, but with my guide dog it’s very simple.

Improved safety is one of the biggest advantages to having a guide dog, not to mention the increased speed and convenicnce of travel. When I cross an intersection with Recchi I’m the one listening to the cars and judging when to cross, but she is the one making sure I stay in the walkway and that I make it to the opposite corner. Recchi stops at the opposite curb, so I know exactly where I am. When I’m going to the grocery store or the pharmacy I tell her “inside” and she can find the door easily. I can tell her to find counters, chairs, doors, staircases, and even familiar people.

As a blind person, it can be very easy to find yourself with a very limited world. It takes practice and effort to learn orientation and mobility, or to complete the extra forms, tests, and complications that arise when you’re a visually impaired person in college. When you’re born without sight you will have to work harder to acomplish the same goals as your sighted peers, but independence is definitely possible.

I am very lucky to have a guide dog from Mira, and I hope that other blind children can be as fortunate in the future.