22 Oct 16

By Greg Neault

Just over a year ago I was scurrying about making last minute preparations for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a trip across the world to Africa with a group of people I respect and admire to scale the flanks of Kilimanjaro, to watch the sun rise from Stella Point, to stand at the continent’s highest vantage point and look out onto the cradle of civilization, and then to explore that region’s amazing natural splendor, a wildlife show like no other on earth.

The team hiking Kilimanjaro in September 2015.I remember very distinctly the eve of our departure. A torturous night spent memorizing the subtle nuances of ceiling tiles. My body calling for sleep, but my mind a flurry with myriad questions about the journey to come. A new continent, country, and culture.

What would the climb be like? Would I make it to the top? Did I forget to pack some critical item? Would Cathy Merrifield be eaten trying to pet a lion? Excited anticipation goes a great deal further than caffeinated beverages in terms of fending off the sandman.

Earlier this month, life found me once again being robbed of sleep by anticipation of a major event: a trip to the hospital with the girl I love to welcome our baby into the world. Fortunately, I had a whole new ceiling to explore as I pored over the questions of things to come.

Kilimanjaro is a giant, for sure, but I’m not unfamiliar with the ways of mountains. My experience and knowledge, acquired over a life of traveling through mountains, canyons, deserts and forests would serve me well in this endeavor. I’m quite accustomed to packing and traveling with the necessities of daily life outside the comforts of home, to living within nylon walls and staying warm on cold nights under starry skies.  Kilimanjaro was a new, exciting, and unique experience, but was still representative of a new chapter in a story that has been unfolding for decades.

As I lay waiting for the alarm to sound on the morning of October the 6th, my mind was a whirlwind of rumination. I have about as much experience with babies as I have with firearms: people have let me handle theirs, but I don’t think they’d be foolish enough to let me wander off with one unattended. We went to the birthing class, we had a baby shower, and I was confident that we possessed all of the equipment necessary for a baby to survive in our care, but once we leave that hospital, we’re it. We are now solely responsible for the survival, well being and healthy physical, mental and emotional development of a brand new human being.

We didn’t even know what sex the baby was and had no clue what we were going to name it! How would we fare in the transition from unfettered adventurers, traveling about the region, country, and world to find new places to run, jump, and climb on a whim, to being responsible for a tiny person in need of care for every necessity around the clock? Do I have what it takes to be a good father? What kind of person will our child grow into? What is up with common core math?

Any anxieties I had in relation to my imminent parenthood were put to rest the minute the nurse put that sweet little baby in my arms for the first time. She was tiny and cute and weighed not even eight pounds. At that moment I knew that I didn’t have to know all the answers to all of the questions swirling around in my mind.

Too few days have passed to declare our success in clearing the hurdle that is the transition from carefree youth to steadfast parental figures. Obviously only time will tell what kind of person she’ll grow to be. I still have no idea what common core is all about.

What I do know is that I’ve mastered the changing of the diaper. I know that, for the time being, if she’s crying, there are only three reasons why and the process of elimination is a short route to a happy baby. I know that a car ride is an even shorter route to a happy baby. I know that my chest is a very comfortable place to take a nap. I know that there are more problems with more complexity than poop in the pants coming our way, but I know that we only need to solve one problem at a time. I know that with the right amount of forethought and a little help from my people, that we can make it happen.

The Kilimanjaro expedition was billed as the adventure of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint. A trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu could be in our future, and that may bear the “adventure of a lifetime” moniker as well.

But raising our daughter, that will be an adventure that LASTS a lifetime. She wasn’t even two full weeks old when she went on her first hike. I’m pretty sure she slept through most of it, cuddled up in a bundle on my chest (like I said, she loves to nap there), but she seems to enjoy the fresh air. As her eyes develop, I bet she’ll grow to appreciate the scenery as well. I hope that one day Stella and I will stand on lofty peaks together, sharing in the types of adventure that I hold dear. But right now, only weeks old, she has a very long journey ahead of her and it’s my job to put her on the path.

