No school vacation for our outreach to schools

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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A special kind of birthday gift

By Randy Pierce

Memorial School

I freely admit that it is more challenging right now for me to sit and write on any topic without Quinn dominating my thoughts. I wanted to lean away from him this round and found a path, but due to some incredible schools and students you’ll note I didn’t get to stray far.

Just before Thanksgiving we had a trio of interactions with schools which produced a veritable cornucopia of rewards worthy of sharing with our community. Given the nature of the gifts along with that fact that December 11, 2013 is Quinn’s 9th Birthday, it seems appropriate to feature them while honoring Quinn’s Day.

We made our fourteenth visit to Memorial Elementary School in Bedford, NH and during this final time the presentations were to us rather than from us. Through a generous “Pennies for Paws” program incredibly matched by a family, they donated $1,156 to 2020 Vision Quest in honor of Quinn! Additionally the hand crafted cards in support of Quinn are clearly signs of the positive impact of this incredible pup!

Quinn sits amongst a batch of get well and thank you cards
Thank you and get well cards from students.

Sunapee Middle High school requested a pair of consecutive presentations for grades 6-8 and 9-12 in their gymnasium. Their 2013 theme of “perseverance” seemed an appropriate topic for our presentation. Yet again, we were the ones gifted, not just with an honorarium to the charity, a school sweatshirt for Randy, tasty soft treats for Quinn and a school website article, but also an incredible video slide show with musical accompaniment all in tribute to the Mighty Quinn!

Our final gift did not involve our even attending the school. Our friend, frequent hiking partner, and sixth grade English teacher, Kyle Dancause, shared our story with his class at F.A. Day Middle School of Newton, MA. While we didn’t get to meet the students directly, they were given a taste of our celebrations of life and sent along a group poem in four parts. The audio files of their reading the poem to us was a Birthday worthy tribute to the mostly Mighty Quinn!

Four More Poems Part 1

Four More Poems Part 2

Four More Poems Part 3

Four More Poems Part 4

Happy Birthday Quinn and thank you for the gift of sharing life with you!

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School presentation favorites

By Randy Pierce

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

Karen A. Turcotte – Londonderry, NH

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

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

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

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2020 Vision Quest reaching more students — But we still need your help!

By Randy Pierce

I believe strongly that the positive impact of our school presentation is an essential mission. We work towards building a better future by inspiring students of all ages to believe in themselves, set goals, problem solve, and achieve through adversity. Testimonials from teachers, administrators, and students themselves confirm that our message and delivery resonate with a lasting inspiration. Our anecdotes and techniques highlight an approach which changes lives.

We are proud to have provided our presentations to more than 27,000 students as of September 2013 and yet feel more determined there are many more students who would benefit from our program. We encourage parents, teachers, and administrators throughout New England to continue the great referrals of our program.

Specifically, I want to remind all of our Massachusetts community that Fairway Independent Mortgage (Needham) has generously undertaken a partnership to ensure more students throughout Massachusetts can receive our presentation. Along with their continued support of 2020 Vision Quest, they are assisting in coordinating schedules and transportation to make this possible. You can find more information on our Fairway Partnership in our initial announcement. (We are also pleased to have Fairway as a sponsor for Peak Potential, our annual fundraising event in November.)

You too can help in this process through a variety of means. We encourage all of our community to share our information with any school or group you feel would benefit from our presentations. We also welcome you to share their contact information with us if you prefer we reach out to them. There is always opportunity to support all of our efforts and most especially our core mission of outreach for education. The choice you make may very well ensure more students gain the insight to improve the future we all share. Thank you for your help and support!

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“Tip Tuesday”: Improve your interactions with the visually impaired

By Randy Pierce

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind provides a useful feature called “Tip Tuesday” on their Facebook page . This past week’s tip reminded me how well they address some simple suggestions for interacting with and assisting blind or visually impaired people. I check in with them every Tuesday and often share their message in the hopes of spreading the word further. This week’s tip I found particularly share-worthy:

Tip Tuesday: When meeting a person who is visually impaired or blind, introduce yourself by name, speak directly and clearly in a natural conversational tone and speed and always announce your departure from a room or ending to a conversation.

It’s such a simple thing to reinforce your arrival with a name to help avoid the embarrassment that voice-guessing can cause for either or both of us. Similarly, I cannot reasonably count how very many times I’ve carried on a conversation long after a person has departed without my knowing. Frequently a new person has arrived to let me know the error of my ways, which is only slightly more disheartening than my ending my discussion with “and by the silence I’m guessing you’ve already left and I’ve been talking to myself for the last few minutes…”

All of their tips are great points of consideration. Each visually impaired person may have slightly different preferences, but the rules of thumb NHAB shares will generally make for smoother interactions until you learn what works best for individual situations. So my thanks to NHAB for yet another great service! I hope that those of you on social media will visit their page and add them to your connections.

