Archives - February, 2014



22 Feb 14

By Randy Pierce

2020 Vision Quest presentation at Memorial School presentation, June 2013.

2020 Vision Quest presentation at Memorial School presentation, June 2013.

We consider our school presentations to be a core part of our Mission for 2020 Vision Quest. We’re proud to announce that our “For Educators” page has been recently updated.

Having reached nearly 30,000 students with our presentations, we had a disappointing but appropriate easing of our schedule during Quinn’s battle with bone cancer. While we will always mourn the loss of the Mighty Quinn, we are now fully returned to scheduling and we are presenting at schools everywhere possible. What school or student shouldn’t hear the powerful message we provide? That’s our motivation in always striving to be available for these opportunities.

Are you an educator at a school, youth organization, or other appropriate group? Do you believe our message should be heard somewhere? Please consider reviewing and sharing our “For Educators” page, or this post with anyone who might benefit from the information. Continue the great support our charity receives or even share with us a contact you think we should approach to ensure the opportunity is understood. We are not taking a February or April vacation in delivering upon the mission of our educational outreach and we hope you’ll help us in this effort!

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20 Feb 14

Guiding Eyes shares fantastic news and begins a new chapter in Randy’s and Tracy’s lives!

By Randy Pierce

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” – Closing Time by Semisonic

Meet Autumn, Randy's new Guide Dog partner, arriving in Nashua on March 16.

Meet Autumn, Randy’s new Guide Dog partner, arriving in Nashua on March 16.

Every Winter’s passing welcomes springtime to our lives. The many thousands of people so fortunate to have known the Mighty Quinn endured a most harsh winter. I will certainly honor and celebrate Quinn’s life, love, and many accomplishments.

Spring will arrive to New England on March 20th this year, but my darkest of winters will ease as Autumn, my new Guide Dog, arrives to Nashua on March 16. No dog would or could replace Quinn just as it was for Ostend and Modi before him. The new arrival will bring joy, freedom, and likely much love anew and begin a journey with so much possibility for our own marvelous moments.

Autumn is a 60-pound, 2-year-old “Black and Tan” Labrador retriever from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The Black and Tan is a fairly rare color variation for the breed which already makes this girl a little extra special. She has been described as a “spitfire” with plenty of speed, a passion for working, and a love for the snow. That last bit may prove beneficial in our training which will begin, as mentioned,  on March 16!

Autumn stands at attention.

Autumn stands at attention.

We have been selected to undertake the 10-day home training program which is an intensive and localized training right here on the snowy streets of Nashua, NH. We may travel a bit to ensure exposure to all the various possibilities we might wish to experience together, such as a subway, but the primary focus will be on the basic needs and special attention to all the challenging routes which are part of my normal routines. She’ll learn with me our local bus system, the City Room Café(!), the YMCA, Mine’s Falls trails and probably even a school visit! As one added but very special bonus, the trainer who gave Quinn the foundation we took to incredible heights will be joining us for this training and transition.

“A person cannot cross the same river twice for the second time neither they nor the river are the same.” – Chinese Proverb

Each dog is different and part of the training is helping me to understand what Autumn needs and wants to make us the most effective team. I too am so very different from the 2006 version of myself who headed to Yorktown Heights, NY to meet with and learn from both Guiding Eyes and Quinn. The real beauty in building an effective and happy team is part of the incredible work performed by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and I could not be more excited to open myself up to all the learning and growing ahead for me and my next partner. Quinn changed me and my life in wonderful ways and now it’s time to begin an exciting new journey. I very much look forward to sharing the wonders along that path with my family, friends and the 2020 Vision Quest Community. Thank you all for the incredible, heartwarming love and support during the hardest parts of the last few months and thank you for joining us for this promising future with Autumn!

Autumn smiles for the camera!

Autumn smiles for the camera!

