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19 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

One day after this famous photo, the Boston bombing highlighted the painful realities of where unresolved differences can lead.

These are difficult words to write and I have some considerable concerns for the possibility of undesired and unintended responses. I manage risks with the adventures we take as well as with my stewardship of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We encourage people to reach for and achieve their peak potential personally, professionally, and philanthropically and we attempt to lead by example. I am generally proud of the people with whom I surround myself and certainly the team of volunteers with whom I work to make 2020 Vision Quest a successful and positive organization.

I have confronted many instances of disagreement on all levels of my life and experienced many forms of success and failure in approaching these differences. I am rarely short on opinions, and in discussions with my friends candidly and comfortably explore all the volatile topics of dissent with a notion I always want to expand my understanding, maintain my compassion and seek resolutions to the core of issues for the longer term ideally with a healthy approach to any short term crisis.

I believe our country is indeed facing some significant crisis. The aspect of that I hope to address is our approach to disputes. How we resolve our differences seems incredibly broken. All too often we take the most extreme of views, demand a choosing of sides, and narrow our focus to the present urgency and are thus blinded to the reasons which led to those differences. Some of those reasons would likely provide an understanding of where true energy should be placed if we hope to bring about real resolutions. We are so caught up in the “what” we forget to really look for the “why” of things.

I understand the few lines here are a paltry attempt to invoke change. Real change requires people embracing some of the simple ideals involved in better communication. It involves a choice to want real resolution and not simply to be victors in this most dangerous game of spiraling hostility and disagreement.

I share my thoughts in the hope it may resonate for some and my commitment to be open to truly listen as much or more than I share. I commit to seek the “why” behind every “what” that frustrates me. I will remember that kindness and compassion are my compass even as the conviction and strength of my sense of right vs wrong ensures strength of word and action to my approach. I understand there may likely be some who will not accept this intent and I will still strive to give them the chance, even as I will not tolerate their debilitating tactics within my ability to influence. I’d rather understand, educate, and resolve situations–and if I cannot, I will release people from my regular interaction.

I do want to challenge beyond a limited echo chamber of similar beliefs and I think this is reasonable. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and so I’ll practice these approaches in ever expanding circles and encourage all of you to do the same. Ultimately if we do not learn to resolve our differences in healthy ways, then that leaves us only with the escalating tensions of not resolving or the equally awful unhealthy resolution. I know my choice of those three and I’ll work towards healthy resolutions every time and understand the emphasis will be on “work.”

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17 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

Autumn does a hula in Hawaii.

While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.

While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.

On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.

Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.

If you need a little inspiration, let’s remind you of her first world tour.

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5 Aug 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

Randy and Jose running in the California International Marathon in 2014.

The arrival of August heralded the start of my training for the California International Marathon (CIM) for December 3. This is  where the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) hosts the National Marathon Championship I was very proud to win in 2014 (B1 Division). As I ramped up my own training, it gave me pause to consider the overall fitness and endurance I’ve been fortunate to maintain through my various other health challenges. I believe my general health and approach to preserving this health has been a benefit to my mental and emotional well-being along the way.

When I was providing a phone interview for Outside Magazine for a potential upcoming article, I read a little of the recent work on their Facebook page and found some support to my suggestion in a recent article written by Brad Stulberg titled “The 5 Most Basic Rules of Health and Fitness.”

The study cites research and knowledge from a physician at the Mayo clinic and I strongly encourage reading the full article. Two salient points I wanted to emphasize involve:

  1. The notion of doing something active every day
  2. Being engaged in something you find meaningful

Both of these are significant factors in living longer and healthier. Whatever fitness we have is the base from which we should appropriately engage in these two approaches whenever reasonable. I have not always been training for marathons or climbing mountains but I’ve usually been choosing to find something active and almost always engaged in something meaningful for me. In various ways, these are rooted into messages I share in my presentations as well. Life, like a marathon, is an endurance sport and with the right training plan we can cruise along and enjoy the experience better than if we face it without training or a plan. In both cases the real value and meaning is in enjoying the training and the entirety of the race, not just the moment of the finish line–no matter how epic it may seem.

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29 Jul 17

A steep, rocky, uphill trail

When you’re blind, a lot of things can feel like a steep uphill climb.

By Randy Pierce

“Patience? How long will that take?!?” – Tracy Pierce

I firmly believe going blind was much harder than being blind. While losing sight had many challenges of varying intensity, being blind for some time has lessened the burden considerably. Still, there is one persistent challenge with a solution I attempt constantly and yet so often struggle to manage: almost everything I attempt simply takes more time to manage without sight. This can lead to frustrations and failure unless I plan for the potential extra time and learn to practice patience in everything I attempt.