Greg and baby Stella on the top of a mountain with a beautiful fall valley view in the background.


15 Oct 16

Randy and Tracy at Niagara FallsBy Randy Pierce

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

There are so many moments in our lives which I believe are worthy of being appreciated more fully than we often allow. For me, these moments provide strength for the challenging times and suggest such future opportunities if we are willing to persevere. They also help me provide a better understanding into myself and my dreams, and help me shape some of those future experiences. While each of us should find our own rewards, I think a mindfulness of these opportunities helps reveal them more often than we might otherwise discover.

On my recent anniversary excursion to Niagara Falls there were many obvious moments of delight. Listening to Tracy’s exclamation when we stepped into our falls view room on the 22nd floor of the Sheraton was certainly powerful, as was my own experience when I opened the balcony and heard the immediate thunder which gave the Falls their name “Thundering Waters.” Again, there was the first unveiling of the colored lights which illuminate the rainbow falls in a chromatic splendor each evening. For the adventurous part of me, there was the newly created zip line over the gorge, in front of the falls towards the Horseshoe Falls which I can attest was invigorating to many! Certainly riding the Hornblower, sister ship to Maid of the Mist, into the Horseshoe Falls and feeling the spray of the thundering falls was also a highlight. Yet despite these and many more opportunities it was a simpler aspect that captured me powerfully enough to warrant my shared introspection.

Randy and Tracy take a selfie at Niagara Falls!I was standing on the upper deck of the Hornblower with my right hand clenched firmly onto the rail while my left hand held Autumn’s leash. She nudged her head against that hand as she thrust her nose upward to draw in the scents which seemed to be calling deep into her instinctual being. Tracy had just stepped away as the dramatics of Horshoe Falls were past us and I believe she wanted a different camera shot. I could still feel the mist upon my face and feel the cool October winds of that crisp fall morning.

I thought of how many travelers, adventuring-minded people had shared some of the feelings I was experiencing at that moment. I was exploring a bit of the marvels of our world, feeling, smelling and tasting the natural world so deeply. I was energized by the feeling as all my senses searched to absorb as much as possible and to retain the feelings while a calmness overtook my mind. It was the same calmness I feel when I make the time to step away from the more frantic pace of the world and remind myself of the foundation from which I want to base my world. It was so easy to find in that moment and so unrelated to the experience around me, it’s a calm I may achieve, albeit with more determined effort, at any point I’m willing to set aside five minutes for myself.

Whether I call it meditation, relaxation, or mindful calm; the point is that it’s a moment of incredible value in my life which I can have often if I so choose and yet can so readily lose as well. I didn’t have to travel all the way to Niagara Falls and undertake all those adventures to remind myself, but that is what it took this time and it’s a trip I hope to continue a little more regularly with the work and goals ahead!


8 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Rob running in a race.On October 16 Rob Webber will run his very first marathon… while also choosing to guide me for that Bay State Marathon. While perhaps a surprising choice to some, it is not for me as Rob has spent many moments over the last 31 years providing me with many styles of valuable guidance. Our friendship began at the University of New Hampshire in the spring of 1985 and his friendship has been one of the greatest strengths in my life.

I could doubtless embarrass him with many tales of why his calm, steadfast, intelligent, caring, practical, and wise approach to the world has been so essential to my managing many challenges in my life. I could regale us all with humorous anecdotes of our mischievous and mirthful adventures and for those who share a fireside pint we may indeed do that a time or two ahead. I also happen to know there are plenty of recent photographic and video demonstrations of the amazing world adventures we’ve shared, and yet those who know Rob already are aware of these things and fortunately I’m fairly certain I’ve already made Rob well aware of how much I treasure our friendship. Why, then, this post?

