Archives - May, 2015



30 May 15

Introduction from Randy:

There are so many great organizatons who make choices to have a positive difference. As blindness arrived unexpectedly to my life so too did the realization of how many  positive connections it would help create. Such people and groups rarely receive enough attention for their kindness and choices. I hope to help a little this week and I think you too may be moved and maybe even help them along the path…

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On a cold winter night in 1873, Anna Boyd Ellington, Mary Comfort Leonard, and Eva Webb Dodd created their “club of mutual helpfulness”. This club has grown to an organization of more than 200,000 members, including this one, dedicated to fulfilling Anna, Mary, and Eva’s original motto to “Do Good”.

Around 60 years later, the idea of doing good took on a new form when Ruth Billow, a Delta Gamma who was blind, asked our membership to adopt sight conservation and aide to the blind as our international philanthropy. Many things about Delta Gamma have changed over the years, but our dedication to Service for Sight has not.

I began to take our philanthropy to heart while I was a collegian at DePauw, and even more so now in my career as Development Specialist for the Delta Gamma Foundation, where I am fortunate enough to work with several amazing groups every day.

The Delta Gamma Foundation is extremely proud of the partnerships we have been able to create with both the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI). This year, Delta Gamma sponsored two marathon experiences for individuals who are blind or visually impaired through these organizations.

These partnerships have allowed me to meet some outstanding people, both Delta Gammas and non-Delta Gammas. One such non-Delta Gamma is Randy Pierce, who I first met in Sacramento for the National Marathon Championships and saw again in Boston this spring.

Vaungaylyn and Dave after completing their half of the California International Marathon

Vaungaylyn and Dave after completing their half of the California International Marathon.

Our partnership with USABA also provided the opportunity for a Delta Gamma alumna, Vaungaylyn, to run in the marathon as a sighted guide for a U.S. Navy Veteran. Vaungaylyn registered her run through the Delta Gamma Foundation’s Anchor Run for the Blind program, which allows Delta Gammas to raise funds for veterans with visual impairments through fundraising runs all across the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to sponsorship support, Delta Gammas provided more than 100 hours of service for the USABA’s National Marathon Championships in December, and more than 200 for MABVI’s Team With A Vision in Boston.

Not only do our members strive to “Do Good” by providing service, but they also raise awareness and funds through the Delta Gamma Foundation. Last year, we provided more than $200,000 dollars to 32 organizations all over the U.S. and Canada that aid the blind or visually impaired.

Lee Deadwyler, Development Specialist and Laura O’Brien, Director: Advisers at the Race Expo in Boston

Lee Deadwyler, Development Specialist and Laura
O’Brien, Director: Advisers at the Race Expo in Boston.

Through these marathons, Delta Gammas have been able to establish meaningful, continuous service opportunities to aid the blind or visually impaired communities in their areas. I’ve also learned a lot along these journeys, too. I’ve learned about being brave, and trusting others. I’ve learned that something as small as serving a family dinner or walking new friends back from a pizza party can make a big difference for them, and for you.

We receive a lot of thanks for participating as sponsors and volunteers throughout the weekend, but really we should be thanking the athletes and organizations with which we work. Thank you for the opportunity to meet and serve such inspiring athletes. Thank you for showing us that disability does not mean inability. Thank you for showing us that you can have vision without sight. Thank you for inspiring and motivating us to “Do Good”.

Lee Deadwyler, Development Specialist
Delta Gamma Foundation

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23 May 15

By Randy Pierce

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.

Christopher Reeve

Group shot at the LA Tough Mudder

This month the Oberto Heroes of Summer launched their incredible program with the first four powerful video stories. All of the videos are excellent and I was overwhelmed at how well I thought they portrayed my approach to life in the midst of an epic event, the LA Tough Mudder from March 2015.

Am I a hero? I strive to do the right thing as often as possible. I believe I do some great work on many days and I’m tremendously proud of what I and my many teams have been able to accomplish. I don’t feel like a hero–I feel like a person fortunate and determined to savor this life with which I’m gifted.

I didn’t set out to be inspirational and it still is challenging for me at times to understand how often some people find inspiration in my approach. All I can wish for anyone is that whatever their inspiration, whatever their passion in life, they find ways to pursue their dreams and hopefully find similar success as I feel  has been available to me with determination and hard work. I guess ultimately I believe any of us who learn to help and support each other in reaching goals and dreams deserves some level of the title “hero.” My team on the Tough Mudder, on 2020 Vision Quest, and many other goals are all heroes of mine and I say to you it’s always the right time for all of us to be heroes for each other.

Thank you to Oberto for choosing to share my story and for the many other inspirations I think they will provide to all of us, why not take the time to fill your life with a little something extra today?