Planning more time is a benefit although we all still have the same number of hours in each day. So as I prioritize the things I hope to accomplish, there are more difficult choices of things to exclude simply because I know I should allow additional time.

This time manifests immediately in the finding of items I need. This is mitigated by better organization, although that organization requires some initial setup time. Identification of items whether by tactile or technology is typically more time consuming. Travel usually requires a little more planning and preparation, whether to ensure Autumn is also prepared or that any coordination involved has been managed with possible delays included. Often this involves putting myself at the scheduling of others which means building in margins. Bus schedules have an earliest possible arrival and I need to be there by that time even though they may not arrive until the latest window. Several times it is well past that later window before I can determine reasonably they must have driven past me without stopping. Hopefully I’ve left myself enough time for back-up plans!

I admit these time drains are frustrating, moreso when I’m caught waiting outside in particularly unpleasant weather. The reality is that these concerns are part of the world in which I exist and to be frustrated by them too much would be to allow constant negativity into my world. This is why the notion of practicing patience is so valuable.

Part of that is learning to understand what is truly urgent and what is only important at varying levels to me. The more urgent, the more time margins I allow and patience I plan into events. The lower the importance, the more I can tighten those windows and accept the consequences if things go awry. These truths hold whether you are blind or fully sighted–it’s just that blindness affords me many opportunities to test my patience, as not only will most things take me longer, but also I’ll likely have to gently educate people around me for how and why things may take longer. Sometimes we can agree upon shortcuts to alleviate the process and sometimes there are good reasons why those shortcuts are not acceptable. In the latter case, it is often the explanation of why which may require the most patience and consume the most time. It is also the best reason for patience, however.

The best moments for education and team building occur when done from a platform of patient knowledge sharing. Reminding myself of that notion is a significant part of the motivation to success in finding my patience. I just hope you may forgive me if you encounter me in a time of failure and perhaps give me a gentle reminder to get back on the path!

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22 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Eighth Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction

The power of perspective is probably quite clear in that I’m thinking it’s less than four months until our 8th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction Gala while many of you may think how far away that seems. We have already sold more tickets than our venue could have held for our first six years, which is fantastic! But now we have a bigger venue, and I’m still striving to sell out as we achieved for nearly every year and missed by only one table last year.

I understand many delay into the summer to make their final plans and I hope to have a reservation for everyone. But I rest easier when the goal is achieved and I can proudly share the sell-out status with our sponsors and team!

Will you help me out with a ticket purchase to a great event and a cause I feel we demonstrate is worthy every day?

Speaking of sponsors, we already have Bank of NH in the Platinum Event Sponsorship and Larp Portal as our first Gold Sponsor, with invitations out to others to become a part of the foundation of our event and our work. The success of our event is most notably in our community and our sponsors help us elevate that to an even higher level. If you or someone you know might consider a sponsorship for our signature event, I’d personally welcome the opportunity to make it work for all of us. Our team creates an incredibly professional event which uses programs, video signage, and heartfelt appreciation to highlight our partnerships with sponsors. We also use our website and social media all year long to express the benefits shared by teamwork with such great partnerships.

A highlight of the evening includes an incredible array of silent auction items as well as a small selection of specialty live auction items. We already have nearly 40 items committed to us, including a few entirely new experiences for our guests. I’m inspired and encouraged by the progress. While we are still asking those who donate items personally or through generous connections to reach out to us, we are going to announce these items on our 2020 Vision Quest Facebook and Twitter accounts each week from now until the event. If you do not already follow us, perhaps you may choose to do so to see some of the great items including one of my favorite new items being announced this first week!

So while I am enticing you to join us by getting your ticket to the event, becoming a sponsor or perhaps making a donation, the real message is that we have a fantastic event which is well on its way to another success. We have been working hard since December to bring about improvements to what reviews already confirm is the ideal venue. If you are traveling from far away, take advantage of our hotel guest rate and stay the night and fully experience all the evening has to offer.

I love our mission and I’m so appreciative and proud of the many volunteers who make all aspects of our event and our charity work possible, yet what constantly amazes me and motivates me is the outpouring of support from a diverse and expansive community of people who find enough value in our effort to continually encourage us to  keep going. I’ve climbed a few mountains, literal and figurative, and I know the work is not done–but with your help, I believe we’ll continue to reach for and achieve our “Peak Potential.”

