Archives - October, 2011

31 Oct 11

By Randy Pierce

The house is deep into darkness as the stirrings and creaks start to multiply, allowing the imagination to flare with thoughts of doubt, confusion, and fear. This is not your typical Halloween haunted house–rather, it is a situation that holds panic potential for someone learning to live without vision. For most people, 80% of interactions are visual in nature, which is why “things that go bump in the night” are so fear-inducing. Our sight offers us the security of more easily discerning who or what is present to cause a noise, or, perhaps of equal importance, of telling us when nothing is there. Without such, our imagination takes over and Alfred Hitchcock moments can abound.

Though one’s own home can be full of frightening noises, it is still familiar and thus less fear-inducing than the outside world, which hosts so many unknown, unwelcoming, and quite frankly dangerous things. Assembling the cacophony of complex and confusing sounds into an understandable world is sometimes challenging even for those who have the luxury of vision, so it is not terribly difficult to understand why so many people transitioning through vision loss can readily become intimidated and withdraw from the outside world.

How can we prevent that scary reality? Well, we start by asking a few relevant questions that break down the world into manageable pieces. How do you learn to discern each noise that you hear in your world? More importantly, how do you extrapolate the meaningful sounds which can guide you? How do you read the intent in a footfall? What do the echoes of your own footfall tell you about the environment? Better still, how can you learn to utilize all your available senses to create an adventure in resolving the mysteries of interacting with your world?

The answers to these questions can be found with careful and patient attention, but ultimately without help this task may be too daunting for many. On this Halloween, that sense of being helplessly overwhelmed is the real horror for many without vision. It is also precisely why through our efforts with 2020 Vision Quest, we hope to make sure organizations like Guiding Eyes and the NH Association for the Blind are able to continue to provide the essential skills and education which opens up a world of independence for those in need.


24 Oct 11

By Randy Pierce

Typically people with good intent and motivation are a fantastic form of support and pathway to positive accomplishment. However, a well-intentioned and motivated person taking action can sometimes lead to significant detriment even worse than the lost opportunity. I want to strongly suggest that we all should take care in being certain of our information before we leap to conclusions and actions which can bring about more harm than good.

Having spent significant time managing the challenges of a wheelchair confinement, I frequently found to my dismay parking spots for the handicap used by someone I was told had no plate or tag to indicate they belonged there. This would frustrate me tremendously and inspire me to advocate for the education of the perpetrator. Many of us have times of weakness and I am no different; at times my definition of advocate involved a harsh word or two directed to the person as they returned to their car and allowed us to park where there was space enough to load/unload my wheelchair. While this seems mostly reasonable to me even now, there are often more details than are obvious without a bit further exploration, and in the future I will attempt to withhold my ire and assertive response in order to make an inquiry that might help better educate all involved.

Recently, an enlightening letter was written by a not so ordinary mother to a person who left a not so kind note upon a car. As I read the compelling note, I was moved by how quickly good intent became something much less. In this scene two people were left in a blend of hurt, anger, disappointment and frustration when the general nature of both might have allowed something much more positively powerful to come through.

In my personal experiences I am frequently confronted by people who pass judgment on a situation too quickly. It almost always is hurtful, whether it is that they do not realize my blindness and take umbridge at the lack of shaking a proffered hand, or something more daunting like presuming limitations on my abilities and trying to inhibit me from living life normally. More often than not, all of the results could be readily avoided if all involved would keep a bit more of an open mind and use a better approach to education through inquiry and communication of all forms. So, all I am suggesting to you is that the next time something strikes you as wrong or problematic, take a moment to think a little outside your own viewpoint and try to gather more information to confirm the validity of your concerns before taking any action. The benefit of positive actions is too great to risk not supporting folks making such choices, and the benefit of thorough exploration before this is invaluable to ensuring all that energy is truly placed in the right direction.

My personal thanks to Suzanne who authored this note and reminded me the value of a “not so ordinary” ordinary person. The details of everyday life are rife with the potential for inspiration and we truly need only learn to look if we wish to see these marvels.


19 Oct 11

Up the mountain!

Up the mountain!

