Archives - March, 2013

23 Mar 13

By Randy Pierce

“Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are probably right” – Henry Ford

Randy shows a classroom Quinn's hug. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Liang.

We recently had a barrage of school presentations, which are a fundamental part of our mission with 2020 Vision Quest. We offer the myriad quality messages to any school or non-profit organization free of charge because we believe in the positive impact they provide, especially to students in grades K-12. While the messages are adjusted to challenge and properly reach the various ranges of students, there is a common theme delivered: Believe in Your Ability to Achieve!

The Ides of March this year provided me with a proud moment of surprise. I’ve always suggested I want to connect with more people than peaks, despite my love of our mountain journeys. I can hardly believe that in less than three years of our many efforts with 2020 Vision Quest, we have now spoken to more than 21,000 students!

If we can deliver our message to 20,000 then why not 48,000? Why not even more?

Our “For Educators” page highlights some common topics, though most presentations are customized for the purposes of that specific presentation. We are proud of how many schools request that we return year after year to continue making a difference. The benefit of sharing our mission is enabling more and more opportunities.

Will you help us share the message and be part of the team that does this work? Will you be one of the many drivers who help ensure Quinn and I are able to arrive at so many schools all across New England? Will you be a sponsor or donor to support our cause and ensure 2020 Vision Quest continues its positive impact?

I hope you can and will be part of our team!


16 Mar 13

By Beth Foote

I’m covering the blog this week as Randy recovers from his recent whirlwind of school presentations. Randy will be back next week!

Recently, I was having a bad day at work. It was one of those terribly busy days when everything seemed to be taking twice as long to get done as it should have. So when my cell phone started buzzing on my desk, I glanced at the unfamiliar number on the caller ID and then looked back at my screen, letting the call go to voicemail.

I was curious, though; I looked up the area code and saw that it was from Kentucky. I don’t know anyone in Kentucky, but whoever called me from there had left me a message. Soon the curiosity was great enough that I took a break from the spreadsheet I was working on and called up my voicemail.

A woman’s friendly Southern-accented voice greeted me. “Hi, this is Mary Ann calling on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. We just really wanted to say thank you so much for joining our field monthly giving program and we wanted to say welcome to the team.” She went on to tell me that I would receive a welcome kit in the mail in a few weeks and that I would be invited to special events and conference calls where they would talk more about their work. She ended with, “We thank you so much for your commitment.”

You see, part of my 2013 resolution was to do more things that focused outside of myself and focused more on helping others. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trials and tribulations of one’s own life–I felt like I needed to get out of my own head a little more and get some perspective, and to “pay it forward.” In addition to the work I already do with 2020 Vision Quest, I also decided to become a regular donor (albeit a small one) to Doctors Without Borders.

The concept of Doctors Without Borders (or Medecins Sans Frontieres, commonly shortened to MSF) completely floors me. Their mission is to provide medical aid “to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation,” to quote the website. They are a completely neutral humanitarian organization. They are not affiliated with any religious or political group. They purposely do not accept gifts from corporations that come into direct conflict with their mission, so as to retain their independent status. 90% of their gifts come from private donors.

Wherever there are epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or those excluded from healthcare, MSF will most often be there too. They were in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and Japan after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. They have set up projects in the most dangerous and war-torn places in the world, such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria. They help people who need it most, regardless of who has fought against whom.

In the current climate of religious and political divisiveness in this country (the US), I find it very refreshing and heartening to remember humanitarian organizations like this exist for the sole purpose of helping people in need simply because we’re all people together on this planet and it’s the right thing to do. Making the world a better place benefits us all.

Nick Lawson, MSF-USA’s Director of Field Human Resources said it best in a recent newsletter I received:

“I think medical professionals like to work with MSF because it takes them back to the fundamental essence of the medical act and the Hippocratic oath. They can use their skills to do excellent work that’s not about the HMO or the legal environment. It’s about doing the very best you can as a human being to benefit another human being. That’s the essence of MSF.”

Further demonstrating their commitment to their mission, MSF puts 86% of their donations back into their programs and services, with 12.7% going towards fundraising and just 1.3% going towards management and other general expenses. For me, these statistics feel like an assurance that a donation to them will be used to the most direct benefit possible of people in need.

It humbles me to think about the work of charity organizations, who help others with no expectation of compensation. It reminds me that enriching someone else’s life is a reward unto itself. It puts things into perspective and encourages me not to dwell too much on what I perceive as difficulties in my own life.

Perhaps, too, this perspective will give me courage to try things I might not have before. As the 2020 Vision Quest mission states: ”Achieve a vision beyond your sight.” Here’s to having the courage to try to make a difference!

For more information about Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres, please visit their website:


9 Mar 13

By Randy Pierce

Photo courtesy of Justin Fuller.