I believe it is always appropriate to ensure the people we value in our lives are aware of how much they mean to us. I rarely have enough to give back to the many people like Rob who make so many choices to help me and this is just one moment to do such a thing. So absolutely thank you, Rob, for the friendship most of all, the moments of support at times when life was overwhelming, the moments of laughter when life needed celebrating, and in a simpler but well appreciated fashion, for the many miles ahead on the course of the Bay State Marathon.

Rob on the summit of Kilimanjaro.There are so many people who have guided me in races and each may have their own reasons for the choice. I’ve had so many guides it would fill the pages to list them and someday that’s exactly what I should do. For now, it is just an appreciation for those who take the time to step out of their own running goals, put focus on the notion they can add more challenges to their experience, and allow another person the opportunity to take part as we might not otherwise manage. Yes, I do believe there are rewards to the guide and yet that choice is still a remarkable decision which creates a tremendous opportunity and experience. I’ve run a few marathons now and spending hours of hours running with probably close to 50 different guides. In each situation, I would not have had the chance if they did not make that choice.

So to Rob and all my other guides as well as all those who guide other blind/visually impaired runners, I wish I had much more than a “thank you” to clearly offer you. The closest I may come to expressing that appreciation at present is in sharing how I feel when I am running. Whether in training or a race, whether exhausted or invigorated, whether hot or frozen, snow-encrusted, rain-drenched or sun-baked; each time I’m on a run, I recall the gift it is to feel my legs move, my lungs respond, and the freedom which is being gifted me. I’ve never yet failed to give a moment of reflection to my first run guide Quinn. Those who guide me honor his legacy and for me that is the highest honor I can bestow upon any guide. Whether the full meaning of that is something you understand, I assure it is of deep value and meaning to me.

So again, thank you to Quinn, Rob and all of my guides.

Randy and Rob at a Pats game.



1 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Tracy kiss with an elephant in the backgroundThe year we founded 2020 Vision Quest was also the year Tracy and I  chose to wed. With a perfect date of 10/10/10 for our backdrop, the adventures of 2020 Vision Quest have been fundamentally intertwined in our lives.

While not always as grandiose as a voyeur elephant (see accompanying picture) to our romantic moments, the adventures have taken us around the world. This year they will take us just a little bit north as we each make our first visit to Niagara Falls to experience all aspects of this natural wonder. Whether it’s the rainbow bridge, the Maid of the Mists, or even the thrill of the new zip line, we’ll work them all appropriately into our celebrations of our love story. I love that I have a supportive partner eager to create and share adventures with me and certainly part of this post is a chance to wish Tracy: Happy Anniversary!

I also hoped to emphasize how fundamental Tracy has been to the 2020 Vision Quest Charity effort. Without her many sacrifices, the great work we’ve accomplished simply would not be possible. There are so many people who put in a lot of effort and care to ensure this organization may continue to perform the quality work and yet I’m confident few appreciate just how much Tracy has given to this project. Certainly she provides me a great deal of freedom to manage the many responsibilities and that’s a sacrifice we both accept and yet the greater part of her contribution is the vast amount of personal time, energy, skills and funds given to this effort. She does all of this with her own world of commitments in her full-time job, her training goals, her personal developments and the often too short amount of needed down time. It is our wedding anniversary this week ahead but it is also another year of appreciation and celebration for how much this incredible woman has given of herself to this mission.

Thank you, Tracy, and once again, Happy Anniversary.

The happy family!


25 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and the expedition hiking group on the summit of Kilimanjaro. “’There and Back again’ by Bilbo Baggins” was the alleged epic title of the fictional hero’s epic recording of his own journey from Lord of the Rings. I struggle a bit with the notion because every experience changes us so much that even while it may seem like yesterday, we are so vastly different there is no real return. As if autumn nostalgia wasn’t already powerful enough in my life, the shadow of Kilimanjaro also looms over as I make the return trip in my reflection for the one year anniversary.