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16 Jul 17

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. Theodore Roosevelt

Autumn, a black and tan labrador shows off her expressive face and orange eyebrows for the camera.

My beautiful Autumn is a tremendous companion and we have become a wonderful team through our years of working together. One part of this teamwork involves learning to understand each other. As Autumn is rife with attitude I get many different looks from her incredibly expressive eyes. While my own sightless eyes aren’t able to fully appreciate her looks I’ve learned through the sharing of others,  to appreciate her diverse expressions and their meaning. In the interest of advocacy and education I often engage in dialog with Autumn, which is healthy connection for us and also serves to potentially share with strangers around us some insight to the inner workings of the dog guide team. As the summertime fun of July is upon us here are a few of the fun moments.

 

One of the most common looks I receive from my girl follows her performing her guiding duties well. After a particular bit of good work she will receive the tail wag inducing “Good Girl Autumn!” She is prideful for certain and she is also optimistically reward attentive. In these moments she’ll turn and look towards me with the hopeful expression intent on carrying her canine version of the Jedi mind powers (“that was worth a treat to your hard working and talenged dog guide Autumn”). I feel the turn of her head through the harness handle and will often comment “Oh you think that deserves a treat do you?” With a pouch full of Wellpet treats on my hip she transforms the plea to laser focus as she awaits her reward while onlookers confirm my suspicion and often begin side conversations in appreciation of her work and all the interactions involved in our team approach to independent travel in the world.

 

Speaking of Laser focus, we work plenty of normal routes where she must be attentive to the curbs, pavement cracks and potholes of normal life as well as pedestrians, sidewalk detritus and so much more. These are things in which she is well versed and does with good attention scaling up the intensity of her focus as the obstacles increase to require more focus from her guiding eyes. In fact, my most likely challenge comes when she is least challenged because it is then when distractions are most likely because she is, quite simply, bored. Yet when I ask her to guide me on the ridiculous footing found on the mountain trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountain Wilderness, an incredible transformation takes place. Suddenly there is no margin for error and every angle of her body, every side step, every bit of the route selection is deliberate and chosen with an intensity which speaks glowingly of her intelligence, her devotion and her passion for her work at the highest level. It is so intense I think a mere photo will not do it justice and so I include a video taken by Catherine Orza which really highlights the work and her eyes watching me and the trail to find the means to help us both navigate it successfully. When it gets too narrow for our smooth traversing together she pauses and watches for me to do my part in the teamwork and almost praises me for my success even as she patiently awaits my finding this role before she can lead forward to her next task.

 

 

So this is an excellent time for me to thank Guiding Eyes for the Blind who trained Autumn and Quinn before her. They provide these incredible Dog Guides for so many who can benefit from the freedom and independence they grant to the lives of those managing sight loss at various levels. In my case there is no sight in my eyes but she has beautiful, expressive and oh so talented guiding eyes which she happily shares with me on our journeys together at work and at play. Thank you Autumn girl!!

Randy and Autumn pose for a hug near Niagara falls

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1 Jul 17

By Randy Pierce

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

Living History at Gettysburg NMP include black powder cannon demonstrations. Source: National Park Service.

“But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”
– Joshua Chamberlain

I am a student of history and found particularly powerful the tales which highlighted the nature of those brought together 154 years ago on the fields of Gettysburg. It is not the awful brutality of battle and war which captures my interest, but the notion of causes which are so intense, the dream of learning better methods of resolving differences and the many testaments of the human spirit which can emerge in times of tremendous challenge.

Joshua Chamberlain shared many thoughts I admire greatly and with a rich language that sings to me still. Many will have diverse opinions on what was contested on the battlefield; a likely reality is many agendas were being realized throughout the war.

I believe firmly in the right of all people to be free and equal, judged foremost by the merit of their choices and actions. I similarly believe this battle did much good to advance that notion ultimately, although to this day it is a work in progress we strive to better achieve. Still in celebration of those people who chose to make a stand often with the ultimate personal sacrifice on the line, I will be traveling to Gettysburg with Tracy, Autumn, Gene, and Coach to delve deeply into the history while walking the pathways of such vital historic significance.

I’ll stand on Little Round Top and consider the many charges faced by so few. I’ll walk Pickett’s Charge and wonder how the human spirit could have done so with the thunder of cannons and the nearly certain death. I will know that my life is different because of those people who took a stand for ideas which though costly were also worthy. Mostly I will think myself fortunate to live in this country where I too may lend myself to ideas and causes in which I believe fervently and yet do so without significant risk of my life.

