Tag: Outreach



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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28 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

I’ve recently been awarded several meaningful honors which inspired me to share the celebration ceremonies. It also gave me pause to reflect upon the significance of receiving honorifics.

First my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, selected me for  the 2014 Excellence for Outstanding Service Award. The Awards Ceremony and Dinner will be held:

Friday, April 24, 2015, 5:30 p.m.
Huddleston Hall Ballroom
105 Main Street
Durham, NH

I understand tickets for the event may still be obtained. There are an incredible number of outstanding alumni and to receive this award is a credit to the work of the 2020 Vision Quest team and the success of our efforts at making a very positive impact in our world. I’m exceedingly proud and honored that UNH would also choose to acknowledge these achievements.

New Hampshire Magazine placed us in their list of significant leaders in New Hampshire with their “It List.” A photo of Quinn and me making the classic approach to the summit of Monroe was a prominent image as they suggested we belonged in this august company. The truth is the team of Quinn and me started it, but it is the work of a team and community which has enabled us to accomplish so much here in NH and well beyond.

On May 16 I will receive the 2015 District 45 Toastmaster International Communication and Leadership Award. This is yet another tremendous honor spanning several states and Canadian provinces. It suggests the success of our 2020 Vision Quest efforts to lead by example and that our presentations have drawn significant positive recognition. From an international organization emphasizing communication and leadership, this reinforces our determination to provide this core part of our mission as diversely as possible.

I’m definitely increasing in my drive to ensure our presentations are available to students, corporations, and communities. If you have heard us and want to suggest us to any of these groups, I encourage you to share our homepage and the presentations option included there. I think it’s clear the results are overwhelmingly appreciated and I only hope we have the opportunity to share the messages with more people still. Thank you for myself and for the team of 2020 vision Quest who continue to make all this possible.

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20 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

Hopkinton Welcome Sign“Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
– George Sheeh

Monday, April 20, 2015:
119th Annual Boston Marathon
Randy Pierce, Bib: 25485

For me, Boston’s legend is due to a pair of powerful points worthy of the iconic label. Firstly, it brings together an unrivaled community of support well beyond the throngs gathering along the entirety of the 26.2 mile route. Secondly, it draws and encourages the most inspirational meanings well beyond the running accomplishments as the motivation for so many of the runners. Spend a little time exploring any Boston Marathon and you will likely come away overwhelmed by the compassion and determination of the human spirit.

Randy and Quinn run the BAA 5k in 2013My own Boston Marathon journey began in awe of the incredible positive community aspects highlighted for me in 2013 as well as the spirit of an incredible canine, my Mighty Quinn. If you’ve never read Qualifying for Quinn, I strongly encourage you to visit my motivation and the story of how I came to qualify for Boston.

There are two ways to run the Boston Marathon:

1) Fairly rigorous time qualification
2) Run for a sanctioned charity as a fundraiser

I am fortunate in having a more lenient time requirement due to my blindness, and yet I’m running with and for a cause incredibly dear to my heart. I’m running to honor the legacy of the Mighty Quinn. He touched the lives of so many in his incredible life and our #Miles4Quinn welcomes any and all support. If you are unable to enjoy some healthy miles in his honor, perhaps you’ll consider supporting my effort with a donation to the charity to which I’ve dedicated so much of my efforts:

Click here to donate to 2020 Vision Quest in honor of Quinn and Randy’s Boston Marathon efforts!  

Whether you log #Miles4Quinn or donate to 2020 Vision Quest, you could always support us along the route and be part of an incredible experience. The more people who learn about us, the better we can reach our goals and the stronger I will be for Marathon Monday.

Do you want to experience the race course virtually with a little history and fun worked into the mix? The Boston Athletic Association has prepared an excellent video tour!