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Summer break for students–But our educational outreach is still going strong!

By Randy Pierce

For the first time ever, we already have had three schools reserve us for presentations for the fall school year even as summer break arrives. Several camp programs are on the summer schedule and we plan to use the “slower summer months” (at least while we aren’t on a mountain trail) to provide a long overdue update to our For Educators page.

Three years and more than 26,000 students have enabled us to develop confidence in the value of our message for students of all levels. In fact, teachers, administrators and the students all agree that our message needs to be shared as widely as possible.

2020 Vision Quest is even more motivated to ensure this part of our mission continues. We are asking all of you to take a look at the For Educators page and share with us any and all suggestions you have for how we can improve it. Please do give us your thoughts, suggestions, and comments as we endeavor to elevate our school outreach better than ever before in the year ahead.

Even as we are asking this, we are working on the many updates we know the page requires, including a few Testimonials. To that end, I thought I’d leave all of you with some of the messages from which I keep myself motivated to this vital part of our mission!

Testimonial from 2013 NH Principal of the Year:

It was a pleasure to meet Randy, Quinn, and Christine on Friday at Woodman Park School.
A fantastic talk was given by Randy to at least 540 of our students that day.
The message of being able to do anything with perseverance, dedication, and help was a powerful one.

Sample Testimonial from Newmarket, NH:

This upcoming Monday the school does field day which is run similarly to the Olympics where they have a grand march with all classes choosing what their theme will be. Each class carries a banner and each student in the class carries a pennant which reflects something about the class theme. The parade goes through the school, out into the street (the police stop traffic because this is a big deal in Newmarket) and over to the nursing home where the residents sit outside to see it all.

Ann’s class chose their name and it is the Questers. They have a large banner with the name 20/20 Questers where each student decorated a cutout foot which is on the banner and 2 people will carry it to lead the class, just like the Olympics. Each of the individual pennants they will carry have a life lesson they learned from you. They each also have a tshirt that they made. The front has a blue globe on the chest with the outlines of 3 green mountains on the globe and snow on the tips of the mountains.

Testimonial from a Teacher:

I can’t tell you how much our kids and adults got from your presentation. Many many people came up to me to say how meaningful your presentation was to them. One upper school boy will soon be on your website and might contact you as well.
I also learned so much from your talk today, not only in content but also in your style. It was perfect for our boys. I will be certain to call you for a part 2 for next year.

Testimonial from a Student:

Dear Randy,
I really enjoyed your inspirational presentation at our high school yesterday. I thought that your story was incredible and very thought provoking. One thing that I loved about about your speech was that you made it relatable to us. Some students may have thought coming in to the assembly that the presentation wouldn’t mean much to them because they aren’t blind and don’t hike. You made your message much broader than that and was something we could apply to our own lives. The biggest thing I learned was that anyone can do almost anything if they really want to. Once you identify what’s stopping you, you can work around it and accomplish your goal, and you taught that to us with examples from your own life. Something that I would have loved to learn more about was your future plans. I found your dedication to teaching children fascinating. Overall I loved your presentation and think that your story is so inspirational.

Thank you so much for taking the time to come to our school.

Perhaps the final and best way for you to experience this is the way I did this year, hearing it directly from the students via their Randy Pierce Thank You after our visit!

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Guest blog: “I suppose it all started with kindness to strangers….”

Northland Adventure: the charity begun by Ed Spaulding to empower and heal people through adventure therapy and education.

My name is Ed Spaulding. To date, I have rescued one adult, and two children from drowning; saved one child’s life with the Heimlich maneuver, rescued a baby from an overturned vehicle, and been the first responder for many a 911 call.

As fate would have it, I didn’t perform these rescues while I was an EMT traveling in an ambulance full of equipment–all of these instances happened when I was off duty. But on or off duty, fate found me and called me to help strangers in need.

However, even when confronted by fate, we have the choice to walk the other direction. Helping people often carries risks with it, especially when we are called to help people we don’t know and the emotional stakes are low. Each of the aforementioned incidents posed a serious risk either through exposure to infection by biohazards or by potentially placing my own life in danger.

I want to be as prepared as possible to answer the call of fate in these situations, so I’ve made the choice to minimize the risk by getting trained as a lifeguard, as an EMT, as a wilderness first responder, as a psychologist, and by carrying a medical kit in my car.

