From Randy's introduction at a school presentation, read by a blind student
For many of us we read about Randy’s speaking engagements and the interactions he has with the children in our communities. However we don’t always have a chance to see them firsthand.
Donavan reading his introduction
Randy and Donavan enjoying a few moments together
I was lucky to have this chance as I traveled with Randy from Dover, New Hampshire to Portland, Maine. I watched a great deal of these speaking engagements through my camera lens, which I hope gives you a chance to see Randy sharing his message.
Our morning began at Woodland Park Elementary School in Dover. We received a wonderful greeting at the door from Donavan who would be introducing Randy to his entire school. Donavan is in the second grade, and like Randy, he is blind. He read his introduction using Braille and with much exuberance told his fellow classmates that Randy climbs mountains, has a dog named The Mighty Quinn, and asked “Did you know he is also blind like me?”
"I have a question!" Woodland Park Elementary School
The students were incredibly attentive to Randy and I am certain it wasn’t only because of his cute dog. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I probably took 15 pictures of Quinn alone in his cute dog poses.) Students asked thoughtful questions and kept their hands raised in hopes of being able to ask the next question.
Woodland Park Elementary School
Portland, Maine was our next stop to speak to the students at East End Community School. They heard about some of Randy’s initial challenges and the progression of his vision loss. Randy also talked about the work that Quinn provides for him and the independence it continues to give him in his life.
East End Community School
Randy showing the kids how he uses technology to help him in his life
Randy and Quinn having a hug at the end of a presentation
Most importantly, Randy communicated his message encouraging children to accomplish the things they want in their life. Randy’s words: if they try… if they work hard… they can do it. Don’t give up in the face of the challenges. Keep working. You can do it.
These words were well received to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students as well as this student of life.
WCSH Channel 6 saying hello to Quinn
If having three presentations thus far was not enough, we dropped in at WCSH Channel 6 as Randy was being interviewed by Rob Cadwell for their “207” program. After the interview, Quinn got the “Off Duty” call from Randy and could enjoy some hard earned love from some of his new fans.
Our day did not stop there as we were now headed to the University of Southern Maine to attend the Guiding Eyes of Maine event. I learned something new about Quinn and I think we now share something in common: we like puppies.
Now, the Mighty Quinn is diligent in his work like none other and always the consummate canine professional. But you put a few other canine professionals in the room and it is like a reunion!
Do I really need to give a caption to puppies?
“Hiiiiiiiiii! I’m Quinn! Who are you?!?!?! I am so excited to see you!!!!! Oh wait… was I supposed to be taking Randy someplace right now?”
While Randy was doing some meet and greets before his next speaking engagement, I headed over to the see the future canine professionals… the pups!
The finale of our day was Randy speaking to an audience of all different ages and all different abilities about his journey and his future. As it was said in the introduction of Randy “[he] makes the most out of life and will make you want to do the same.”
We all have abilities in our lives. Some come with known and unknown challenges, however we need to see beyond them. We need to work beyond them.
We can’t have these challenges hold us back. We can get to where we want to be. Simply put… we can.
We have some exciting news and I hope it will entice you to be part of one or both of our biggest annual events.
On Saturday, June 8, 2020 Vision Quest will have a team in the NHAB Tenth Annual Walk for Sight. We had more than 100 people join our team last year as it was a centennial celebration of service by NHAB. We kicked off the very manageable 3K walk from the Concord facilities by walking 100 miles from Concord to the seacoast office and back!
Many walkers came out last year to support Randy after his 100 mile walk.
While we won’t be adding an epic journey to the start of this walk, we do hope to always be taking steps forward. This year we hope to entice an even larger group of friends, family, and supporters of our project to join our team and raise funds for us and NHAB at the same time. What a statement it would be to grow our team as we all walk together to the State House and back!
You can join our team or choose to sponsor a particular walker by going to our Team Home Page.
The event is fantastic in its own right with a barbeque lunch, festive music, and many prizes to go along with our rallying together and spending time as a team. The entrance fee is just $15 for adults, and children under 12 register for only $5. Please visit our page and find more information on the walk itself. We hope you will support us by becoming part of our team directly or through your donation.
