Address: 112 N. Poplar Street
Zip Code: 28315
Phone Number: 910-944-7757
Web Site: http://www.mirausa.org
MIRA Foundation USA was founded in 2008 by Bob and Elaine Baillie after Bob suffered from complications during coronary bypass surgery which resulted in his total loss of vision. Initially despondent for some length of time, Bob was encouraged by friends to travel to MIRA Canada where he was paired with his magnificent Bernese Mountain guide dog, Devon. As Bob’s spouse, Elaine also struggled with the aftermath of Bob’s blindness and the life altering changes that ensued. It didn’t take very long, however, for both of them to recognize that Devon was making a huge and positive impact on both their lives. Bob’s newly acquired freedom and independence with Devon to guide him opened up a whole new world.
During the thirty day training period that Bob was in Canada training to work with Devon he and Elaine became close friends with Eric St. Pierre, MIRA Canada’s Founder.They learned that although there were thirteen accredited agencies in the US providing free guide dogs to the blind, none of them served children and youth between the ages of 11-17. This age group has been historically overlooked, at first because blind children in this country were often institutionalized in state schools or convents where caring for a number of dogs would have been impractical, while even today many people believe that members of this age group are not mature enough to manage a dog.
Eric convinced Bob and Elaine that this thinking was outdated, as MIRA Canada has been pairing guide dogs with 11-17 year olds for the past nineteen years with over 150 successful matches. In fact, MIRA Canada is the only organization training guide dogs for this young population. Now, MIRA USA can offer this same service to blind children in the United States.
In 2010, only our second year in existence, MIRA USA was honored to have paired two dogs with students. One recipient was a young man from the Durham, NC area, now studying at Stanford University, while the second resides in the San Diego area and at age eleven was the youngest person in the United States to have a guide dog.