Legacy Society member and GDB alumna Deb Swenson is a Minnesota attorney and shareholder at one of the Midwest’s largest entertainment law firms. She works with a myriad of clients to preserve their rights in bankruptcy and other commercial litigation. Deb serves as primary counsel with a network of local counsel throughout the United States in virtually all state and federal courts.
As she has told many people over the years, she would not be the person she is today, and would not have pursued a career in law without Guide Dogs for the Blind and her wonderful guides, Perro, Janson, Kudo, and Samurai. In 1981, Deb started losing her vision, and over a three-month period became legally blind. Deb says she was devastated by the loss, which took not only her eye-sight but her self-confidence and independence. Deb lost her job, lost her apartment, went on public assistance, and moved into public housing. She was living in public housing when she received her first guide dog, Perro in 1986. Perro opened the world for her. “He gave me more confidence in myself than I had before losing my vision. I used to walk with my head down all of the time, but from day one with Perro, I walked with my head held high. Perro and I were a team for eleven years, and together we could do anything.”
In 1988, at the age of 34, she started at the University of Minnesota. After graduation she continued to Stanford Law School and graduated in 1995 as president of her class. Perro was with her for the first two years of private practice. She came back to GDB for all of her dogs and gives credit to her field manager, training staff, nurses, and support staff. “Everyone whom I have been in contact with at GDB has always been so caring and thoughtful to understand me and my guides’ needs and make the perfect match for my lifestyle and personality. I would simply not be who or where I am today if not for Guide Dogs for the Blind and the generosity of so many, many people. I am thankful I can give back to GDB for all they have done for me. I am honored to be included in the Legacy Society and listed as a member.”
For Loretta and Cliff Baughman, their connection to Guide Dogs for the Blind began when they were invited by friends to attended a GDB fundraising event in their home town of Reno, Nev. They were instantly impressed with the GDB mission. But what really got them hooked was their first tour of the California campus in San Rafael. As Cliff explained, “The enthusiasm displayed throughout the entire facility was so impressive. We observed the puppies, trainers, kennel staff, students-in-training and went away feeling that this was one ‘doggone’ dedicated and worthy organization to support."
In recent years, Loretta and Cliff have found additional ways to promote the well-being of GDB. They enjoy attending the annual Canine Heroes Auction, Festive Holiday Luncheon, and Legacy Society Luncheon. Back in Reno, they have helped open the doors for GDB representatives to speak at a number of local organizations for which they are active members. In 2011, Loretta and Cliff joined GDB's Reno Friends Committee and assist with that group’s fundraising events.
Always looking for new paths to support GDB, Loretta recently established a charitable gift annuity (CGA) with GDB. "I'd been reading about the annuity program in the newsletter for years, and decided now was the perfect time,” Loretta said. “I was reaching a milestone birthday, and thought this is a win-win situation and a great way for me to celebrate!"
Guide Dogs for the Blind is so fortunate to have friends like Loretta and Cliff and are enormously grateful for their generosity.