Now for the promised incentive. Walkers are always encouraged to raise funds and we’ve had some incredible support from our walkers in the past. This year, we are proud to announce that the top fundraiser on our team will be given the option of a single free ticket or a pair of tickets for the price of one to our November 16 4th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction.
This gala event is our largest fundraiser each year. Last year it sold out, which we hope to repeat this year. The single or pair of tickets one hard working walker will earn will have the option to sit at a table with Tracy, Quinn and me!
This means that by joining us for the very affordable and fun walk event, anyone could become part of our two biggest events and help us continue the quality work we believe we are achieving with our 2020 Vision Quest. Quinn and I are hopeful we’ve enticed you but now the choice is yours — will you be part of our team?
I did not run the 117th Boston marathon and I was safely at home listening to results of many friends on Patriots Day 2013. A very significant part of me was there, however, and a very beautiful part of it will be with me forever more as a result.
One day earlier I’d run the festive finish line route in the BAA 5k with my good friend Jennifer and of course with the Mighty Quinn Guiding me on a course no Guide Dog had previously worked. While I saw none of it, the energy surrounded us both. Quinn enthusiastically responded with extra exuberance because even one day before the main event, the incredible community of this race had already arrived to support people expressing the freedom and accomplishment of rising to a challenge.
One day later, the marathon’s official race would finish at the same point and the community of support surrounding every aspect of this incredibly inspiring event. Some will tell how the finish was marred by a horrific act of senseless cruelty. I see a different and far more positive ending.
I won’t deny any of the tragedy, horror, or terror but fortunately it didn’t end there. Immediately the same Boston community that creates this unparalleled experience of the Marathon reacted with the heroism and selfless determination which is the beauty in such things.
My friend and 2020 VQ volunteer, Rick Stevenson, shared with me a popular quote from Mr. Rogers’ mother for times when it seemed it wasn’t a beautiful day in the neighborhood. She suggested that at such times we “Watch the Helpers.” I did watch them, from the famous folk like Joe Andruzzi, to the incredible medical teams running into danger, to the common person surging into action to do the right thing and help. It’s overwhelming to see the human spirit in full glory and this day in Boston we did.
I could try to say a lot more about the power of this community but a race runner gave us exactly the written record everyone should read. As such let me simply send you to his work:
Much of New England celebrates Patriots day on April 15, 2013 with Boston in particular hosting their famous marathon. We too have our “shot heard around the world” in mind with our running of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) 5K Road Race which takes place on the marathon course April 14. A little research suggests no Guide Dog has ever run this race.
Quinn’s marvelous ability to guide me in crowded road races will change that forever. We used a Go-Pro Cam to capture this work last July with the Finish at the 50 in Foxboro, MA and think the video may indeed give you a brief glimpse at the process!
While this achievement alone is fully worthy of its own blog post, the name of the day reminds us that my Patriots fandom and the attention it drew helped establish some of the roots for 2020 Vision Quest. One video that captures this in an incredible way is the Emmy award-nominated piece featuring us for the HBO Fan Life series. The heart of our message is captured along with some of the methods and reasons behind our own Patriots Day celebration!
So however you celebrate Patriots Day, we hope you always find ways to join us in celebrating Quinn and 2020 Vision Quest.
We don't know Quinn's voiceover actor yet, but maybe you have suggestions?
We are thrilled to announce the confirmation of a Quinn story concept with PIXAR films! Certainly we’ve been amazed and tremendously proud of the incredible accomplishments of the Mighty Quinn, but this possibility goes beyond all our expectations. This will be an important leap forward in raising awareness and sharing the adventures of Quinn and our 2020 Vision Quest to the masses!
The story will begin with his roots in the Puppies Behind Bars program, intending to showcase his heartwarming connection that changes the life of a prisoner who finally finds someone (Quinn of course) to believe in him and share the unconditional bond which is part of the amazing reality of a dog.
