Archives - November, 2013

30 Nov 13

By Randy Pierce

Life, just like blindness, has both challenges and rewards aplenty. For me, it is not blindness which is hardest but the transition through loss of sight. When things we might normally achieve by one means cannot be done by the same approach we can either be frustrated or quest for another solution.

“Change is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty

When fully sighted, I travelled virtually anywhere with seeming ease, provided there was sufficient light. When there was not enough light, I didn’t stop my travel–instead, I found ways to provide the illumination to again travel easily. As my optic nerve began to die and my visual field became restricted into a tunnel, new challenges arose and my ease of travel decreased. I learned to both use a cane and to scan differently so as to be more aware of the obstacles my eyes previously noted in a glance.

With the practiced approach to those techniques, I again moved around with relative ease. Each stage of decrease in my sight required me to re-learn a host of routine tasks with different approaches. Even total blindness simply changed the manner I needed to manage getting around various environments.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy

There are many things which remain more difficult for me than in the days when I could see. Yet the more I undertake and practice solutions, the more natural my interaction with the challenging times becomes. My first hikes in the mountains were slow, tedious, and fairly mentally draining. As such I was surprised when a friend watched “Four More Feet” and commented that I made it look easy. We both knew hiking blind wasn’t easy, but as with anything it has become steadily easier through the hard work and repetition. It was then Skip Toney shared this analogy which I share often: as a guitar player, he is often asked if playing the guitar is hard and he shares that it is not hard at all… but… learning to play the guitar was a lot of hard work and practice. Thus it is with most things in life: the challenge is most often in the changing.

Another aspect worthy of mention is the actual “loss” part of losing vision. Loss is all too common in our world and that type of change leaves us not only seeking solutions to the things we want to accomplish, but also a grieving for the loss itself. In this there isn’t as easy a connection to seeking a solution and taking the time to practice. I miss the many splendors my eyes brought to me, from the twinkle in a loved one’s eye to the smile of a friendly face or the majestic views of a mountain range.

I also miss many things entirely unrelated to vision which most of us face throughout our lives. There is no solution which allows my beloved dogs Modi or Ostend to nuzzle my hand again. I cannot hear my dad’s cheerful greeting when I walk into the room. Those are real losses. Certainly there are tremendous new wonders which can bring about joy and delight, and yet the loss of those cherished experiences is real.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
– Maya Angelou

I choose to deliberately find and focus upon those marvels which do exist now or can be brought into our lives. I find and fight the strange urge within me to isolate my focus only to the loss. It isn’t always easy and it isn’t always successful, but the more I force the focus to other things the more natural that becomes. There was a time when Quinn’s muzzle nuzzle didn’t warm me as strongly as the absence of Ostend chilled me. Now the delight of throwing a ball or tugging a rope with Quinn is amongst the treasured moments. I only found those rewards by opening myself to the potential ahead more than lingering on the loss behind.

Ultimately, the hardest parts of life for all of us will vary. The moment in which we are struggling with anything may seem most difficult in that moment. The process of ensuring that the present is better involves putting more focus on those positives which do exist then and which can exist in the future. Influence everything you can to the best benefit; when challenges still arise, choose the right response to take you forward in the most positive way. At least for me, that’s how I find a better day in every day.


23 Nov 13

By Randy Pierce

“Don’t cry because it is over; smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

** Warning – this blog topic contains serious and somber news **

Quinn will always inspire.

The Mighty Quinn is an extraordinary dog and has achieved so very much in his young life. We are delightfully immersed in what we like to refer to as “Play-a-palooza” and “Treat-o-rama” here at the homestead. All this is to reward and celebrate the fantastic fortune of having shared so many moments of marvel with him. As Thanksgiving approaches, it is appropriate to be thankful for all the joy, freedom, and wonder which he has brought into the world.

Many of his supportive friends and the 2020 Vision Quest community are already partially aware of the serious challenges we presently face. After our last update, the full and devastating detail is deservedly due to everyone we can reach with this report.

Randy and Quinn in a happy moment of play.

Quinn has osteosarcoma (bone cancer) which has a focus point effectively on his skull. The result is a very aggressive and sadly terminal prognosis. The muscles of his jaw are being rapidly replaced with cancer cells. This is a rare location for the cancer, and with a biopsy showing vascular intrusion, very few months is the prognosis. In a bit of a mixed blessing: the mouth impact he has experienced for several months will likely achieve a point where he cannot play or even eat for himself before the cancer has the opportunity to end his life. As such, I will be very attentive to the quality of his life and after doing my utmost to ensure that quality is fully appreciated, I will ensure his peace arrives with all the love and mercy he similarly deserves.

