Thursday, February 16, 2017

We are Moving ALong!

Here is a fun new video showing the progress that has been made on the building site so far, encouraging people to continue to support this project as the Center grows!  

Thanks to Eden Barayev, National Service volunteer, who produced the video!  Enjoy!  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guide Dogs and Dalmatians Get Together To Teach Kids about Guide Dogs and Heroism

Dalmatians have traditionally been associated with firefighters.  The speckled, robust dogs ran alongside horse-drawn firefighters' wagons, clearing the road of other carriages, people, and animals so firefighters could get through.  Since then they have served as mascots in fire stations and are often used as an icon in many educational programs for teaching children fire prevention and safety. It is no wonder that the Hero in You Foundation decided to adopt the Dalmatian as its symbol. 
The Hero in You Foundation was founded by Bunni and Rick Benaron of California following the events of 2001.  The foundation's objective is to honor first responders, who help in emergencies, and to teach children that they, too, can be heroes and perform good deeds to help others.  The foundation has erected numerous Dalmatian puppy statues in fire stations, schools, and parks throughout the United States to deliver the message that anyone can help others and perform heroic acts.
When the foundation offered the Center a donation of one of their colorful Dalmatian puppy statues, we decided that to place it in the nearby city of Yavneh where the important message would reach as many children and parents as possible.  In 2016 a Dalmatian puppy statue was placed in the city park in the "Green Neighborhood" in Yavneh. The expansive park has lawns, a pond, play equipment, and a dog park directly opposite the statue.
The center has joined the education department of the Yavneh municipality in launching an educational project that combines ideas of heroism, relationships between people and dogs, and the importance of our guide dogs in helping people with blindness and visual impairments overcome their disability.  The program, which was written by center graduate Bracha Ben-Avraham, is being presented to schools and kindergartens in Yavneh.  It's part of our effort to get our message across about the importance our heroic dogs are in improving the lives of blind and visually impaired people.
On February 9th the program was presented to two kindergartens in Yavneh, and the mayor of Yavneh Zvi Gov Ari, Noach Braun, Dennis Allon, and Bracha Ben Avraham and her guide dog Dinka and the children posed for photos next to the Dalmatian statue in the park.    

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Congratulations are in Order!

In addition to the usual reports of upcoming courses, activities, and news, today's staff meeting was marked by an exciting moment as Noach presented Yoav Ortov with his diploma certifying him as a guide dog mobility instructor.  Yoav began his apprenticeship in May 2013 and later spent six months at the Oregon Campus of Guide Dogs of America, where he learned many techniques and methods that he shared with his colleagues upon his return.  Yoav completed his final examinations of the International Guide Dog Federation to complete his training.  Upon receiving his diploma Yoav remarked, "I can't think of any work more rewarding than what I am doing here."  Congratulations to Yoav and success in his future work with us!

The staff also said goodbye to Yaniv Ben David, a volunteer from Munich who spent the past several weeks working in the kennels.  Yaniv, who loves dogs, is the son of an Israeli family who became acquainted with the center through his grandparents who are acquainted with center graduate Gadi Yarkoni. We wish Yaniv best of luck and hope to see him and other enthusiastic volunteers at the center in the future.
Yoav Ortov receiving his Guide Dog Instructor Qualification Certificate from Noach Braun

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Small Gifts from Big - Hearted Kids!

Since 2009 the Center has employed the clicker training method, which is based upon the idea of positive reinforcement of good behavior.  The method uses a clicker that makes a distinctive click to "mark" good behavior, followed by a food reward.  Puppies and guide dogs in training learn faster with this method and are highly motivated to do their job as guide dogs.  Our guide dog users are also taught to use clicker training to reinforce good behavior and to teach their dogs to locate useful locations such as the entrance to the bank or grocery store, and to lead their handlers to useful objects such as an empty seat on the train platform, a mailbox, or even an ATM machine.
What is more useful for a puppy walker or a guide dog handler than a bag to store treats when working outside?  Students from Jewish schools in London and Manchester provided a useful solution for carrying treats: They decorated small zippered treat bags for our puppies in training.  Each bag is decorated with a student's drawing or puppy's name.
Thanks to the students for their wonderful handiwork and for their thoughtfulness!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Miracles at Chanukah!