I will celebrate the birth of our country for all those ideals which are often challenged and challenging but always rewarding for the ultimate freedom to pursue with a plan the means to make it a better country and better world. I am glad that our fireworks are for celebration more than the aspects of battle they simulate. I will remember the cost though… and be grateful.

Fireworks

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24 Jun 17

Sweeping shot of Machu PIcchu with Huayna PIcchu in the background.

A majestic view of Machu Picchu with Huayna Picchu in the background.

By Randy Pierce

“Few romances can ever surpass that of the granite citadel on top of the beetling precipices of Machu Picchu, the crown of Inca Land.”

-Hiram Bingham

On September 14, our journey will begin as members of our 2020 Vision Quest team from around the country will travel to Peru for yet another epic adventure of a lifetime!

I will treasure the team and experience from Tanzania which took us to Kilimanjaro’s rooftop of Africa as well as the Serengeti’s incredible safari experiences. Many of that team are returning along with some new additions to experience some remarkable treasures of South America including Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas:

“For the first time since dropping out of graduate school, I remembered an unpleasant weekend spent struggling to comprehend the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s explanation of the difference between calling something beautiful and calling it sublime. Nowadays, we throw around the word ‘sublime’ to describe gooey desserts or overpriced handbags. In Kant’s epistemology it meant something limitless, and aesthetically pleasing entity so huge that it made the perceiver’s head hurt.  Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.”

-Mark Adams, Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Initially based out of Cusco, once the capitol of the Incan Empire, we will depart by bus and then train in the ludicrously early morning hours of September 18. This will bring us to Aguas Calientes from which we can launch to Machu Picchu Citadel and guided explorations. Our morning excursion include a hike of Huayna Picchu Mountain (the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu), rated one of the scariest hikes in the world! This will provide us with a rare perspective on the region before we finish our explorations of the fortress city and return to our base in Cusco.

We’ll have little time before the deeper excursion begins: a four-day, three-night trip into the Andes culminating in a geological wonder called Rainbow Mountain.

A breathtaking view of Rainbow mountain.

A breathtaking view of Rainbow Mountain.

Day One: Our first day will take us above 12,000 feet to a maximum of nearly 15,000 feet and includes Tinqui Village, Upis Hot Springs and the Vilcanota Range will loom in the distance with Ausangate and Cole Cruz mountains dominating the landscape.

Day Two: Our second day takes us to nearly 16,000 feet as we traverse Arapa Pass to Lake Pucacocha within view of the western ice-fall of Ausangate.

Day Three: Our third day brings us our first views of the Rainbow Mountain. We ascend to Ausangate pass (16,170 ft) to see the colored mountains, as well as Vicuñas, and alpacas, then we descend to Alccatauri Village (14,435 ft). After lunch, we will follow a llama trail to Minasniyuq Pass to have the first views of the Rainbow Mountain (16,479 ft) and camp at Surine Cocha (15,748 ft) on the banks of the beautiful Lake Surine.

Day Four: Our final day we will hike to the summit of Rainbow Mountain (16,469 ft). We descend to Quesiuno Village and are transported back to Cusco which will mark the end of the expedition for some of our number.

Eight of our crew have secured an evening at the Sky Lodge which entails climbing a cliff overlooking the Sacred Valley to stay in a transparent pod for the night. Our evening dinner, sunset, and brilliant night sky over the valley will be part of the reward for that climb. Sunrise over the valley with breakfast enhances the experience further and the zipline out of the cliffside dwelling will be an adrenaline burst to the adventure. Words can hardly explain this and fortunately there is a marvelous video to help you understand the experience which awaits us all:

You might think that all of this would be enough adventure and experience and thanks to the great coordination efforts of Greg Neault it is certainly tremendous. But in addition, Greg has also arranged for a likely opportunity for a visit and presentation to a school while we are there.

Tracy and I will be joining Jose and Kristen in taking an extra few days after all of this to relax in the Sacred Valley and reflect upon the experiences before we return home, our lives undoubtedly changed once again.

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18 Jun 17

om and Randy nearing the finish pause to have the majesty of the mountain backdrop captured as a momenty they would not want to forget.