Randy and Quinn run the day before the Boston Marathon.

As you might expect, I am devastated. I work hard nearly every moment to scramble for perspective and give Quinn the celebration his life and the happier present moments deserve. We’ve only been together for slightly more than seven short years. He’s only just approaching his ninth birthday on December 11 and without question it all feels entirely unfair.

Yet I look at the amazing experiences we’ve shared and I know without question I really am astoundingly fortunate. As I read the outpouring of support from Quinn’s many friends and the many people who have had their lives touched by this incredible boy, I count myself lucky for Quinn as well as the strength, courage and support which I know will see me through the darker days ahead.

Thank you to each and everyone of you who in all your various ways have expressed love and support. Thank you most of all to the Mighty Quinn. There will be time for the full measure of grief when he is no longer with us. Despite my best efforts, a bit too much grief may sneak into my present but I do hope you’ll all attempt to join me in thankfulness and celebration for the Mighty Quinn.

“You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn” – Bob Dylan


Just four more feet up Mt. Monroe.

Randy and Quinn playing at the beach.


18 Nov 13

By Melissa Caruso

Randy and Quinn greet their fans at Peak Potential 2013.

Peak Potential has never quite been your run-of-the-mill event. Sure, some of it’s the same stuff I’d see at a fundraiser for my kids’ school: food, silent auction, raffle, the usual suspects. But at Peak Potential, you get to hear about the latest adventures and accomplishments of Randy and the Mighty Quinn, which never fail to uplift and amaze. You can get puppy kisses from the next generation of guide dogs, attending with their raisers. And the enthusiasm and support of the 2020 Vision Quest community is truly warm and wonderful.

Peak Potential is always a little special. But this year, the event transcended “a little special” and became a truly wonderful and moving experience.

With the sad medical news about Quinn’s bone cancer, I wasn’t sure if I’d see him there this year. But there he was, making the rounds as usual — only this time, his admirers got to feed him Charlee Bears. It was good to see his wagging tail and get a greeting sniff (after getting permission, of course). And he had a lot of admirers to greet — the place was packed almost beyond capacity.

The audience listens to Randy's moving presentation about the 2020 VQ mission.

Randy’s presentation began with assurances that Quinn’s life at home these days had turned into Play-a-palooza and Treat-o-rama, and that he and Tracy were spoiling the Mighty Quinn as thoroughly as he deserved. The applause that greeted this announcement was so vigorous and heartfelt that you’d have thought the Patriots scored a touchdown. It was one of many signs of the amazing, positive, supportive atmosphere in the room that night.

Randy also shared a video and photos that showcased Quinn’s playful side and gorgeous grin. To me, the way Quinn zips around like a happy maniac when out of harness underscores how incredible guide dogs are — he’s very much just a goofy, sweet, yellow lab, just like my own significantly less accomplished dog, but look at the amazing things he can do! The fact that Quinn and Randy are, when it comes down to it, just a normal dog and guy — they’re not actually superheroes, even though they may seem like it sometimes — only makes their example more powerful.

Quinn greets the next generation of Guide Dogs.

This is part of why Randy is one of those rare people who makes you feel like a better person just for knowing him. It doesn’t seem to make sense — how can just knowing someone improve you? But through his contagious inspiration, he does. I’ve seen it in action.

Due to winning a bid at an earlier Peak Potential, my family had the great honor of being a part of Randy’s hiking team for his penultimate hike in the summer 48, Mt. Carrigain. When planning for the hike, I agonized about whether to bring along my two little girls, who at that time were aged 6 and 9. They’re seasoned hikers compared to most kids their age, but at 10 miles round trip, the trail would be nearly twice the length of their longest previous hike, with a far greater elevation gain. But then I thought of the 2020 Vision Quest message, and I realized that there was no way I was going to tell my girls “you can’t do this, it’s too hard.” And sure enough, they rose to the challenge beautifully, and completed a hike that most grownups would consider a substantial accomplishment.

Peak Potential, Randy’s philosophy, and the sterling example on the trail of Randy and Quinn’s amazing partnership all made that possible. Without them, my girls and I still wouldn’t know that they had the capability in them all along.