I’ve joined “Team with a Vision” which brings together an incredible community of blind athletes from all over the world. While I fund raise primarily for 2020 Vision Quest, I embrace their mission and offer my fundraising page for them as an alternative for those who so choose:

Donate to Randy’s “Team with a Vision” page

Randy and his friend and coach, GregOn Monday, April 20 at 6:00  a.m., I’ll climb onto the Gate City Striders bus with Greg Hallerman, my good friend, running coach, and most frequent run guide, as well as 10-time Boston Marathon participant. Since my qualifying for Boston, his friendship and tutelage have brought me to win the B1 (Total blindness) National Marathon Championship as well as build a foundation of knowledge and appreciation for running. He’ll be with me throughout the race, choosing to give of his own race approach to share the experience together and help make the experience all the more fantastic.

Once at the Marathon start I’ll connect with the husband and wife team of Pete and Christine Houde. They will be my guides. While I only have one active guide at any time on the course, we are still finalizing the strategy for how we will approach this race. Christine was my first run guide after Quinn’s death and we trained during a snowstorm on our first run. (Rather strong foreshadowing of the season ahead.)

Randy and Christine running in the snowBoth fellow Lions, we met through mutual friends and quickly came to appreciate the friendship. Last year Christine ran her first Boston Marathon for a charity cause and at her fundraiser we announced the plan to run together for Boston. The mental work involved in guiding for a Marathon is tremendous and as our training time has been limited by a difficult winter and their long-distance commute, we opted to add Pete to the team and share the teamwork of guides. Both completed the Chicago Marathon earlier this year and each will have a vital role in my Boston Marathon experience. Any blind runner will tell you that the sacrifice of a guide is tremendous. They must run strong enough at my pace to give me all the necessary information to keep both of us safe on a crowded course.

Pete, Christine, Randy, and TracyIf I’m being true to the full measure of that team, I have to include my wonderful wife Tracy. Whether helping to drive me to training rendezvous points, joining me at a treadmill, or the many other aspects of support, she has helped enable this goal to become reality. She has given of herself in so many ways that I will always be foremost grateful to her in this entire process. After all, it’s that feeling of community which I said was part of setting Boston apart.

So now you’ve met my primary team of Greg, Pete, Christine, and Tracy!

At roughly 11:15, we’ll join Wave 4, Corral 2 in the surge down the hill in Hopkinton, Mass. As I run, I’ll carry recollections of every encouraging word and the people providing them. I’ll have to dig deep for inspiration and motivation many times, but my team of friends and community of support has already exceeded what I ever would have imagined when this all began. Boston’s historic course will have more than enough challenge to ensure I need all of that and a great deal of personal determination as well.

When I cross the finish line, hands held triumphantly high with my guides, I’ll likely have tears of joy, exhaustion, jubilation, and just a bit more. I’ll know that my year of tribute to Quinn will be a very hard earned and very rewarding message of dedication. I’ll be part of something truly epic and proud to have connected with such an intense community experience. I’ll be grateful to so many–some from here, some I have yet to even meet. It will only be one experience on a list of many past, present and future. Like the year of work leading up to it, it will forever be a part of who I am. Experiences change our lives and this one is tremendously so.

So this year on Patriots Day, maybe you’ll come visit the course and cheer on me, my guides, or the thousands of incredible stories passing along the course. Maybe you’ll make a donation to support 2020 Vision Quest, maybe you’ll log some #Miles4Quinn, share our story or just follow on line… or perhaps create your own unique adventure. As a sign I had read to me by my guide Meredith on the Bay State Marathon course suggests: “It isn’t everyday you get to do something epic!” Be a part of this experience with us or make your own but put a little epic in your life and be happier for it.

Boston strong!

Boston Marathon 2015 logo

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7 Mar 15

By Randy Pierce

Attendees having fun at the Peak Potential gala in 2014.

Attendees having fun at the Peak Potential gala in 2014.

Five successful years of hosting our Annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction has provided tremendous financial benefit to our very worthy charitable work. We have given more than $124,000 directly to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. We have presented to more than 36,000 students in schools throughout New England and beyond and we have been repeatedly lauded for making a positive impact in the lives of so many more people.

