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Guiding Eyes: Syracuse Students Raising Future Guide Dogs

Guiding Eyes

Meet Tarzan and Juan, the newest members of Syracuse University’s community, bringing joy and purpose with their wagging tails and friendly demeanor.

Tarzan, a one-year-old black lab, and Juan, a four-month-old yellow lab, are puppies being raised by Arianna Kuhn ’25, and Megan Panny ’25 for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This nonprofit organization trains guide dogs to assist people with vision loss.

Campus Engagement and Inspiration

Kuhn, a biology major, and Panny pursuing dual degrees in English and education, were drawn to Guiding Eyes through campus outreach efforts led by Mary Oonk. Guiding Eyes, founded in 1954 and headquartered in Yorktown Heights, New York, operates with over 1,700 volunteers along the Eastern Seaboard.

Guiding Eyes provides all its services free of charge, relying on dedicated volunteers like Kuhn and Panny to raise and train future guide dogs. Both students empathized with the mission of the organization and wanted to give life to their love of animals through service to the community.

The Guiding Eyes and Syracuse University partnership truly began with just one call that Oonk made, who brought the program to campus through the JMA Wireless Dome, with the partnership quickly growing to include regular training sessions and attending university events to further socialize the puppies.

Transformative Experiences and Community Support

Stephen Kuusisto, a University Professor, and advocate for the visually impaired shared personal stories relating to his guide dogs and how they empowered his life. Through advocacy and promotion of the services of Guiding Eyes, student-faculty-staff relationships have been born to begin integrating, embracing challenges, and growth.

While raising guide dogs does pose logistical problems in the middle of the busy SU campus, such as housing restrictions for puppies in training, Syracuse University continues to throw its full support behind the Guiding Eyes mission. The club’s display at campus events and their activities among students keep growing, offering a very wide scope of opportunities for engagement.

Building Lifelong Bonds and Friendship

For Kuhn and Panny, the Guiding Eyes program has been much more than merely an act of service and responsibility; through the Central New York community, it has solidified lifelong friendships. Their loyalty alone speaks to the program accomplishing more than training a guide dog when it comes to establishing relationships at a personal level.

Want to get involved as a puppy raiser or in another way for that matter? Guiding Eyes is eager to have all faculty, staff, and students participate in the experience of raising these incredible animals. As Kuhn and Panny can also attest, the benefits go far beyond campus involvement; it’s about making a direct impact on the life of another human being.

Conclusion: A Shared Commitment to Service and Empowerment

Kuhn, Panny, and hundreds of other volunteers care. That spirit of caring is exemplified in the work of Guiding Eyes for the Blind at Syracuse University. Guiding Eyes for the Blind at Syracuse University is truly raising and training guide dogs to do so much more than change any one particular life—it is fostering campus connections across campus and around campus.