Heroes of summer

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16 May 15

By Randy Pierce

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Our early plans for this epic climb have grown considerable as our winter training hike demonstrated. Each of us has been in various ways attending the training and conditioning we will all want for the successful experience we hope is ahead. Just four short months remain before we will board planes and fly to Tanzania to begin the official expedition. The questions have begun in earnest and our teamwork must now also begin in earnest: What route are we taking? How many days will it take? Where is Autumn going to be staying? What’s the most challenging part? When do we summit? Will we have updates?

The truth is most of these already have answers and I’ll provide more now but the full trip sharing is still ahead as we must first finalize all the details of our teamwork ahead.

We are working with an expedition company called “Climb Kili” and will be using the most commonly traveled Machame Route up the mountain. We expect to depart the United States near the middle of September and return in very early October. The climb itself will involve six days of ascent with a summit planned for dawn after an all-night hike under a full moon. The sunrise from atop the tallest standalone mountain in the world has an incredible allure, though we all recognize the amount of work involved for all of us to experience this together.

Group shot on Franconia Notch

Group shot on Franconia Notch on a training hike last winter.

Speaking of which, Autumn is not joining us for the trip as the impact of low oxygen upon a dog is something we do not understand well enough to undertake at this point. She has plans to stay with Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes where she will get incredible love and care as well as some potential opportunities to show off at Guiding Eyes for the Blind!

While we are there we have decided to undertake a four-day safari following our climb. It is unlikely that many of us will ever have such an opportunity again and thus it was an easy part of the plan. There are so many safari variations and we are building ours to take advantage of the best regions for the season we are there.

So what can we do to train? We are all building aerobic conditioning. Running, biking, and climbing locally are certainly some ways. Stair climbers and treadmills can help though we simply need to get time out in the mountains as often as possible this summer as well. We have an oxygen-restricting mask to help simulate the low oxygen of higher altitudes when it is literally one breath per step to ensure the muscles have the oxygen they need to function. Equipment research and purchasing is happening. Finding ways to fully share all of the experience ahead is one of our goals. We’ve even heard from a company giving consideration to sponsoring our trip on our more significant scale but all of that remains for future development. Today we just want to share a little more and invite any of your questions or comments about the great adventure ahead!

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10 May 15

By Randy Pierce

Save the Date: Saturday, November 14, 2015
New Venue: Puritan Conference Center, Manchester NH

The Sixth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction is a gala event which is the largest yearly fundraiser to support the work of 2020 Vision Quest. After five fantastic years at the Derryfield, we are moving just a few miles away to a venue which will better meet the needs of our ever growing event. We’ll be keeping all the same best aspects of our event, but we’ll have more space and exclusive access to the venue which increases our ability to make it even better.

I am confident the additions to our volunteer staff, the venue change, and an incredibly exciting year of accomplishments could make this the best event yet. We need you, our incredibly supportive community, to continue to help us grow and strengthen this most important event. Save the date and return to our website for more information coming very soon!

Randy Pierce
Founder and President of 2020 Vision Quest

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5 May 15

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Christine powering through the second half of the Marathon.

On Saturday, June 6 at 10 a.m. our team will begin to gather for the 12th annual “Walk for Sight.” I’ve walked the short 3k route  every time and yet still no sight…*but*… I have a host of memories of people, pups and experiences while we’ve raised funds for both NHAB and 2020 Vision Quest at the same time.

It’s an inexpensive way to spend part of the day and I very much hope to spend it with you. Just one month left to join the team and fund raise means we are behind as Tough Mudders, marathons, and mayhem have kept me over-busy. I do hope, you’ll help pick me up anyhow and join our team or support me directly or perhaps support one of the other walkers on our team.

I’m not asking you to run a marathon or run at all! I’m not at risk to lose my tail this year and happily neither is Autumn *but* we are at risk of not achieving the success which is so essential to us without your help. So please don’t delay: join us for a low-cost family friendly event.

Whether you raise money as a walker, sponsor a walker, or simply join in the experience, every little bit helps. Thank you for the 11 years of past support in various ways and I hope to see you June 6!

Randy, Greg, and Christine after a successful finish!

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2 May 15

By Greg Neault

Greg and Laura starting out their blind race.

Greg and Laura celebrating their blind race.

“I once was blind, but now I see.” How many times have these words crossed my eyes and ears? But never before have they elicited the response from me that they do now.

Saturday morning found me waking early with a 5k to run at 8am. Not an entirely unusual activity for me on a weekend in the warmer months. But this race was different.

This race I ran blindfolded and remained blindfolded for 6 hours past the finish line. One might say, “Why would you want to run blindfolded?” A legitimate question, for sure.