There will be some highlights of our connecting at Guiding Eyes for the Blind which will also showcase some classic training and learning blunders and wonders. This will fill the segments with a rapid-fire bit of fun and touching moments as we grow into a team together.
Graduation from the school launches us back to New Hampshire and almost immediately into our Hollywood-style dramatization of the mountain climbing adventures in the summer as training for the amazing winter hikes. While the reality of our tale has more than enough excitement for reality, PIXAR will undoubtedly embellish the tale here to make this an instant spectacle beyond what we could have ever envisioned when we began our quest!
We loved the movie “Bolt” but hope “Quinn’s Quest” will be the kind of blockbuster success which changes lives forever, both here at 2020 Vision Quest and the other folks who watch Quinn’s well deserved feature film. The only real challenge ahead for this project is that the announcement happens to be on April 1st…
…And as such we must sadly report this is only a well intended April Fools joke–at least for now!
“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?
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 randy@2020VisionQuest.org.
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!
NEVI Fest Group photo. Courtesy of the NEVI Fest Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NEVIFest
Why does a totally blind person find himself on a massive mountain skiing by the sounds of the skier ahead of him?
Roughly thirty participants of varying levels of visual impairment accepted the opportunity presented by NEVI and joined forces with the Maine Adaptive Ski Program on Mt. Sugarloaf to answer this question! I’m going to share a bit of my experience for part of that answer.
I’m also going to tell you that the organizations, volunteers, and certainly the participants were all sources of inspiration which tower over that hill and will help encourage and motivate me for a long time!
In fact, I find it a little ironic that I was asked to help kick off the festival by sharing a bit of the motivational speaking we do for 2020 Vision Quest. I was glad to share experiences, anecdotes, and philosophies which are part of my enjoyment of life. The many questions and comments made it clear there were many kindred spirits in the room and a fine adventure was undoubtedly ahead for all of us.
In 1982, I took one group lesson at the Wilderness ski area in Dixville Notch, NH. It comprised of very little time and three short runs down the bunny slope. I was fully sighted back then and virtually nothing of the experience was with me 31 years later! I knew of many blind skiers including some totally blind like myself–but knowing and choosing to put the kind of trust required into a guide was going to be an entirely different approach.
Randy and Brent on the slopes. Photo courtesy of Brent Bell, Professor of Outdoor Education at UNH.
Certainly I’ve come to put that trust into Quinn over a long time together and fortunately my good friend Brent Bell has had time earning my trust on the mountains and in life. It helped to know he had past experiences with blind skiers and we were working together to problem solve. I have long taken the philosophy that I’d rather be a “problem solver” rather than a “risk taker.”
We spent time prior to being on the snow talking about the approaches of communication, the equipment and the process of skiing so that when Monday morning arrived we had a reasonable understanding of how to approach things. Stepping onto the snowy flats by the bunny slope we attempted the basic athletic stance, and shuffles soon led to short slides and using a wedge to control my speed or stop. This led more quickly than we expected into turns and soon we were gliding down the hill with steadily decreasing awkwardness. The three-day progression of what we learned together is obvious in my work and in Brent’s guiding.
Our basic technique was that he would ski ahead of me and I would triangulate on his voice to know the elevation changes and the precision of his turns. This required him to keep up reasonably steady “chatter.” That chatter would develop steadily into words that would give me further information such as “Right turn starting now” or “Sweeping left turn” or even “Hard left turn – turn – turn – turn!” It also requires that chatter not result in misinformation from common speech dualities such as right for the turn and “right” for “correct” or “right” for the descriptor such as “right now!” That’s why the amusing term of “filler” was often used as we progressed and I need to hear his voice for location but not hear an erroneous unintended word.
The folks at NEVI and Maine Adaptive Skiing have many tools for helping folks with this learning process, such as the bamboo pole which put me between two skilled skiers and provided speed control on their end while I learned to focus and practice parallel turns or “carving!” Often an instructor would ski behind and share observations and suggestions for both the blind/visually impaired skier as well as the Guide. The goal was clearly to build a steadily more effective and safe team.