For me, it is so often the people which take primary focus and even upon a pillar of the earth that was once again true. The team which stood together on the slopes of that mighty mountain were passionately dedicated to supporting each other and yet we never know until it happens whether we ever will stand together on any similar quest. The commitment to each other, the determination to achieve, the raw emotional sharing, the joy of celebrations and the feeling of absolute certainty we would reunite were powerful and real. Many of us will connect for various adventures and in fact have already throughout the year, but capturing that exact group is a difficult and unlikely reality for most expeditions. Even should we manage it, we all will have changed and so too will our experience together. That seems sad initially but for me we’ve achieved those glorious moments and have them captured in our memories as well as how they have shaped our lives. So I’ll be glad for the reflections even as I plan many future adventures and experiences, hopefully including many or all of the team who touched my life so well in Africa

This day, I will remember September 2015 and the energy and nervous anticipation we shared in Arusha. I’ll smile at our challenges ordering pepperoni pizza, I’ll feel the awe of the real exclamation from those in my van as the first view of the mass of Kilimanjaro came into view. I’ll recall the shift from playful monkey thievery to worry that my friends shared as they noted the monkey making Darwin-like realizations about my blindness and ability to protect my juice boxes! The hopeful eagerness as the rainforest wide and smooth trail of the Machame gate allowed us to hike a little too quickly before “Polley-Polley” eased us to the “Slowly – slowly” we would need. The ever ascending views above the clouds day after day in a world so foreign in both plant and animal life, the cold winds at Shira camp, the ever cheerful and polite porters, “Harris Tweed!”, the impossibly distant summit cone illuminated each night by the splendor of a nearly full moon, and a foreign night sky my companions would share with voices filled with marvel and delight. All these and more were common occurrences as was a rotational sharing of guide duties for my ability to trek the trails.

There were struggles and some of us took ill. There was difficult terrain at times and none of us will likely forget how well our team came together for the Baranku Wall! That was our team together in the most health and celebration during the higher climbing I think, but you climb a mountain ultimately for moments near the top. While we did not all reach the summit together, a large contingent did and in weary, oxygen starved, sleep deprived, cold and hungry reality; we touched a point atop the second-largest continent in the world. With the glaciers beside us, the crater of Kibo peak and a horizon more distant than any of us had known from the ground, we experienced something together.

Each of us had different dreams and visions which brought us to that point and likely were touched a little differently by the experience. I do not envision ever standing at that point in the world ever again and yet I know the strength, determination, sacrifice, pain and amazement which are part of that moment and stand within me since then. It is as fresh as yesterday in some ways and as fleeting a memory as something from another life at times. Such is the difficulty I have with trying to hold time in my mind, yet I know if I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I can let my mind slowly wander to that time and place and steadily things become more clear and vivid to me. I can travel there and back again just well enough to keep it all so very real for me and to remind me of the fortune I have in the companions I keep here and there.


17 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Autumn and Randy walking, but with LEGO robots!Stepping in front of the energized auditorium for the kick-off event of the FIRST LEGO League Animal Allies season, Autumn and I were excited for all the possibilities ahead. We were also lost, as our route to the podium had been a little blocked by standing room only and she had taken a rather creative route to get me to the front of the room. We did a little problem solving and made our way there with her managing the obstacles safely if not necessarily the way I might have chosen. There was a lesson right in our very approach to the podium and in our brief 15 minutes we needed to build on the excitement, highlight and connect to the core values of FIRST LEGO League, explain our connection to the project and robot challenge with just a hint of our own core messaging worked into the mix.

This might be a tall order if our core values didn’t align so well already, which speaks volumes to the successful aspects we experience. This is part of the reason sponsor BAE systems first coordinated to invite us to the event as well as having us included as a fundamental part of this year’s international experience. I must admit there was an extra bit of amusement in learning they had created a LEGO version of Autumn for their introductory video which can be found along with the full description of their organization’s approach which has become so successful around the world here. 

