Bob Baillie, founder of MIRA USA, and several members of his staff visited Dr. Amy Fowler and UNC Eye staff at Chapel Hill North recently. MIRA USA is an Aberdeen, NC-based organization which is the only one in the United States whose mission is to provide guide dogs to children between the ages of 11 and 17. Mr. Baillie founded MIRA USA in 2008 after losing his sight as a result of complications from coronary bypass surgery.
After appearing on several local Triangle television news outlets to spread the word about the need for young people who are without sight to have the opportunity to have guide dogs and the work of MIRA USA, Mr. Baillie brought about 10 of his most recently completely trained guide dogs to UNC Eye at Chapel Hill North. He and his team, led by MIRA head trainer Eric St. Pierre, conducted demonstrations on what it's like to be without sight and rely on a guide dog to do everyday things that many people take for granted, such as walk down the sidewalk in a busy shopping center.
Dr. Amy Fowler, First-Year UNC Eye Resident Dr. Drew Hunter, and UNC Eye Fellow Dr. Lyndon Lee, along with several other staff members participated by walking blindfolded with a trained guide dog along the crowded walkway outside the UNC Eye office at Chapel Hill North, under the watchful supervision of the MIRA staff. All of the participants marveled at the sophisticated level of training the guide dogs received and what a unique experience it was to rely on them for help in navigating their way.
"Wow! What an experience to just trust this dog," Dr. Fowler said after taking a 100 yard walk down the sidewalk at Chapel Hill North, while blindfolded and led by Fiona, the guide dog that MIRA USA provided for the demonstration. An additional 8 children were introduced to their guide dogs for the first time in a ceremony in Pinehurst, NC on March 17th. For more information on MIRA USA, visit www.mirausa.org.