By Randy Pierce

“Tiny” Tecumseh seemingly defeated us when we had to cancel our final hike of the season for a variety of reasons. Yet the New England weather forecast made a quickly planned reschedule possible on a rare Friday vacation day on October 7 amidst peak foliage and a determined trio. Bob Hayes, Tracy Pierce, Mighty Quinn and I arrived for 9:00 a.m., a later than typical start given the known shorter trail and our considerable progress at hiking over the busy season. The weather was crisp with temperatures in the low 30-degree range for the start. Still, if you are not a little cold for the start, you are overdressed, so we began work and quickly warmed into the climb.

Fall folliage on Mount Tecumseh.

A beautiful view on Mount Tecumseh.

Quinn was quite eager as he hiked with particularly loved humans. The trail had a few rocky challenges to our footing but was generally wide and well-maintained. We had three early brook crossings which allowed Bob the chance to use the skills he had developed running with me and having many hiking conversations. The crossings were quick and easy, allowing us to keep a steady pace to the first side trail, and enabled us to walk onto the ski slopes for Waterville Valley and really appreciate the beauty of the day. Resplendent in autumn colors, the day’s clarity allowed for views far into the distance, fully demonstrating the grandeur of the White Mountains.

We achieved the summit junction loop and took the shorter trail to the top which held the most challenging work of the day. Quinn was up to the challenge with some verbal support from Bob. We climbed over a significant blowdown, marveled at some thick, early ice development, and then burst forth into a wooded summit which afforded a treasure of views all around us.

Randy, Tracy, and Quinn hang out at the summit.

Randy, Tracy, and Quinn achieve the summit.

We spent a long and leisurely summit celebration with lunch, play for Quinn and an exploration of a Peak Finder program to help us fully learn and appreciate the names of all the peaks which surrounded us on this day. The air was completely still, which is tremendously rare in my limited hiking experience. The chill while resting at the summit did require hats and coats for full comfort and yet it was with much reluctance that we packed up and began to depart. A few visitors arrived just as we were departing and we expected they would likely pass us on the descent. Bob, however, wanted a turn at leading me through the rougher down points and it went so naturally we opted to strap Quinn’s harness on my back and let him enjoy the hike down without worry of work.

Our steady pace allowed time to appreciate the forests we traversed on the journey and yet sustain enough speed that none of the several hikers atop the summit managed to pass us on the journey. Feeling great at the bottom, we packed up while talking to a few Boy Scout leaders preparing for a jamboree that evening. Congratulations received, we headed to the Mad River Tavern for an early dinner and appreciative reflection of a day and season that was a complete success. Perhaps the greatest success was the progress we made in handling the trails such that our enjoyment has increased along with our pace and we look with only slightly cautious optimism on the likely full success of our goal to achieve all 48 of these!

High five!

High five!


17 Oct 11

By Randy Pierce

In September 1990, I snapped the cane over my knee and threw it into the trash, walking away in a maelstrom of emotional turmoil. The White Cane was the symbol of blindness as it had been since Lions Club International made it so in 1930 in the United States. Certainly the positives of safety, mobility, and awareness are significant reasons for appreciation of the cane. Unfortunately, at the time it symbolized my difference and my disability with a poignant punch of negative impact. I was of course still in a stage of denial and needed to more fully understand and appreciate the positive potential in this tool as well as my own ability.

It is true the cane and its common tapping use alert others to the presence of a blind person. Unfortunately, this can result in even well intentioned individuals reacting in less than ideal ways. Those reactions can legitimately cause frustration and challenge but with education and awareness of what it really means to be blind, that awareness can lead to enhanced safety for all and the possibility for healthy and helpful communication and interaction. This latter is so vital to a better life it motivates my personal efforts to always provide the opportunity for better understanding of the blind and by the blind.

In October of 1964, Congress enacted HR 753 enabling the President to declare October 15 as  “White Cane Safety Day.” This year in New Hampshire, Governor Lynch has proclaimed October 17th as “White Cane & Dog Guide Users Awareness Day”. All are invited to join the NH Association for the Blind at the State House Plaza today for presentations and demonstrations which can help all of us better understand the reality of the White Cane and Dog Guide.

On the latter front, Quinn will be glad to showcase the many reasons some find a dog to be a superior solution. Each particular individual has to decide which mobility method suits them best. Exploring those many choices and their various impacts is all part of the decision making process. A sad reality is that an unbelievably low number, approximately 10%, of the blind population use either a cane or dog guide. While that may be the right decision for some, this day hopes to provide a clear and effective demonstration of the many assorted reasons, benefits, and detriments to fully understanding the choice. For the sighted it will hopefully provide an enhanced understanding and appreciation for what is involved and how they might best react when next they encounter a White Cane or Dog Guide at work!


