GDB's Blog: No Bones About It

You Had Us at the GDB Graduation!

Donors Erika and John Ammirati pose in their yard with their carreer change dogs Fondy and Shiloh.

California residents John and Erika Ammirati first sponsored a Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) client and dog team in 1996 to honor Erika’s mother, Greta Brandeis, who had recently passed away. They thought it would be a one-time gift, but after attending a graduation on campus, the Ammiratis knew they were hooked. Twenty-four years later, they are still thrilled to be supporting GDB.

In fact, 2020 marks 25 years of supporting Guide Dog teams for John and Erika Ammirati. “Guide Dogs for the Blind is an amazing cause, and it’s very gratifying to know we are helping clients increase their mobility and independence with a guide dog,” says John.

Erika says she and John chose GDB as a memorial to her mother, because “Mom had a soft spot in her heart” for people who are blind and causes that helped them.” John was familiar with GDB from his youth, growing up in Santa Rosa, not too far away. The Ammiratis also gave modest amounts every year, and John volunteered his time making recordings for people who were blind. It wasn’t until Erika’s mother passed away that the Ammiratis decided to make a one-time special gift to support a guide dog team to honor her life and the things she loved. Then they attended a graduation on campus where they had the opportunity to meet the puppy raiser, guide dog mobility instructor, and client and guide dog team they sponsored. Within a few hours, the Ammiratis knew they found a wonderful cause to support.

“The graduation was so moving. We thought, oh man, we’ve got to do this again!” says John. And they have. GDB is one of the Ammiratis’ top philanthropic causes that has resulted in 25 guide dog team sponsorships over the past 24 years (one year they sponsored two guide dog teams for a married couple). A framed photo montage of the first guide dog team they sponsored still hangs prominently in their living room.

Erika Ammirati in her home
Erika Ammirati poses with a photo of the first guide dog team that they sponsored.

“Every year, we look forward to attending a graduation and meeting the team we sponsored,” John says proudly.

The couple says they feel a deep connection to GDB and feel extremely fortunate to have their career- changed dogs: Shiloh, a black Lab, now 13 ½, and Fondy, age 2 ½, who they adopted in January 2020. They’ve even kept in contact with the dogs’ puppy raisers.

Both John and Erika describe GDB’s community as open and friendly with everyone contributing in their own way – as breeder custodians, puppy raisers, or volunteers on the California or Oregon campuses. “It’s very gratifying to help people with a visual disability gain enhanced mobility and independence to lead fuller lives,” says Erika.

Over the years, the Ammiratis have helped fund capital projects like the new Puppy Center and Veterinary Clinic expansion. As for the future, the Ammiratis say they look forward to Guide Dogs for the Blind continuing to do what it does best: bring clients and guide dogs together to empower individuals to live their best lives.



If you are interested in sponsoring being a Guide Dog Team Sponsor, please contact our Development Department at 1.800.295.4050. To make a donation online, click here.