This year the emphasis is upon how humans and animals can improve the way we interact to make things better for each of us. The teamwork Autumn and I employ is exceedingly demonstrative of this and that is why we represent a project challenge as well as a robot table challenge component possibility.

FIRST LEGO League uses three approaches to the season of competition:

  • Core Values
  • The Project
  • The Robot Challenge

The project requires the team of students to research a problem, identify a solution, share their solution and present this process and result to a panel of judges. One suggestion made in their video involved the present Dog Guide harness and there are so many other avenues around service dogs or our 2020 Vision Quest which might qualify for such a project. I’ll be interested to see how creative the thousands of teams prove as they progress forward.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you as I left them with this notion of the seven core values. If they learn those core values they will likely perform better in the competition, but if they embrace them as a part of their approach to life, they will not only perform better in the competition, they will also likely find more success in life. The difference is in the investment to truly understand the reasons why each of those values is a benefit to us, our teams and the world around us.

This should be no surprise because most things in life which we deem worthwhile likely deserve more than paying minimal attention to perception rather than full investment. Perception matters, sometimes more than I wish, but the reality behind our approach will always carry a more lasting meaning for us and those with whom we ally. This is the true secret strength behind the bond I share with Autumn and all my Dog Guides and why we reach our “peak potential” so well together! It is why I was glad to partner a bit with first, BAE and FIRST LEGO League because we hope these messages will help guide students to take tomorrow to better and better places.


11 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Your Table is Ready! Join us for Peak Potential 2016.

A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.
- Simon Sinek

Our Seventh Annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction is November 12. Although you can buy your tickets up until November 1, we set our personal goal this year to sell out by October 12, a month before the event. We urge you to help us reach this goal!

We accomplish many great things with 2020 Vision Quest’s yearly efforts. Each year’s success is largely based upon the support we receive from you and through your efforts on our behalf. Our team of volunteers, myself included, dedicate much time and effort because we believe in what we are able to achieve with your help and we make every effort possible to be worthy of your support. As the quote above suggests, we believe our school presentations help demonstrate a leadership of hard working, positive-minded achievers, while the organizations we support fiscally provide training and partners to strive further than many thought possible.

Peak Potential is a night to celebrate! We are well on the way to our goals of sponsors and ticket sales but we are not there yet. Help us share our goal of a sell-out–and better still, help us reach this goal by becoming part of our team right now.

We certainly have much to celebrate and more importantly we have so much more we can accomplish with your choice to be part of our team. I know some of you live far away (though there’s always the option to stay at the hotel that evening, as I’m doing). I know for some of you this isn’t the right opportunity and I appreciate the encouragement you share in other ways. I also know that we are over 2/3 of the way to a sell-out and already at numbers that would have sold out all our prior smaller venues. But I have a goal to share the evening with a full room of friends and supporters who will make this year our most successful event, and I’m asking you to help make this possible.

Please take a moment to invite a friend or two, buy a table or a ticket, consider a sponsorship, or consider an item for the auction donation. I have been fortunate to hear from so many how much our mission matters. For many, you won’t have to look far to find the same reports because it is likely we have had a positive impact in the life of someone you know. Come to the event and you will get to understand this and more firsthand.

Join me in spending an evening with a community of outstanding people who want to help others reach for the highest peaks and who provide support for the deepest valleys.

Come to Peak Potential!



3 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

In a week where Gene Wilder took his final breath, I’ve had plenty of reflections upon the many dreams I choose to pursue. Normally September heralds the arrival of my patriotic passions and while this Sports Emmy award nominated video highlights an approach to life far beyond football appreciation, this year is markedly different for me. I still think there is tremendous value in appreciating the messages I had the opportunity to share with many friends in this great piece by “HBO: Inside the NFL Fan Life view”:

Randy and friends celebrate on game day.

Randy and friends celebrate on game day.