As the one-year anniversary of our historic winter hiking arrived, I tried to re-live the many experiences in my mind. A few words written from a recent winter hike hung pleasantly over much of that reflection:

Snow is crunching under my feet in sharp contrast to the blanket hush of deep snow upon the entirety of the forest around me. Distantly, I can hear the winds assault upon the higher peaks of the ridge line above us. We are traversing beneath the Cannon Balls towards the Kinsman ridge and the only words I’d heard recently were expressions of awe for the beauty of our surroundings. “You simply cannot describe this or see it within a picture with the depth of its reality!” Smiling to myself, I know that despite not seeing it I can feel it within me and in the responses of those with me. I think there are things within these experiences which draw us into contemplation that feeds the mind and spirit even as the body is challenged to grow with the efforts of coming to such a place. It’s simply marvelous and it’s one of many reasons why I hike here in these glorious White Mountains.

"Whistle while you work... doo dee doot doot doo doo doo..." Photo courtesy of Justin Fuller.

Our film of the quest, “Four More Feet,” has been shown in most of the New England states and have been appreciated by many attending the events, with hundreds of copies of the DVD being brought away to share with friends and family. The requests for more viewings of the film have been steady and one year later we have a few more opportunities that we are excited to share.

Our final public showing of the film, unless a surprising opportunity arrives, will be sponsored by the University of New Hampshire’s outdoor education program. We’ll be in the Memorial Union Building Theater, a place where I spent many working hours as an undergraduate. The OE program also was instrumental in helping Quinn and me enhance our hiking knowledge and experience and ultimately helped facilitate our success in the single winter season in the White Mountains!

Final showing date:

Date: 3/25/2013
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

MUB Theater II
83 Main Street
Durham, NH 03824

I hope to once again share the film with a packed theater as we’ve been so fortunate to do with most of our showings. We will entertain a Q&A session as well as having Quinn’s Pawtograph available to anyone obtaining a copy of the DVD from what very well may be our last public showing. We hope to make a grand event – finishing where a lot of things started for us!

We are also very pleased to announce that for a very limited time, for any donation of $25 or more, we will ship you a copy of the DVD shipped anywhere in the continental United States if you so choose. This offer goes live on starting on the anniversary of our success, March 10, and lasts until we launch what we expect is our final official hiking schedule for the non-winter 48 on May 18. If you would like to receive a copy, just let us know and send us a name and address to which the DVD should be sent at

As an all-volunteer staff incredibly busy with the core mission of our charity, this DVD is normally not available for mail-order, but we absolutely want to share the opportunity for everyone to experience this remarkable journey captured so well by filmmaker Dina Sutin. As such we provide this limited opportunity and hope it will ensure the film is shared with everyone who can benefit from the inspirational message it provides!

The full details are on the front page of our website for 2020 Vision Quest.

Let’s put a few miles into the efforts of “Four More Feet!”

"Just four more feet!" Photo courtesy of Justin Fuller.


2 Mar 13

By Randy Pierce

“Don’t call yourself blind” was expressed to me in a somewhat irritable fashion once after a presentation in which I had done so. I respect the people’s desire to communicate their feelings about my choice of words and the potential for misconceptions, but personally, I would have preferred a more open-minded approach!

I have absolutely no light perception or any other form of visual ability. I’m perfectly comfortable with the word “blind” to accurately describe my situation. This is also referred to as NLP or “no light perception” or total blindness. I respect that for many with varied forms of vision loss, the word “blind” seems like a final and often terrifying status they hope to never reach.

The truth is that blindness has been defined as a legal term–and only roughly 8% of blind people are NLP. This means the vast majority, approximately 92%, might be termed “legally blind,” and have some degree of vision.

“Legally blind” is defined as having vision in the better eye at less than 20/200 with the best possible corrective adjustment or a visual field of less than 20 degrees. Typical people experience 20/20 vision in each eye with a field of roughly 180 degrees.

All these definitions are certainly valid, but they do not take into consideration the reality of emotion nor the detrimental potential in semantics or misconceptions. Whether knowing the definition or not, if someone perceives themselves as not blind but rather visually impaired, they not only may wish to avoid a word they consider detrimental–they they may have strongly negative associations with the word blindness and the use of it may be hurtful to them whether intended or not.

There is pretty clear evidence that services offered to the blind attract statistically less people requesting help than services for the visually impaired, even though the same people would qualify. This aversion for some is a strong indicator of the significance placed upon the word. They avoid those services not likely as a matter of principle or pride but often because they perceive it as not applying to them.

One other interesting impact is the impression of the fully sighted. As they often have the notion that of “blindness” only refers to total blindness, they may be doubt the validity of those whose visual struggle is actually considerable and not wish to classify them as blind.

For example, when I still had some remaining vision, I recall all too well my frustration, shame, and anger as I held my cane to my side and struggled to read a label in a grocery store. A passerby commented rather hurtfully: “You aren’t really blind, you faker.” At the time, I still struggled with embarrassment about my blindness and the very real challenges it presented. The comment was uneducated and inappropriate by all measures, but all too symbolic of another stumbling block.

So in this last accusation as well as the first one about not calling one’s self blind, each comment could have been addressed with open-minded communication. I was in fact blind in both cases, though I might prefer the word visually impaired in either situation. It’s nearly impossible to know for certain how such a diverse word will be taken, and all I can reasonably suggest is just to be reasonable in your communication to explore what is the right word for any situation. I’m quite sure that I am both blind and comfortable with the term and similarly with every well intentioned use of the term. Personally, I will try to lead with the term “visually impaired” when uncertain because I do know the reasons and realities behind the preferences for some.


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