 

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15 Feb 14

By Randy Pierce

This past week, I attended my second New England Visually Impaired Ski Festival hosted by Maine Adaptive and Sugarloaf Mountain in the wonderful wilds of Maine. As you might expect, there was a fair bit of skiing involved as well as some even more powerful lessons for life. As you read our blog, I invite you to think about becoming more actively involved in such an experience as a participant, a volunteer, or perhaps a connector to help others become involved in this tremendous opportunity next year.

Brian Leno, Brent Bell, Randy Pierce, and Erik Weihenmayer out for burgers.

Brian Leno, Brent Bell, Randy Pierce, and Erik Weihenmayer out for burgers.

It began with the legendary Erik Weihenmayer sharing his inspirational achievements in a powerful blending of his words and videos. Having reached the top of the tallest mountain on every continent, he set the bar high for anyone, but his continued drive to pioneer adventures through his “No Limits” team challenged everyone to determine if they were a quitter, a camper, or a climber.

The energy was high with the festival ahead and the knowledge many would share the slopes with Erik. Brent, Brian and I shared dinner with him instead but this included some planning for future adventure opportunities together. That would commence with an early morning TV interview on WSKI 17 to overview the programs and talk about our personal experiences with ski adventures and more.

(Randy’s interview starts at 8:35 on the video.)

Having spent my first three days on the slopes last year, my experiences were limited. Our first day this year was a reconnection to the Guide terms and feel of the mountain. Brian Leno captures a great video of Brent Bell guiding me from the front as we realize how much of the foundation we had retained.

We captured much of last year’s experience in words and video on our blog “Skiing Without Seeing” and as such I want to focus on a personal moment of growth which may have value for many of us.

I often want to challenge myself and can at times place an unreasonably high expectation upon myself. This pursuit of perfection in performance is often rewarding in achievements. There is a part of the process I consider a little broken. I am all too often rather hard on myself for not meeting my hopes. This really clicked for me poignantly when Brent Bell framed it playfully, albeit sarcastically, as “Hating myself into perfection!”

I’d like to think that hate is far stronger a reaction than I ever feel, but my expression at certain moments was trending so much more to the negative than I ever would believe healthy or even the most beneficial for the growth I’m trying to experience. Given my very strong belief in Ability Awareness over Disability Awareness, it’s almost comical I had been allowing myself to emphasize the lack of sufficient achievement rather than the celebration of the progress and perseverance.

I suspect I’m not alone in this private club of those unwittingly trying to “Hate themselves into Perfection” and I hope many will join me in dedication to stop paying dues to a less productive approach. Of course, if we slip a bit occasionally, we might remember to be gentle on ourselves for that failing as well and celebrate the attempt to always strive to be better.

So with that lesson understood if not entirely learned, I want to celebrate the participants, the volunteers, and the organizers of this incredible event. There are so many stories of all of those individuals facing personal challenge and reaching for the peak potential we always support with 2020 Vision Quest. In this we all share in the successful and inspirational tales of human achievement. I also want to celebrate all those who make the choices to strive towards such success and yet celebrate all progress and failings as part of the process. A part which includes appreciating the journey as well as the destination. Perhaps especially at this moment I want to celebrate my own goal to love myself in the failings and be stronger for that support as I reach again. Anyone with me?

Brent and Randy pause in their skiing on a snowy hilltop.

Brent and Randy pause in their skiing on a snowy hilltop.

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8 Feb 14

By Randy Pierce

On March 1, I’ll briefly present at a fundraiser for my friend Christine Houde and her team who are running the Boston Marathon this year. She is running for Mass Eye and Ear’s charitable efforts which is a cause near and dear to me.

Randy and Christine run in the snow.

Randy and Christine run in the snow.

Christine and I met through hiking and  mutual friends. We soon found much common ground and then quickly began covering the ground as she joined me to act as a human guide for my first longer run off of the “dreadmill” and outside in the fresh, cold and…very snowy air!

My topic for the evening will be “Never Running out of Inspiration.” While it will only be 5-10 minutes or so, there will be a great evening of socializing, celebrating, and supporting this worthy cause, as well as support of her choice to undertake this epic race.

