Archives - November, 2011



28 Nov 11

By Randy Pierce

As part of our training to hike mountains for 2020 Vision Quest, Quinn and I added a regiment of running. Guide schools do not typically train for the higher speeds because there is so much for a dog to evaluate during their work. Yet when the terrain was right, I noticed Quinn’s willingness to increase the speed, and under ideal conditions I slowly began to explore the potential of running with him.

Our joint running efforts were a resounding success and after some training we even entered our first official race, “When Irish Legs are Running,” which is a five-mile race in Lowell, MA. Since then, we’ve managed many races and run multiple times per week in a local park. Even at speed, Quinn has a tremendous ability to recognize where he must gently turn me away from obstacles, adjust pace for caution, or even stop for something too dangerous to take without the pause. He gives me the comfort and freedom to be independent and with only a little advocacy we’ve been enjoying every race we choose to enter.

Sami Stoner represents an amazing example of just how much a blind runner can accomplish with determination and the right assistance. This legally blind 16-year-old high school junior began running cross country in 8th grade, just before she began to lose her eyesight due to Stargardt’s disease, macular degeneration that causes blind spots. She wasn’t ready to let anything stop her, and with the help of a human guide she continued to run, despite her increasing vision loss. When that human guide graduated and many thought she might have reached too big of an obstacle, she found the wonder of the guide dog solution.

Sami’s guide dog Chloe helps her manage the obstacles on the course and enjoy the exhilaration such freedom brings. She has also found a great deal of support from the school athletic director who continued to push for the Ohio High School Athletic Association to adjust rules and allow her to run with her guide dog. The OHSAA finally relented, and the pair have demonstrated teamwork on a whole new level to their state and well beyond.

While her times are not yet allowed to be scored and some finish chutes are forbidden to the team, these are just future obstacles from a teen who isn’t interested in the finish line nearly as much as the journey there. That’s a lesson of thankfulness which should reach all of us!

If you want the chance to experience how incredible a guide dog is doing this work, come join us in the Nashua area. Drop us an email and we’ll have you join us at Mine Falls for a run. Quinn will likely amaze you and give credit to the incredible story of Chloe and her human, too!

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21 Nov 11

Tonight I’ll be attending the NFL Monday Night Football game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. As usual, I have no doubt I will receive interesting reactions as Quinn guides me through the crowds on our way to the front row where we “watch” virtually every home game. A radio headphone in one ear, verbal details from the environment, and a lot of concentration keep me mostly in tune with the action and allow me to more fully “experience” the game, despite my lack of visual cues.

However, all the way across the country in Acton, California, a 15-year-old junior varsity football player named Taylor Howell is taking his demonstration of “Ability Awareness” to incredible levels which have earned my deep respect. Taylor is the starting center for his team–and he is totally blind.

When I first listened to the story on NPR, I was in awe of Taylor’s undertaking. In football, the center position is (appropriately enough) in the middle of a surging mass of organized chaos as bodies collide to match speed, strength, and teamwork into each play. It is no small challenge to learn to make enough sense out of the chaos to deliver a precise snap under the best of conditions, even when the quarterback lines up five yards back for the longer distance “shotgun” snap. Tyler manages this with the help of his team to give him enough description, knowing the opponent is lining up and moving around in front of him, ready to hurl themselves toward him and past him if he is not fully prepared.

As Taylor says, he takes some pretty big hits, and for him, every hit is a “blind side.” And Taylor knows about being blind-sided–he took a pretty big hit early in life when cancer took away his eyes. But he wastes no time in putting the hits he receives both in football and life behind him, keeping his focus on each goal at hand.

Taylor’s story is amazing, and there are many who might have thought it impossible. I’m glad Taylor, his parents, his teammates, and his coaches were not on that list. I think legendary football coach Vince Lombardi perhaps said it perfectly: “We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”

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14 Nov 11

By Beth Foote

When Randy first spoke to me back in August about working on the 2020 Vision Quest website, I must admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about the organization. I wish I could say that I had a love of hiking or that the cause of blindness was near and dear to my heart, but neither was especially true at the time.

What I did have was a deep respect and admiration for Randy, who had been my friend for almost ten years. Ever since I had known him, I was inspired by his unwillingness to let blindness keep him from living a fulfilling life. So I was flattered and honored that he would approach me to be involved in his charitable efforts. I had been looking for new challenges outside of the workplace where I could use my writing and editing experience, and this opportunity seemed a perfect fit. I accepted gladly.

Randy tells the crowd about the work Team 2020 has done in 2011.

Randy tells the crowd about the work Team 2020 has done in 2011.