10 Oct 11

It is time to buy tickets and tables for this year’s Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction event for November 12, 2011! This is our primary fund raising event for the year. The success of this event ensures our ability to provide our inspirational presentations to an expected 10,000 students in the year 2011 and many more going forward.

This is our Second Annual Peak Potential event and I wanted to share my personal reflections on last year, this year, and specifically how much the event means to me. There’s an old adage which says “I can’t hear what you are saying because what you’re doing is too loud!” I’ve invested a tremendous amount of my energy into the 2020 Vision Quest so that my actions may hopefully provide the very positive impact I espouse. I am fortunate to frequently hear many words of thanks and encouragement for my effort and the progress of our charity. These words inspire me and I remain very grateful for them. This event provides an opportunity for many people to take action and help us continue to reach our goals. I urge all of you to consider buying a ticket for the event, sharing the news of our event, and bringing more people into the 2020 Vision Quest Community by all the means reasonable for each of you.

There was uncertainty last year as our first event grew near. A surprisingly positive response from friends old and new yielded us a great initial success. As I stepped up to the podium amidst the lively sounds of a fun event, I could not help but appreciate the many volunteers who work directly and indirectly to have brought us so far in our first year. It was a tremendous amount of work for all those involved and we had clearly made significant progress. However, all of our efforts still required the support of our community both local and remote for this to continue. The generous support of those attending and donating throughout the first year absolutely gave us that support and it was indeed a season of success.

From Left to Right: Randy, The Mighty Quinn, John E. Swenson, Colleen M. Elliott, Mary Beth S. White

Now our first full year is behind us and we are facing the significant challenges of a second season. We have accomplished far more already in this new year. We are nearly half way through “the 48” summits which encouraged the start of our charity and have gained considerable publicity for our programs and presentations. We have made several partnerships such as our first sponsor for Peak Potential, Laconia Savings Bank. We have put together a great team to ensure this event truly is reaching for Peak excellence and as any charity must, we need to encourage our friends, family, co-workers and community to join our efforts. This night is an excellent means for giving that support while enjoying a great night of entertainment, friendship, inspiration, motivation and more. I hope you’ll join us for this evening and this opportunity!

You can find out more information about this event here or find us on Facebook.


3 Oct 11

By Randy Pierce

Quinn and I play tug of war for the first time at Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

This month marks five years of my partnership with the Mighty Quinn! I’ll never forget the powerful impact this incredible pup has provided and continues to provide in my life. To get a realistic feel for what that is like, I encourage you to read the near daily blogs we kept during our training at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We wanted to allow anyone an inside look at the experience of training with a Guide Dog. “Zip’s Dog Blog” has the full tale of our meeting and training over the month of October 2006! All of the initial work to build bonds and ensure I had the knowledge and skills to be a good handler are wrapped up in the stories of the fun, happiness, independence, and promise which Quinn immediately brought into my life. I dare anyone to read a few of those posts and not come away impressed with the process of Guide School. In fact, advance far enough through the posts and get a peek at writings from Quinn’s perspective on his work and life which became the real power of his dog blog career.

The happy family--me, my wife Tracy, and the Mighty Quinn.

Five years is a long time and a lot of transition for many of us, and through it all Quinn has been a steady and very capable worker. His love of play and desire to undertake new adventures has never changed from that first post lauding his work ethic. When the 6-8 year average working career of a Guide Dog is evaluated on this anniversary, it’s a little daunting to think we are likely well over the halfway point of our work together. This is thus a somewhat somber dose of reality along with the happier reminders my own review of those stories evokes. It serves as excellent motivation for me to continue to keep Quinn healthy and happy to extend that working time as long as possible. It encourages my appreciation for his extraordinary work upon mountain slopes, steady conventional work, and playful, loving nature in our home relaxation time. It’s easy to understand why I salute him on this five-year anniversary, and given his impact on 2020 Vision Quest, I think it fair that we all give the Mighty Quinn some well-earned reflection and appreciation! Happy Anniversary, Quinn!!


Bad Behavior has blocked 303 access attempts in the last 7 days.