There are two methods of entry into the Boston Marathon: 1) to meet their qualifying time requirements, or 2) run for one of their approved charities and raise sufficient funds for that charity. I had intended to qualify for this year’s race, but Quinn’s declining health persuaded me to hold off that process and devote my time and attention to him. With my commitment of fundraising for 2020 Vision Quest, I could not in good conscience undertake the fundraising commitments for another charity, so I am dedicating this year to running in Quinn’s honor and earning my way into the 2015 Boston marathon. This will involve the dedication and kindness of many human guides throughout the process, but Christine was the first to lend her efforts to this latest quest. Even the surprise snowstorm didn’t stop us from our inaugural workout together.

This fundraising event is about her dedication to running and  particularly the reasons for running Boston. As such I took the time to ask her a few questions I think you may appreciate hearing. I think many be particularly touched to hear her choice to honor the Mighty Quinn this year.

1) Have you always been a runner?
In high school I played volleyball and in college I did intramural sports but I rarely just went out for a run. I can say my running/ racing career truly started when I MOVED TO NH in 2010..i was talked into running the St. Paddy’s five miler and my time was not very impressive. In February of 2011- on a whim I decided to sign up for a half marathon to have a goal to look forward to- being my first winter in NH. I trained for that in the cold and did another half in 2011. I really kicked it into gear, doing every race I could get my hands on in 2012 and 2013. I was lucky enough to win the female division of the Seacoast Road Race Series this past October. I feel truly blessed to have discovered the joys and sometimes pains of running.

2) Why do you run in general and why marathons?
I run as a challenge to myself. I love the race scenes and the spirit of the sport and interacting with other runners. After I completed 3 half’s, I said I wanted to try and tackle the challenge of a full marathon. I registered for the Manchester Marathon in 2012. It was a lofty goal and an amazing experience. I did not run one last year and always knew I was going to do another one. The marathon is a mental and physical sport that pushes me towards something I never would have thought I could accomplish.

3) The Boston marathon has many reasons for being a noteworthy event but I wonder if given the events of last year, does running in this year’s event carry any special significance to you?
I knew 12 runners that were near the scene last year. Some had just finished. Some were diverted at mile 22. The tragic events really hit me. These events were way to close to home and no one could stop the spirit of runners. I wanted to show that I was Boston Strong and cowards can’t hold us down as American’s.

4) Why are you running for Mass Eye and Ear?
As a Lion, I am a huge advocate for vision and hearing research and treatment. Mass Eye and Ear treated 75 of the victims from last year and had helped thousands upon thousands of people gain sight and recover from diseases of the throat, nose, and ears. Vision and hearing are two incredible senses that are worth fighting and raising money for. My grandmother suffers from macular degeneration and I have experienced her downward progression over the years. If I can help someone else’s mom fight diseases like that, I will have felt accomplished.

5) Our community is still reeling from the loss of Quinn and I approached you about trying to help you sell out your event by asking if you’d consider wearing a “Quinn strong” symbol contingent on selling out the March 1 Fund Raiser. It’s quite a choice to wear any symbol during the race and you declined telling me you will wear that regardless of the sell-out. That’s a lot of kind support for a dog you met only once and yet you didn’t hesitate a moment in that response. What were your thoughts when you heard my inquiry about wearing such a symbol?
My thoughts were a mix of this- I know how much dogs mean to people. I am so in love with Salem and he brings so much to my life. I cannot even begin to imagine the support Quinn brought to your life because he helped you “see”. He climbed 48 mountains with you; he allowed you to run outside again. He literally was your eyes when you could not see. He was the sweetest boy when he was in pain the last time I saw him. He gave you unconditional love and a void is in your heart. I want to run for him and for you to show you that even in the darkest of times, someone can help you regain a sense you never  thought you could have. I find it incredible you climbed all these mountains with him by your side and your story touched me. I am so sad over Quinn’s loss and I know your pain is on another level. He is family and will never be forgotten. I want to run for him with all my heart. I hope this is ok with you.

