MRIA FoundationUSA sent six blind students to the world renowned training center at MIRA Canada inQuebec. Two of the students were from Southern Pines and the others from the surrounding area.

The students will spend 30 days bonding and training with guide dogs, after which they will return home with their dogs. After a few weeks of acclimatization, the students and dogs will continue their training as a pair in their respective towns. MIRA professionals travel to each student’s home as many times as necessary, usuallytwo to threevisits, spending approximately a week during each visit teaching the dog the routes the students regularly travel. In addition, parents are coached on guide dog protocol and the ways in which they may assist the student and their dog without interfering.

MIRA Canada has been training guide and service dogs for 30 years, and they hold the distinction of being the only organization in the world dedicated to training guide dogs for blind children between the ages of 11-17.

Their pilot program for children commenced inn 1991 when they joined forces with the highly esteemed professionals at L’Institut Nazareth at Louis Braille to several students fromFranceto train with dogs. Their observations and findings during this time confirmed what they had hoped would be true, that is, when placed in an intensive training environment requiring great focus and concentration, the blind children repeatedly faced the stress with the level of maturity and resilience required to successfully manage a guide dog.

It is this gift of independence and confidence coupled with the freedom of mobility that founders of MIRAUSA, Bob and Elaine Baillie, were determined to make available, free of charge, to children and youth in theU.S.when they created the organization in 2009.

In 2010 MIRAUSAplaced its first two dogs, one with a student who is now studying atStanfordUniversityand the other with an 11-year old from theSan Diegoarea.

“Both students are thriving, and one year later the friends, parents and family members of the six current MIRA candidates await their return with a mix of pride, anticipation and hope as the contemplate the life changing impact that the MIRA dogs will make in the lives of their loved ones,” says a Baillie.

MIRA FoundationUSAis a national nonprofit organization based inAberdeen, which is dedicated to providing guide dogs to blind children and youth between the ages of 11-17.

To learn more about MIRA USAvisit www.mirausa.org or contact Tommy Brooks.


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