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.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Happy 10th Anniversary to Canvelo!

Ten years ago Brig. General (ret) Moti Regev visited the center while riding in the area. He discovered two tandem bicycles that were being used by volunteers to ride with graduates of the center. Moti's idea of expanding the tandem biking activities soon became a reality. His idea and initiative led to the establishment of "Canvelo" – the Center's tandem biking club.
On Friday Canvelo celebrated its 10th anniversary with a ride through the Ben Shemen forest.  THis year the JNF has begun a project of planting and establishing a special grove for the blind in the forest and they are now in the process of building a special biking trail for tandem bikes called "Tovim Hashnayim" or "Two is Great".  All three Canvelo biking clubs from the center, Sharon area, and north participated in the ride, which took the bikers over rugged trails that climbed and descended through the forest.  A picnic lunch was served  at the end of the ride.
Canvelo offers a unique opportunity to engage in safe and supervised cycling activity, while traveling to different areas of the country and experiencing the feelings of pride, accomplishment, and belonging that group sports provide.   In many ways tandem biking is similar to working with a guide dog - involving the same skills of communication, trust, and cooperation between the two members of each tandem team that are so important when working with a guide dog.  The sighted volunteers who ride with their blind teammates are an outstanding example of the volunteering spirit - devoting themselves to making it possible for blind and visually impaired riders to get out and cycle.
Many members of the Canvelo cycling clubs will be participating in the Sportiada in Eilat, where teams from various companies and organizations will compete in a wide variety of sports events.  This year the Sportiada will feature a tandem biking race for the first time.
We wish Canvelo many more kilometers of biking together and making the sport of cycling accessable for blind and visually impaired riders.

Riders from all three Canvelo groups after the ride in the Ben Shemen Forest
Special congratulations are in order to Uri Basha, a graduate of the center, and Moti Rosen who completed the entire Epic Israel mountain biking competition on a tandem! The ride is undertaken by professional bikers and demands skill, stamina, and outstanding technique!
Uri Basha and Moti Rosen - Epic Israel on a tandem bike!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Shana Tova!

Best wishes for the coming year to all our friends in Israel and abroad!  Wishing you a year of fulfillment, health, success, and accomplishment! 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Gadi Yarkoni takes 9th Place in Rio Paralympics!

The Israeli marathon runner Gadi Yarkoni participated in the marathon run today in Rio, which was the closing event in the Paralympic games this year.  Gadi placed 9th in the race with a time of 3:05:25.  This was Yarkoni's second time participating in the Paralympic Games.  His record for the Marathon run is 2:48:56.  He came in 13th place in the marathon in London, finishing in 3:01:51, and ran the New York Marathon with Noach Braun in 2010.

 Gadi ran the marathon in Rio tethered to his trainer, Yosef Gazacho, who ran alongside him or behind him throughout the marathon.  Escort runners are not allowed to run in front of a blind runner in order that they not pull them forward in any way.

 Yarkoni, 41, lost his vision in 1993 while fighting against the Hizballah in Lebanon.
He is a graduate of the center who received his first guide dog in 1996.  He was partnered with his fourth guide dog Butch, a yellow Labrador, in November of 2015.

We are proud of Gadi and the other Israeli athletes and their fine accomplishments!  Kol Hakavod!

Gadi and Noach running the New York City Marathon in November, 2012

Gadi Yarkoni and Elon Brachfeld running in the Ro'im Rahok event, 2012

Gadi and his guide dog Butch, 2015