6) You know I’m training for my qualifying marathon to ensure I can run Boston 2015 and you are among a select group of folks who have been my sighted guide for running. What were your impressions of your part in that process?
I am honored and thrilled to be able to see you through a marathon and I know you will qualify. Not a doubt in my mind. The experience for me was amazing and I cannot wait to do it again. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

7) Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our community?
Keep up the great work and keep inspiring people.

Fundraising Event Info

When: Saturday, March 1, 2014 Time: 5PM – 10PM
Where: Somersworth VFW-post 4486: 43 High Street Somersworth, NH 03878
What: A fun filled evening complete with food, live music, a guest speaker, raffles, and cash bar.

Dress: Business Casual

Price: $40 per person in advance, $50 per person at the door. $65 per couple in advance, $75 per couple at the door

All proceeds go directly to Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary Inc. to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.

Checks should be payable to “Foundation of Mass Eye and Ear, Inc.”, with “Christine Houde” written in the “memo” section of each check.

To purchase tickets or for more information please contact Christine Houde at:

(954) 675-8544 or Christinehoude11@gmail.com

Donate online here

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1 Feb 14

By Randy Pierce

Nametag reading, "Hudson Lions, NH District 44-H, The Mighty Quinn"

Quinn's name tag as an honorary Lions Club member.

While “I am Lion” as I write this feature, I’m ever so proud to be a part of an excellent group and suggest you might find similar “pride” by joining us. I am a member of the Hudson NH  Lions Club after joining Nottingham West and being welcomed completely by our local club several years ago when hard times led to the closing of our original club.

Lions are the largest service organization in the world, accomplishing tremendous things in their local communities, nationally, and beyond, while holding strong support to their early origins as “Knights for the Blind” at Helen Keller’s request of them back in June of 1925. I’ve shared time and company with many great and vastly differing clubs from Litchfield, Meredith, Atkinson, Canaan, Portsmouth, Chester, Concord, Souhegan Valley and well beyond. Each club has differences in membership numbers, age, and approach but all have a constant commonality as well which is an adherence to their motto “We Serve.” I’ve been delightedly surprised numerous times when encountering people such as Pete and Christine Houde who are reaching out to help in some fashion only to discover afterwards we share membership in the Lions organization.

Lions Club of Hudson, NH sponsors contest to create peace posters, "Our World, Our Future"

The Hudson, NH Lions Club sponsors important efforts such as the Lions International Peace Poster Contest in local schools and youth groups. Winners at Memorial School illustrating the theme, "Our World, Our Future."

My own club has remained my closest role model for friendship, camaraderie, and fun, all while working towards the opportunity to make a positive impact in the world. It was little surprise they immediately made Quinn an honorary member and later welcomed my wife Tracy when she was ready to join us as well. I put an inordinate amount of effort into our 2020 Vision Quest charity and the organizations we support, NHAB and Guiding Eyes, and yet I find it satisfying and gratifying to make the time and choose to be an active member in Lions.

I hope all of you reasonably local to me would consider joining with me and attending a meeting at our club, perhaps discovering that you too could benefit from and be a benefit to the efforts we undertake in making a difference in the world. Should you not be sufficiently local, perhaps you can seek out your local club and tell them you’ve heard from me there’s a great opportunity and you want to explore if it’s right for you.

There are many great causes and many great organizations out there. It can often be all too easy to  be complacent in our lives or realistically busy enough we don’t choose to make the time for one more thing. It’s honestly not the right choice for everyone and yet I know there is more than enough need to warrant the effort. I know that near you there is a Lions Club waiting and willing to welcome a new member to a team of people who will give more than they ask of you in ways which for me is worth the choice to belong!

So how about it–will you join me?

Connect with the Hudson, NH Lions Club on Facebook.

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