As my skills and speed increased we switched to the speaker pack, allowing Brent to ski facing forward with a steady sound source for me to follow. This cut through the wind of higher elevations, the ski sounds on icier and faster turns as well as the distances speed variations occasionally caused. In short, the learning and fun of the experience seemed to continually progress and we think it’s pretty evident in a video shot on each of the first three days I spent learning to ski blind!
Randy’s First Day on Skis
Randy Learns to Carve on Day 2
Third Day’s Final Run
Those are the basics of how we approached my learning to ski blind. Our initial question was why would someone undertake this experience? I heard one younger participant express themselves: “I’ve never felt so much freedom in my life.” Many people find themselves tethered by aspects of their lives. I suspect many find the ski slopes an outlet for escaping from that if only for a time. This too is even truer for some of the visually impaired world. For blind people, it can be a cane-tapping obstacle after obstacle or perhaps holding the arm of a sighted human guide or even my favorite hand on the harness of the Mighty Quinn, Guide Dog extraordinaire! It still has our immediate personal space connected to another restrictive influence upon our motion, even as all three may grant us well appreciated safety and efficiency of moving.
Upon the slopes we likely have a guided influence but one which expands the borders well beyond our personal space and increases the opportunity for speed and the ability to cover so much more ground than we might ever normally experience under our own control. I certainly found it exhilarating–all the moreso when I realized gliding was such a smooth speed that if I did not drag my ski poles to increase my awareness of the terrain and speed, I would often have little appreciation for just how fast I was moving!
I heard so many moments of individual growth and accomplishment, not only among the participants, but amongst the volunteers sharing the experience with us all. Pride of accomplishment brought me back to the old “Thrill of Victory and Agony of Defeat” mantra of the television program “The Wide World of Sports.” This particular occasion really showcased the victory of everyone who made the choice to be involved in the experiences made possible by the NEVI dream.
Quinn looks anxiously out at Randy: "Dad, what are you doing?!?"
This was their second annual international festival and so many people are essential to a dream becoming a reality. Scott Anderson and Bruce Albiston may get the forefront and deservedly so, but the list of other names who were pivotal to an incredible experience are worthy of a separate blog. I look forward to helping their organization more directly in the near future to achieve their vision of growing still more this year.
Attendees from Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Sudan were only some of the many distant travelling participants. Literally hundreds of volunteers made it all work seemingly seamlessly and almost all of them will tell you that missing the chance to be a part of this experience in any way is a lost opportunity for something truly special. Thank you to everyone for yet another life changing enrichment of my already adventurous and fortunate life. I hope to share this with many others in the future!
I would be remiss to not share the role of the Mighty Quinn in all of these adventures. We were given a condo directly on the ski slopes and our sliding glass door looked out onto the slope where the Mighty Quinn would watch for our passing and our return.
In the morning we’d step out our door onto the slope and ski down to breakfast. At lunch we’d ski to the door and take Quinn for a lunch time adventure with him guiding and getting his rewards. In the afternoon we repeated the process while he watched yet again. At the end of the final run he’d take over for dinner or whatever adventures awaited. We made sure that it included one of his favorite experiences as an evening inner-tube sledding adventure became a chance for Quinn to stretch those mighty legs and chase us down the slopes.
Despite all the fun and excitement of the ski adventures it always comes down to those who change our lives. There were many of them on this trip but always foremost is my magnificent Dog Guide, the Mighty Quinn!
Randy and Quinn go inner tubing at the end of the day!
When Randy Pierce started 2020 Vision Quest in 2010, he could never have guessed what successes would be accomplished in the year 2012.
True to his most urgent goal, in the spring he was able to present $10,000 contributions to each of our two key charities — New Hampshire Association for the Blind (NHAB), and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which trains guide dogs. These organizations provide vital, life-changing support to individuals stricken with devastating vision loss, helping them reclaim the full possibilities of their lives, much as Randy himself displays each day. And their services become more relevant every day, as the Baby Boom generation ages.
