Just this past September, Seeing Eye graduate Jerry Smith was honored with the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to his community. Smith has had Seeing Eye dogs since 1971. His current and sixth Seeing Eye dog is Apex, a golden retriever. The jubilee medal is an honor that has only been given out 3 other times since 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Smith was nominated by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
Smith is retired after owning his own vending machine business for 30 years, but you wouldn't know it. He fills his time volunteering for multiple causes. He volunteers for CNIB in several capacities, including acting as an ambassador. He speaks about blindness and CNIB's community resources to groups such as churches, businesses, senior homes and wellness fairs. Smith says his most fulfilling role as a volunteer is teaching peer support classes. Twice a year, he and his wife teach an 8 week class to newly blind individuals, offering them support and the skills they need to increase their independence.
"That's the most worthwhile thing I do," Smith said in reference to the classes. He also helps at a local homeless shelter and by serving on the board of a home for seniors. "We provide shelter, meals and beds at the homeless shelter." Even his Seeing Eye dog contributes to his volunteer activities. "Apex helps out by acting as a therapy dog," said Smith.
Smith was honored but also surprised with the award nomination. He's humble about his contributions to the community. "I volunteer because I have the time. I want to give back because I was given so much support when I lost my sight."