Islanders' Puppy With a Purpose now helping Garden City teen go for Paralympic gold
Islanders fans might remember Radar, a Guide Dog Foundation puppy who the team helped raise. Now he's been placed with a Garden City teen aiming for the gold in the 2021 Paralympics.
Anastasia Pagonis is dreaming of leaving a big impression when the pandemic-delayed Paralympics come to Tokyo next year. The 16-year-old, who is know as Tas to family and friends, is blind. She lost her sight to a genetic disease and autoimmune retinopathy disease at 14.
She's still focused on her goals when it comes to swimming.
"I'm just working my butt off trying to get there. Training hard," says Pagonis.
Giving her power and purpose behind each stroke is her 2-year-old, yellow Lab teammate, Radar. He became her guide dog last week.
"He is the most amazing thing, honestly, that has happened to me," says Pagonis. "I had to be dependent on a lot of people before him. And now I feel so free and independent that I could conquer the world with him."
The team of Tas and Radar was made possible by a unique partnership between the Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation and the New York Islanders.
In 2018, the Isles drafted Radar in the Puppy with a Purpose Program. The team donated $40,000 to the Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation to train him, then he became a full-time service dog. But before that, he got to spend part of his training at Islanders games at the Nassau Coliseum.
"The Islanders really grabbed hold to our mission and helped provide an atmosphere for Radar, both at the practice facility and the team facility and the events they had to help socialize," says John Miller, of the Smithtown Guide Dog Foundation.
And now with Radar by her side, Pagonis says she's feeling very confident in her quest for Paralympic glory.
"I just want to show other people that you can do things, and if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything," she says.