For one, it was a fundraising event. We were raising much needed revenue for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, helping them to continue their work assisting people to make a successful transition into a life affected by vision loss. The race offered a challenge and a new experience, which I always enjoy. But prime among my motivations for embarking on such an endeavor was to gain perspective.

For three years I have been guiding Randy Pierce through hikes, road races, and obstacle courses. This race provided me with an opportunity to experience life on the other end of the guide/guided relationship. I had high hopes that it would teach me some things about the way I guide and the way Randy experiences that guiding, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I walked into it with preconceived notions as to what the difficulties would be. It was a very large 5k, 10,000 runners strong, in an urban environment with lots of background noise to challenge communications with my guide. I have no experience running blind, and was unaware of how my balance and sense of direction would fare without my eyes to aid them. My confidence level was also a concern. Would I be hesitant to run at a normal pace without my sight?

Greg and Laura run through the streets.

Greg and Laura make great progress.

Race day brought surprising results. The weather was nice, the crowd energetic, the runners forgiving of my missteps and my guide more than able. Only a few noise disruptions to otherwise fluid communication and very successful and respectable 9:45 pace over 3.1 miles.

As welcome as those surprises were, there were some not so welcome, but equally surprising nuances to my adventure. Our post-race activities included a walk around Boston Common, lunch at the Beer Works, gelato in Boston’s famed North End and a subway trip back to our parked car.

Having transitioned from Laura (my race guide) to Loren (my post-race guide), we met with some adversity. Loren had little experience navigating the streets of Boston. Though I have been known to wander Boston somewhat regularly, I had no experience navigating blind. Randy has provided me with direction on numerous occasions, but his path finding is based more around distance, number of blocks traveled and street names. My typical navigation is focused more, as you might guess, on visual landmarks. Unable to see these landmarks, I was forced to describe them to Loren and subject to her interpretation of my articulations. Some missed cues as to our current location led to some frustrations when my directions proved unfruitful after two attempts.

Lunch brought some new challenges as well. Some condescension from our waitress when I misspoke my beer selection coupled with my previously accrued navigation frustrations led to a curt response from me. Fortunately I was blindfolded, so my looks were unable to kill!

One lesson learned over lunch was the utility of a same-sex guide. The public restroom can be a scary place when you’re on your own! I’ve frequented the Beer Works for years, so I’m fairly familiar with the layout of the restroom. That didn’t stop me from spending a few minutes trying to find the hand dryer, imagining all the while the look on the face of the next patron to walk in and discover me blindfolded and scouring the walls with my hands.

My experience with the Blindfolded Challenge was enlightening in many ways. My theories about impending struggles were way off base, and challenges arose where I thought smooth sailing would prevail. When I look back at our recent California Tough Mudder trip, I think of all the focus I placed on the event. In retrospect, I see more obstacles and challenge in the travel, the airport, and the commute than I do in the mud, the hills, and the walls.

Group shot of the runners.

The runners together! Building trust is a key lesson of the day.

The next epiphany was that of trust. The first time I put the blindfold on and WALKED around a track, I questioned my ability to run the race. It was awkward, I felt unstable, and I was more than a bit nervous for myself, my guide, and the general public! I felt unsure as we navigated a track with scant few others using it. How was I going to fare on a street course with 10,000 other runners?! Taking into consideration that I had the benefit of seeing the track immediately before running it, I’m in awe of Randy yet again. The miles of mud, rocks, roots, and potholes of our past endeavors jump out at me and my chest gets a little tight just thinking about it. I watched Randy put his trust in Loren and Sky, whom he had never met previous to our Tough Mudder adventure, which was in a much more technical landscape than my flat track in a quiet park! The level of trust necessary to commit your well being to the discretion of another cannot be overstated. That Randy has entrusted himself to me on so many occasions, whether it be guiding him myself or in trusting that others that I have brought into the fold are quality people that will have his best interests at heart, is one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.

The last, and maybe the most profound takeaway of this experience was the last. After six and a half hours under the blindfold, after running, walking, eating, drinking, navigating restrooms and subways, it was time to call it quits. I removed the blindfold and returned to the ranks of the visually able. When I pulled back the blindfold, there was sensory overload. Bright light, cars, people. Accompanying that rush of visual stimuli was a large sense of relief. I could see again. All the difficulty and frustration left behind with the return to the visual world. Then, just as profound a revelation: the realization that I was experiencing a moment of relief that will never come for those experiencing actual vision loss.

I once was blind to the realities of life with vision loss, but now I see that I once knew very little and now know a small portion of that experience. Life is learning and I’m on the path.

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