Adventure education experts operate under the philosophy that youth and adults learn best through experience.

This power of prevention became even more evident to me shortly after my time as an EMT, while working with adjudicated youth in a wilderness therapy program on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. While there, I learned if we could just prevent the problem before it resulted in an emergency call, we could not only save a person’s life, but we could often change the course of a person’s life in the long run, preventing this disaster and the rippling traumatic effects it would have on their family, friends, and their community.

As a part of this program, I was able to help over 500 youth–but nonetheless, as a single person, I still couldn’t make as much as a difference as I wanted to.

That’s what led me to develop an idea: to create an organization that seeks to empower and heal people through adventure therapy and education. Our environment is critical in our development as people and in what we value and learn. In a wilderness environment, we learn to value other people, the basics of life, and the parts of ourselves that create a thriving community. These values prevent many of the problems we read about every day in the paper or hear of through the news.

"Come experience Northland Adventure!"

Northland Adventure Education and Therapy Center has become the vehicle for this idea. This 501c3 non-profit, fully-insured organization is dedicated to promoting education, research, and mental and physical health through adventure education and therapy programs. The idea has become a reality.

But we need your support! We hope to achieve many things: to expand our summer camp program to include a day-care for younger children; to build an outdoor classroom for year-round programming; to provide canine-assisted therapy; and to develop a sailing program on Lake Champlain for experiential education by recreating Samuel Champlain’s boat. We have been asked to provide group programming for veterans returning from combat, and we have been working hard to provide group programming for substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Please support us in this worthy cause! I hope you can help us help others and show the world that the kindness of strangers happens every day.

Northland Adventure

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Guest Blog: A Picture Tour of Randy’s Presentations

By Kathy Dunn

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.

Randy presents at Guiding Eyes of Maine event
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2020 Vision Quest Becomes 20,000 Vision Quest?

By Randy Pierce

“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?

I hope you can and will be part of our team!

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Which Is It? Blind or Visually Impaired?

By Randy Pierce

“Don’t call yourself blind” was expressed to me in a somewhat irritable fashion once after a presentation in which I had done so. I respect the people’s desire to communicate their feelings about my choice of words and the potential for misconceptions, but personally, I would have preferred a more open-minded approach!

I have absolutely no light perception or any other form of visual ability. I’m perfectly comfortable with the word “blind” to accurately describe my situation. This is also referred to as NLP or “no light perception” or total blindness. I respect that for many with varied forms of vision loss, the word “blind” seems like a final and often terrifying status they hope to never reach.

The truth is that blindness has been defined as a legal term–and only roughly 8% of blind people are NLP. This means the vast majority, approximately 92%, might be termed “legally blind,” and have some degree of vision.

“Legally blind” is defined as having vision in the better eye at less than 20/200 with the best possible corrective adjustment or a visual field of less than 20 degrees. Typical people experience 20/20 vision in each eye with a field of roughly 180 degrees.

All these definitions are certainly valid, but they do not take into consideration the reality of emotion nor the detrimental potential in semantics or misconceptions. Whether knowing the definition or not, if someone perceives themselves as not blind but rather visually impaired, they not only may wish to avoid a word they consider detrimental–they they may have strongly negative associations with the word blindness and the use of it may be hurtful to them whether intended or not.

There is pretty clear evidence that services offered to the blind attract statistically less people requesting help than services for the visually impaired, even though the same people would qualify. This aversion for some is a strong indicator of the significance placed upon the word. They avoid those services not likely as a matter of principle or pride but often because they perceive it as not applying to them.

One other interesting impact is the impression of the fully sighted. As they often have the notion that of “blindness” only refers to total blindness, they may be doubt the validity of those whose visual struggle is actually considerable and not wish to classify them as blind.

For example, when I still had some remaining vision, I recall all too well my frustration, shame, and anger as I held my cane to my side and struggled to read a label in a grocery store. A passerby commented rather hurtfully: “You aren’t really blind, you faker.” At the time, I still struggled with embarrassment about my blindness and the very real challenges it presented. The comment was uneducated and inappropriate by all measures, but all too symbolic of another stumbling block.

So in this last accusation as well as the first one about not calling one’s self blind, each comment could have been addressed with open-minded communication. I was in fact blind in both cases, though I might prefer the word visually impaired in either situation. It’s nearly impossible to know for certain how such a diverse word will be taken, and all I can reasonably suggest is just to be reasonable in your communication to explore what is the right word for any situation. I’m quite sure that I am both blind and comfortable with the term and similarly with every well intentioned use of the term. Personally, I will try to lead with the term “visually impaired” when uncertain because I do know the reasons and realities behind the preferences for some.

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