When Lina C. was just a baby, her parents traveled from Colombia to the United States seeking treatment for the retinoblastoma that had spread to both of her eyes. Doctors saved her life, but Lina’s resulting blindness kept the family in the United States where they knew their daughter would have access to resources that would help her to lead a full life. Still, they worried for Lina and wondered about the unforeseen challenges she would inevitably encounter.
Like so many young clients, Lina’s partnership with her guide dog, “Quest,” was years in the making. In 2017, the summer of her freshman year in college, Lina was matched, and the timing could not have been better as she faced two difficult circumstances; her parents’ separation and transferring to a new school. Lina reflects, “I often felt clumsy with my white cane and very self-conscious. Having Quest was an enormous help. She was a constant companion; something to focus on other than all the issues I was facing.” In the first days at her new school, a Fidelco Placement Specialist helped to acclimate the team to the new routes they would travel. Having Quest made the transition easier in other ways. Lina recalls, “I was a transfer student and with that comes some trepidation. Having Quest helped me meet so many people. She allows me to travel with much more grace. My parents don’t worry. I feel freer, faster and empowered.” Lina graduated from UMass and is applying for graduate programs in mental health counseling while interning at Lowell Association for the Blind. Quest — aptly named — will be there for every step of that adventure, too.