But it was Saturday, November 12 that I finally felt that I was a full member of Team 2020. That night, I attended 2020 Vision Quest’s annual “Peak Potential” fundraising dinner. The general feeling of the evening was lighthearted and jovial, a fun get-together of many good friends and acquaintances for a good cause. There was a wide collection of auction items generously donated by vendors in the area which were eagerly bid upon by the attendees. For me, though, the highlight of the evening was Randy’s short presentation about the work they had done and why it was important. It crystallized a lot of what I have been learning over the last few months and I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for the project.

The purpose of 2020 Vision Quest is multi-faceted. Yes, at its core it revolves around a blind man hiking all 48 4,000+-foot peaks in New Hampshire by 2020. Randy shared with us that he and the 2020VQ team hiked 17 peaks in 2011, and unveiled his plan to hike another 17 mountains in 2012.

However, the hiking is really a catalyst to promote the goal of outreach and increasing awareness for the cause of blindness. Randy told us that right now in the United States there are 4.4 million people suffering from blindness or serious vision impairment. By 2020, it’s projected that there will be 30 to 32 million. As the Baby Boom generation ages and suffers macular degeneration and related ailments, they will be in need of more and more services for the blind. Turning people’s awareness to the cause now is crucial.

I can think of no one more suited to speak to anyone who will listen–children and adults alike–about not letting your limitations get in the way of achieving your goals than Randy Pierce. He serves as a stunning example of someone who lives this philosophy every day of his life. Through his speaking engagements, Randy has presented to 10,000 students since embarking on this quest. He plans to keep adding to the list–he asked, why not shoot for 48,000 students?

Randy cited an inspiring quote last night that drives his approach to life:

“People will forget what you say and what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Maya Angelou

A full house listens watches Randy's presentation.

A full house listens to Randy's presentation.

I hope that as the children who hear Randy’s words grow up, they will remember how it made them feel to realize that their dreams didn’t seem so impossible after all. I hope they will carry that feeling with them as they run into difficulties in their lives that seem insurmountable–that they will say, “I know I can do this–I just need to figure out how.”

As Randy described on Saturday, 2020 Vision Quest needs your help. Donations, of course, are always appreciated, but beyond financial support, Randy spoke of the importance of community in making this charity successful. Talk about us–tell your friends and coworkers, send us notes of your support, read our blog, or follow us on Facebook and other social media. Talk to your child’s school principal or your workplace about engaging Randy to speak, which he will do at no cost. Spread awareness in any way you can.

That is the main message that I took away from the Peak Potential dinner: a strong community is essential to our success. And the more success we have in our goals, the more benefit there will be to a much larger community.

I’m proud to say that now, even though I knew little about the organization coming in, I feel a part of this community. This is a feeling I know I will remember long after I have forgotten what was said or what I did on Saturday. I hope you will join our community with your support for this important cause and share in this feeling, too. I’m glad I did!

Quinn, Randy, and Tracy get down on the dance floor!

Quinn, Randy, and Tracy get down on the dance floor!

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7 Nov 11

By Randy Pierce

Have you ever read a story so powerful it made your heart stop? I very much hope this doesn’t occur as I follow the inspirational blog of my friend Bobby Butler. While I certainly know a little about challenge, none of us has a monopoly on the difficulties that arise in life. These challenges are often not within our ability to control. What each of us has is the unique opportunity to choose how we make a positive difference–that is something we can control.

Bobby and his wife Tracie are waiting for a heart transplant for Tracie. The story that Bobby tells in this post entitled “The Call” describes the recent incident in which Bobby and Tracie received an urgent call that there was a donor heart available for her, which sent them scrambling to prepare their lives in the hope that their needs would be fulfilled at last. However, the heart turned out to be defective, and they had to regroup mentally and emotionally after this false alarm. Their story is still without an ending.

The call Bobby and Tracie need will never come without the help of a different kind of “donor”. In managing the 2020 Vision Quest, I frequently try to demonstrate the need and benefits of our particular efforts and methods to encourage folks to become involved. There are so many worthy charities which entice us to spend our time, efforts, and/or finances to make a beneficial impact, and I could not more fully appreciate the efforts of so many to help us along 2020VQ’s philanthropic journey. However, I never want to miss the opportunity to share quality messages that benefit others. This week’s message is to encourage my readers to consider a donation that anyone can take with minimal effort and cost, and potentially make the most critical difference in the lives of others.

Becoming an Organ Donor is a choice which may convert your personal time of tragedy into an opportunity of hope for another. I would personally urge anyone and everyone to give this full consideration. If you believe it’s the right thing, then the time to make the decision is now; the real waste would be a failure to make the decision in time to make the difference in one or possibly many lives. I know it takes a different kind of donor and it’s the type of donation we cannot typically see reach fruition. The reward of becoming an organ donor is knowing we’ve made a choice that has the potential to make the difference between life and death for another human being if the need and circumstance ever align. That’s a comfort and a positive decision that I want to know is with me every step of every day.

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