The cover shows a young woman with long blonde hair hugging a yellow Labrador/golden retriever cross. The woman has her eyes closed and is smiling; the dog also has her eyes closed and appears to be smiling. The text on the cover reads The Seeing Eye Annual Report 2016.
Letter from the President & CEO
Letter from the Officers
Executive Office and Leadership Team
ON THE COVER:
Nikki Bataille with her first Seeing Eye dog, a yellow Labrador/golden retriever cross named June. The two were matched in August 2016.
“June loves her job,” Nikki said. “When she’s working, I can feel her tail hitting my leg because it’s always wagging! I know she’s happy to be guiding me. Even when she’s off harness, she still follows me everywhere. She just loves being with me. She’s such a sweetheart!”
Nikki is a freshman majoring in music at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. She is a singer and also plays the guitar.
“I love the feeling of having a Seeing Eye dog, because it just feels like… you’re walking!” she said. “When I was a kid I had a lot more vision, and I could walk around on my own, at my own speed. And now I have that feeling again.”
Your generous support in 2016 helped make this partnership and many more possible. We hope you enjoy reading about some of the other success stories you helped create.
2016 was an outstanding year. The Seeing Eye completed – a year early! – our five-year capital campaign. Our goal was sustainability: If we could raise $10,000,000 over five years to add to our endowment, a conservative 5 percent draw would cover half of our annual costs. Thanks to the generosity of individuals, foundations, and corporations, we raised over $11,500,000, exceeding our goal by 15 percent. Although some pledge payments remain to be received, we officially brought the capital campaign to a very successful close on July 30, 2016. The success of our capital campaign, in conjunction with annual fundraising and endowment performance, helps ensure that The Seeing Eye will be here to meet the needs of current graduates and future applicants as long as people who are blind or visually impaired need Seeing Eye dogs.
In order for Seeing Eye dogs to serve as guides, they must exhibit sophisticated skills such as impulse control, flexible attention and independent problem solving. The Seeing Eye is currently in the final phase of a puppy development study in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania. A Penn psychology graduate student, assisted by three Penn undergraduates, spent time at our Chester Breeding Facility and at our Stabile Canine Health Center following a group of 137 pups from birth to completion of The Seeing Eye program. The study includes behavioral testing and analyzing cortisol levels in the saliva of the dogs. Each puppy’s early experiences, behavioral differences and personalities over time were studied, and a biostatistician compiled and analyzed the extensive information. It is the goal of the study to improve our understanding of behavioral development in regard to temperament and cognition. Collaborations such as this one are important as The Seeing Eye continues to strive to provide the best dogs to our returning graduates and new students.
In June, The Dinner Party for The Seeing Eye was held on campus, with 115 attendees enjoying the culinary skills of eight local chefs. Guests also enjoyed a video about The Seeing Eye, a graduate speaker and a live auction. Over $110,000 was raised for our mission. Other campus events included our Donor Appreciation Reception in November which recognized the generous annual support of donors and our Heritage Society/Shepherd Society luncheon in May honoring individuals who have named The Seeing Eye in their estate plans and those who have made at least 25 gifts in the past 25 years to The Seeing Eye.
Other highlights of Fiscal Year 2016 include:
We served 253 students, received 420 applications, and accepted 277 candidates into our program. (Some candidates accepted in 2016 will attend in 2017.)
We continued our follow-up support for our 1,751 actively working Seeing Eye teams, with Seeing Eye instructors conducting follow-up visits to Seeing Eye graduates in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and five Canadian provinces.
At our Chester breeding facility, 504 puppies were whelped from 65 litters, with an average litter size of 7.7 puppies. The success rate for the dogs that returned to campus from their puppy raising families and went on to graduate from the program or entered the breeding program was approximately 75 percent, allowing us to train only the very best dogs, and to find the very best match for each of our students. We had 511 active families participating in puppy development in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New York by providing foster homes for our puppies.
Family Day, always a highlight of the year at The Seeing Eye, was held on Saturday, August 20. The Seeing Eye staff welcomed more than 1,300 puppy raisers and their families to campus. In addition to awarding scholarships to 42 college-bound puppy raisers, events included instructor demonstrations, exhibits on career change dogs, and presentations and question-and-answer sessions with Seeing Eye graduates. The day also included the following presentations from Seeing Eye instructors, Chester breeding station employees, kennel staff, and a history of the guide dog movement.
The Seeing Eye was well-represented at the conferences of other blindness-related and guide dog organizations. Attendance at these conferences gives us the opportunity to keep abreast of the industry and share best practices. Seeing Eye staff members attended the annual meeting of the Council of U.S. Dog Guide Schools in October 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada; the International Guide Dog Federation Seminar in May 2016 in Hvar, Croatia; the National Federation of the Blind convention in June/July 2016 in Orlando, Florida; and the American Council of the Blind convention in July 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Seeing Eye also hosted the International Guide Dog Federation board meeting in November 2015 on our Washington Valley campus.
This year, The Seeing Eye urged the New Jersey Assembly and Senate to post a bill that would exempt guide dogs and service dogs temporarily placed in foster homes (in our case our puppy raisers) from dog licensing and registration tag requirements. It was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in December 2015.
In February, we launched a new social media campaign with an aim toward adding Facebook followers to our donor file. The campaign is based on “Mickey,” a fictional Seeing Eye dog, and his friends “Sarge” and “Gabby.” The dogs write “pupdates” from their perspectives about our program, puppies and graduates on our Seeing Eye Facebook page and weekly email recaps of their most popular Facebook posts. We increased our number of Facebook followers to 156,400 and our Twitter followers to over 5,700.
Thank you for making 2016 such a successful year for The Seeing Eye. Your support of our mission has enhanced the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of hundreds of people who are blind or visually impaired through the use of our amazing dogs.