So why is it a little more difficult for me this year? I’m always a fan of the belief that each of us should evaluate the things which are important to us and find the ways to make them part of our lives. As we grow and change, so too may our various pursuits and sometimes we may inadvertently trap ourselves in habits which are no longer as healthy for us as they once felt. Simple momentum may keep us returning beyond the level of commitment we might otherwise choose.

Certainly in my very rewarding life there are difficulties in finding time for all of the interests to which I’d like to give my time. Some of this is part of my distraction but not the primary challenge.

I do still love the strategic aspects of the sport and the social community building interactions with which I can bring people together to appreciate the game day events. I have found too many discrepancies of integrity and transparency on important aspects such as player safety, domestic violence, and even fiscal responsibility. In the challenge to rectify these there is an impact to my overall appreciation, dedication and certainly willingness to give of my time, energy, and limited financial resources towards such an endeavor.

I know I am going to spend many game-day afternoons enthusiastically rooting for my team but I made the decision for the first time to not attend any games live this year. I find myself questioning when any organization is making sufficiently poor choices that I must call into question where future paths will lead. I get nostalgic for all the appreciation of the past and possible lost promise of the future.

For now there’s enough to keep me here and mindful and that is the ultimate message I’m trying to take away from this September. I have the mindfulness and focus to attend my choices and ensure that ultimately I do pursue the passions which are right for me. I truly wish the same for each of you, whether in education, arts, athletics or any of the many wonders which may enhance any of our lives.


28 Aug 16

On August 29 the 2020 Vision Quest School year begins with a trip to North Country Union High School in Newport, VT which is a travelling stretch for the team. Their theme of “Achievement through Perseverance” seems perfectly matched and we are enthused to begin the core part of our mission. Before undergoing this part of the work though, there was one more August weekend to enjoy. Our good friends Greg and Heather helped us find a delightful nearby nature retreat with incredibly clear waters. We haven’t had the chance to really give Autumn any swimming options and she wasn’t the graceful Olympian her web-pawed heritage might suggest but, there’s much fun in this romping game of water fetch. We thought our blog deserved a light and fun easing out of the dog days of August and hope you agree.

Click on the link below to see the action!

Autumn Tries out Swimming

So head over to our For Educators page and get us scheduled to visit your school because it’s time to get to work!



21 Aug 16

Pete and Randy RunningTwo very different and yet very similar teams are coming together on Friday, September 17th to undertake something  dramatic, certain to challenge each of them beyond their expectations. Each have chosen the “Ultra Version” of Ragnar/Reach the Beach. One of those teams is comprised entirely of runners who are either blind or visually impaired and thus our six member team needs to borrow drivers and run-guides from the other team. This is where my friend Pete Houde’s Coastal Athletic Association Team made their impactful choice. This collaboration between 2020 Vision Quest, Massachusettes Association for the Blind and the Coastal Athletic Association brought the power of partnerships to new heights yet again as this press release highlights!

As mentioned, each team has just six members who will each run six legs of the 200 mile relay in roughly 29 hours. We’ll traverse the hilly terrain from deep in the White Mountains to the sandy shores of Hampton beach, getting food and rest as we can from time in our shared vans. This puts even more pressure upon our guides since two of their team is running and two are driving at all times! Somehow they have to get enough sleep/rest to be sharp eough to run their own miles while providing enough sight support for our running the tricky terrain successfully. There is plenty of challenge to be shared, plenty of human spirit to celebrate and hopefully an increadible accomplishment ahead as we reach for something far more significant than just the beach quest of which I’ve often joked. We reach to see how much can be accomplished by working together, believing in and supporting each other in this one of a kind epic endurance experience. While you can’t join our team of 12 directly, perhaps you’ll choose to be a part of the larger team as we are always striving to reach for and achieve our peak potential together!

Most of the Group pose before a group run. Missing one pair of sighted and visually impaired.




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