I thought of that hike as Randy spoke of the accomplishments of 2020 Vision Quest this year. There was a lot to be proud of. Back when Randy first announced his intent to hike all 48 of the 4000’+ peaks in the White Mountains, those of us who knew him well suspected he might accomplish this goal early — but even so, we never would have guessed he would do it twice by 2013! And hearing Randy’s account of how the funds raised by 2020 Vision Quest for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind have grown dramatically from year to year was as heartening and inspiring as his comparison of the impressive numbers to the staggering cost of training a single guide dog was sobering.

The most popular item at the auction--an inspirational photo of Quinn.

Randy’s presentations are always a highlight of the evening, but I didn’t expect the auction itself to be thrilling and moving. I should have known better — with 2020 Vision Quest, you should always expect the unexpected. The incredible generosity and enthusiasm of the community came through in the live bidding, with heated but friendly competition for all of the items. Even the silent auction blew me away — this was the first time I’d ever seen such a high percentage of the items in a silent auction go for full price (or even more). But the most moving moment of the auction came when it was time to auction off a gorgeous print of the Mighty Quinn, beautifully mounted with a quote from Gandhi.

This auction went a little differently. Randy started out by asking how many people in the audience would be willing to pay a low price — $40 — for the print. A forest of hands went up. Then he asked us to keep our hands up, as he said higher and higher numbers, until he came to a price that we weren’t willing to pay. And he began counting.

The lucky winners, with part of the 2020 VQ team.

As he got up past $100, some hands went down, but many remained firmly in the air. Randy asked Tracy to tell him when to slow down, and kept counting, quickly. At $200, she still hadn’t asked him to — many hands were still up. $250, $260, $270… still, several hands thrust up with conviction in the crowd. A hush fell over the room.

As Randy kept counting, I looked around at the faces of the people bidding. I’m not sure I can describe what I saw there, but it was beautiful. The dedication, good will, love, faith, and more that one mighty dog has instilled in so many hearts was incredibly moving.

And Randy kept counting. Past $300, past $350, and still Tracy didn’t need to tell him to slow down. $400…$450…$490… $500.

Randy stopped, and asked Tracy how many hands were still in the air. There were four. With the agreement of all, he decided to make three more copies and give them each one for $500… so we’ll never know how high he would have had to count.

I like to think of those four prints, maybe hanging in the living rooms of four wonderfully generous people, and imagine guests asking about them. I envision those four lucky winners trying to explain, with an enthusiasm familiar to all of us who’ve done it ourselves, the Mighty Quinn and Randy, and all the amazing things they’ve accomplished.

Because when inspiration is that contagious, just knowing them is all it takes for it to spread, and take root, and grow.

We'll love you forever, our Mighty Quinn.



3 Nov 13

By Randy Pierce

“I just wanted to thank you one more time for coming to inspire our students and staff yesterday.  Many staff approached me afterwards to say how great it was to hear you speak. You spoke to 345 6th graders, 336 7th graders and 402 8th graders.  There were also about 20 staff at each presentation for a total of about 1143 people you reached yesterday.”

Karen A. Turcotte – Londonderry, NH

I’ve been asked what age range I most prefer to visit with our 2020 Vision Quest Educational Presentations. We provide our presentations to all ages from kindergarten to high school as well as colleges and corporations. Certainly there are ranges in which various parts of our message have the potential to resonate more powerfully, and there is definitely a part of me which hopes to have the most powerful positive impact possible. Yet even in the youngest of our presentations, there are clearly moments which convince me the efforts are always worthwhile. Having a six-year-old tell me “I know not to pet him but he’s so cute!” always earns a smile as I tell Quinn he’s off duty so full greetings can occur. It still shows a little learning took place.

The topics and the emphasis change with the audience and the desired points of emphasis, as does the type of reward I receive from the experience. I strive to demonstrate all things are possible, albeit with considerable belief and determination as part of the process. I’ve found there is never an age and rarely a person who doesn’t come away from a presentation with a challenge to their prior vision for the world.

Fortunately for me, there is rarely a time I do not hear from various folks present on the positive impact we have already had upon their lives. These comments are the primary inspiration and motivation for my continued efforts with our charity, and as such are all the essential part of my favorite presentations. Still, if I had to pick an absolute favorite, the answer would be simple: it’s always my very next presentation! Drop me an email if that presentation may be for your school or group!


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