The landscape of the east side has changed from an empty parking area to a building site, and the noise of construction has accompanied daily life at the center for the past month.  We officially marked the beginning of the construction of the new Puppy Training and Development Center on Thursday, December 22nd with a festive and moving cornerstone laying ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by over 80 staff members, graduates, volunteers, supporters, and officials.  Noach opened the ceremony by noting the significance of the date, which is adjacent to the first night of Chanukah when he first met Norman Leventhal, co-founder of the center in 1986, thirty years ago.  The main speaker at the ceremony was Shmuel Weinglass, Director of the National Insurance Institute Fund for the Development of Services for Persons with Disabilities that pledged financial support for the construction of the new campus. Michael Leventhal, Executive Director of the Friends Organization in the U.S. spoke on behalf of our Friends organizations abroad, and Haim Shwartz, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the IGDCB spoke on behalf of the Board and Guide Dog users.  Among the many VIP's that attended were: Martin Segal, Executive Director of the UK Friends, Guy Simchi, Director of Disability Services for the Histadrut Labor Union, Michael Segal, Chairman of Eliya, Amos Beer, Director of the Central Library for the Blind, and Gila Zaidel from Ofek Liyladen. After the speeches and a short musical interlude guests lined up to sign the two scrolls – one of which was buried in the concrete foundations of the new building and the other which will be hung in the building upon its completion. 

It was a happy, emotional, and exciting day for everyone, and we are now looking forward to the day approximately a year from now when we cut the ribbon and dedicate the new campus!    

Saturday, December 17, 2016

At Last - We are Beginning Construction!

We are beginning to build!

Trees have been cut down, fences have been removed, there is noise and there will be chaos on campus, but we are happy: the construction of the new kennels and Puppy Breeding and Development Center is finally beginning!

This coming Thursday we will be holding a festive cornerstone laying ceremony for the new kennel and puppy breeding and development center.  The ceremony will be attended by the staff, friends, supporters, Mike Leventhal, his wife Sue, and his son Joel who will be joining us from the United States, and Martin Segal, Director of British Friends who will be arriving from London.

We look forward to this giant step in the enter's expansion and development that will enable us to provide more guide dogs in the future!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Canvelo at the Sportiada's first Tandem Biking COmpetition

The Sportiada in Eilat is Israel's biggest sporting event.  The annual event, sponsored by the Hapoel Sport Association, is attended by thousands of athletes from dozens of companies and businesses throughout the country who compete in a large number of individual and team sports.  This year's Sportiada featured a new event: a two-day tandem cycling competition.  This is the first time in its 36-year history that the Sportiada has featured an event for athletes with disabilities.  The tandem race consequently constitutes a major landmark in the history of sports in Israel.  Approximately 50 couples participated in the race - an amazingly large number of tandem bikes even by international standards.  
The 100 tandem riders included cyclists from the three Central, Sharon, and Northern Canvelo cycling clubs, as well as riders from "Aynayim L'Shnayim" (Eyes for Two) - a group from the upper Galilee and "Galgal Or" (Wheel of Light) from the Lighthouse for the Blind near Haifa.
The 10 and 20 kilometer routes in the two races were equally challenging to those designated for single bike riders, and demanded high levels of technique and skill.  Riders had to cope with the rugged desert terrain that featured sand, gravel, steep climbs, dizzying downhill slopes, crevasses, and boulders.
Aside from the excitement, sportsmanship, and camaraderie that prevailed during the competition itself, the tandem biking event in the Sportiada made a significant impact upon the thousands of athletes gathered in Eilat for the event.  The presence of a dozen guide dogs at the opening ceremony drew a great deal of attention - exposing the thousands of athletes to the idea that people with disabilities can excel in sports and be part of the Sportiada as equal participants.
The introduction of the tandem cycling competition to the Sportiada was promoted by Brig. Gen. (ret) Moti Regev, founder of Canvelo,together with Yoram Aranstein, CEO of the Hapoel Sport Association, Prosper Ben-Hemo, president of Hapoel, and Avi Nisankorn, president of the Histadrut and Guy SImchi, a graduate of the IGDCB and head of the department for employing persons with disabilities in the Histadrut.