On yet another front, Randy’s passion for enlightening young people reached full pitch, with presentations at schools scheduled in almost every week of 2012 — and often multiple schools in the same week! By his tally, he and Quinn have now brought their message of Ability Awareness and of reaching beyond one’s limitations to over 18,000 young minds. It is tremendously gratifying for Randy when he hears back from teachers that their class has taken his message to heart, like for example, the fifth-grade class that adopted a mantra of “What would Randy and Quinn do?” when confronted with a challenge.
Companies likewise caught on to the power of the message, and in 2012, speaking to corporate meetings became a significant source of donated funds. For the record, Randy himself receives no personal compensation for any of his 2020 Vision Quest efforts, which as you can see are herculean.
Also gratifying were the successes of the Winter 48 Hikes, which put Randy and Quinn into the record books as the first blind man and guide dog to climb all 48 of NH’s 4,000-footers in a single winter season. Film-maker Dina Sutin documented the experience, and produced a beautiful short film that appeared in local theaters in the fall, generating contributions through ticket and DVD sales.
In the spring, Randy took on the grueling task of walking 100 miles in support of NHAB’s 100th anniversary. Shortly after, the summer hiking season commenced, ultimately adding another 14 peaks to the tally, which now stands at 36. The remaining 12 of the 48 peaks are scheduled for completion in 2013, well ahead of Randy’s original goal of the year 2020.
Closing the year, our third annual Peak Potential trails-end gala likewise reached new heights. Tables had to be added to accommodate the requests for seats, and our fund-raising auction set new records for both items contributed and total sales.
I have to be honest — I find it kind of exhausting to even consider how far Randy and Quinn have “pulled the plow” this year. But it reflects the intensity of desire that Randy has in his heart to make a difference to the lives of anyone he can help. He is truly a man who will give you the shirt off his back. (Note to self: return Randy’s shirt.)
As we end this year, I ask that each of you consider giving Randy Pierce the gift of your support. Click that donate button, and chip in a few dollars to help keep our charities going strong. Or visit our gift shop, and buy a t-shirt, hat, or hoodie sweatshirt, for yourself or as a gift to a 2020 Vision Quest supporter you know. Show the love with one of our coffee mugs, or a Quinn-approved doggie dish.
The proceeds, I assure you, benefit real people in very real ways. Best of all, your enthusiasm for Randy’s mission will keep him going strong in 2013, and beyond.
Let me also wish you the best of the season, for the entire 2020 Vision Quest crew. May you be as blessed in the coming year as we have been in 2012.
Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and possibly the Mayan End of the World (which is still yet to come as I write this) all come together for the “holidays” or “holly daze” as I’ve occasionally quipped.
There are many varied holiday celebrations at this time of year and with them a split between those who come together in unity to share celebrations and those who find umbrage at others celebrating their particular preferences. I revel in people who either by nature or by practiced effort embrace the beauty of celebration. There are so many challenges already inherent in our lives; I welcome every step forward in positive focus on the good things which similarly abound. In fact, I struggle somewhat to understand those for whom the celebrations of others are a negative force.
I realize that as humans we have a natural tendency towards attaching or belonging to groups which all too often may create an “us or them” mentality. When these choices align us together there can be tremendous positive–but when they align us “against” there is potential for so much loss.
I will always strive personally for unity and appreciation even amidst the differences. My efforts in this direction so far continue to reap tremendous reward upon me which I would wish for as many as possible to appreciate.
So whether you wish me a Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or whatever seasonal greeting excites you to share in joy, I’m delighted for your expression and well wishing. Each person comes from a different place in their expression of holiday greetings, whether it be religious, seasonal, or simply an appreciation for nostalgic childhood memories of holidays. I urge those accepting holiday greetings perhaps beyond their realm of comfort to simply recognize the intent of goodness behind the holiday cheer and greeting. I have found it makes for a much happier holiday season!
I wish that everyone who reads this may know that through this long year and these presently long nights I reflect in appreciative wonder at how much beauty of nature and people has been shared with me. On behalf of Quinn, myself, and 2020 Vision Quest, I wish you the most peace, happiness, and love for the present day and all the many days to come. I’m thankful for your various roles in helping us continue our mission and helping me personally to continue to believe in the positive power of people.