Almost to the top, enjoying the beautiful backdrop

“…by bringing myself over the edge and back, I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives.” (Jonathan Waterman)

I’ve climbed Mt Washington’s 6,288 feet many times through the years by way of the majestic and challenging hiking trails. The notion of a foot race up the auto road sounded daunting and when I mentioned my interest during a run with friends, Tom Cassetty asked if I had a guide and then immediately volunteered. His self professed and somewhat tongue in cheek motto: “That’s a terrible idea, when are we doing it?” certainly helped lead us both to this adventure. I celebrate goals as the means to drive my spirit to learn about myself and challenge myself to always be learning, growing and celebrating life. I knew from his prior run and the wisdom of others that it would be difficult. The weather forecast all week and the morning of our race foretold of thunderstorms and cloud cover, we were surprised to discover an entirely different experience. The weather was beautiful.  I did not say it was ideal. It was humid almost to the 99% humidity level and the sun burned down upon us the entire time. It made the journey challenging for certain. I’m appreciative of my training and the many mountain climbing miles which helped my lungs and legs to celebrate the journey and share experiences in these glorious mountain ranges while we continued our steady plod up through the miles. Climbing 4650 feet of elevation over 7.6 miles is simply a lot of work for anyone and while we were not out to make great time I could not appreciate the work we were doing nor the work of so many around us any more. My spirits were soaring throughout the journey and I was well reminded why I love the  attitude adjustment of my altitude adjustment and I think spirits around us all were higher for the beauty and majesty unfurled around us.

As we neared the final stretch and could hear the summit sounds we did stop to get a commemorative picture of Tom and I with our mountain back-drop. I then asked if he wanted to dig in deep for a strong finish run. I could hear the weariness in his voice but he found the mental and physical resolve to deliver and run we did! I could hear friends calling out support and encouragement. I felt the grade steepen even to the 22% final pitch where your legs must lift high and strong and pull your body up forcibly despite all the many steps before. Tom guided me through the gentle turn of that final stretch and over the finish to cheers. We, like many, had walked more than we might have intended before the race began. We had given what we had and dug a little deeper to finish in a way which for me capped the perfection of the day. I always strive to give my best and include in that accepting realistic limitations we all face along the journey. When you know you’ve done all you can and reached your goal with the flair and celebration to appreciate it fully it truly is the peak potential I find makes the moment resonate so much longer. I’ll remember the 7.6 miles of journey very well and they hold the most meaning for Tom and I. I’ll still treasure our strength as a team in that finish and the reception we shared. I can only hope that if a picture paints a thousand words you might get a bit more from the video Tracy took of our final push together!

Autumn waits with perky ears!

Autumn waiting for her dad and Tom!

 

One final bonus is that a journey or experience rarely ends at the summit. It’s a great vantage point to view all the many other possibilities ahead. Better still it’s a time to reflect, review and revise your many goals for yourself and your world. In my instance it included a wonderful grounding as a pair of special ladies awaited us at the top. Tracy took this and many other photos but both Autumn and Tracy are my guides and my true encouragement through all the challenges of life well beyond what a mountain road race may offer. Every summit is sweeter when you can celebrate with those you love. I’m blessed with an abundance of friends I love and a couple of particularly special ladies, thank you Autumn and Tracy!

 

 

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11 Jun 17

By Randy Pierce

Mount Washington Road Race It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
–Edmund Hillary

Two opportunities are looming ahead: one for me and one for many of you! June 17 has the Mt. Washington Road Race as an iconic measure of my running ability against the majestic backdrop of an old friend. We launched our 2020 Vision Quest charity back in 2010 with a July 4 hike up New England’s “tall and stormy” summit despite a surprising six inches of snow the day prior. Now with the guide work of Tom Cassetty, I’m going to run up the auto road where 7.6 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation will have hearts pounding as often as we’ll allow. Tracy and Autumn will be at the summit with warm clothes, refreshments, and a surplus of celebration for our hopeful success. As Edmund Hillary said so eloquently, we will be measuring ourselves in terms of conditioning, preparation, determination and some fortunate ability as well.

We’ve used this date as the time to encourage many of those who would join us for our 8th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction on November 18 to purchase a table before we raise our prices. During our Boston Marathon Table Sprint Challenge, we had a total of 18 tables claimed leaving an even dozen remaining. The cost for a table of 8 friends to join us for the evening is still only $600 ($75 per person). Shortly after I reach the summit of Washington we’ll be raising our table prices to $700.

We always want to provide the best value for our guests and still ensure the best event possible. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to join us and while we will continue to sell tickets singly, by couples, and as tables until a sell-out, this is the best value and helps us tremendously. I hope you’ll come share an evening for a powerful cause and help our mission continue to reach far more people than peaks!

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