We do this with an all-volunteer staff who are committed to seeing the work continue. Many of these incredible staff members have worked double duty in the regular work of the charity as well as for the Peak Potential event each November. For this event to continue to be successful, we need to find a few more enthusiastic and motivated people to join the effort. Peak Potential planning begins soon, so please consider joining our team! Contact me at Randy@2020visionquest.org if you are interested.

What is needed? There are several opportunities.

Our auction items are one of our biggest draws.

Our auction items are one of our biggest draws.

Event Coordinator: This detail-oriented person would coordinate the event logistics–working with the venue before the event, managing timelines, managing the flow onsite, etc. Erin Desmarais took over for Rachel Morris last year and brought many great new approaches to us. She wishes to return as an active part of the team but with a new job cannot commit to coordinating the event this year. If we don’t get someone to fulfill this role, it might be possible for me to add this to my own somewhat overloaded schedule, but only with even stronger support in the position listed next.

Event Outreach: Sponsorships and quality auction donations are the key to the fiscal success of the event. We have a strong community of attendees and excellent event evening support. Realistically, we need three people who can support an active outreach to corporations, businesses. and appropriate individuals to sustain and hopefully expand our sponsors and auction. I know there are special individuals out there who could excel at this outreach–and it truly is essential to have this support in order to continue this event.

We want YOU on our Peak Potential staff! Will you help?

We want YOU on our Peak Potential staff! Will you help?

There are certainly other opportunities and I’m eager to talk with anyone who is hopeful to join or support our charity work. So if the above entices you because you believe in our cause, want the possible resume enhancements, or simply want to be part of a fun team, drop me an email. If you have other ideas for how to help, then similarly reach out to me. I appreciate how many have helped us accomplish so much already and look forward to the people with whom we might reach higher still. We would love to continue the Peak Potential Event, the biggest fundraiser for the 2020Vision Quest charity, and I hope to have your help!

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17 Jan 15

By Randy Pierce

One of the most rewarding and impactful aspects of 2020 Vision Quest is our School Educational Program. On Tuesday, January 13, I had the pleasure of visiting the John F. Ryan and the Louse Davy Trahan Elementary Schools in Tewksbury, MA.  As I listened to the school announcements prior to our presentation at the Ryan School, I heard their PA announce, “Believe in PAWSibility – Woof” and knew our message was already resonating with these fifth and sixth grade students.

I was happy to share many messages with them including my own more backward A-B-C approach: “Conceive – Believe – Achieve.” Their insightful questions allowed us to cover many topics, with teamwork resonating perhaps strongest of all.

My afternoon in Tewksbury brought me to the Trahan school where a teacher’s request enabled us to showcase an Autumn-style language lesson. They wanted me to walk around the cafeteria in which we were presenting such that all of the students could get a quality look at how Harness Guide work is accomplished. This was a simple request, but in order to have Autumn walk in a loop around the entire room I needed to give Autumn a target destination. The only thing which stood out visually to the teacher was a window and I’d never taught Autumn the word window. She knows door, stair, elevator, car, left, right and many other words, but not window. So for these third and fourth graders, it was time to teach her.

This is done with a powerful teaching tool given to us by the Guiding Eyes for the Blind trainers. When I make my hand into a fist and say the word “Touch” she is trained to enthusiastically push her muzzle to my hand quickly. My job is to give her an immediate “Yes!” exaltation and follow it with a treat. By repeating this with my hand against an object I want her to learn, she begins to associate that object with what comes next.

In this case, “Touch window” was repeated with the muzzle nuzzle and reward. After a few times, the first remained but the word touch was removed such that window was now the direct association with the object. Presto! Suddenly Autumn had learned a new word, and when I said “Find the window,” she navigated me directly to it. When I said “Find my chair,” she returned me to the place from which we began. It was a wonderful lesson on my girl’s ever growing vocabulary and let the students see her enthusiasm for learning – something she has in common with many students at our school presentations.

We are proud to have presented to over 36,000 students since founding 2020 Vision Quest in 2010 and count on reaching many more! If you would like to learn more about our education program, please visit our school education page and/or reach out to us at education@2020visionquest.org.

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10 Jan 15

By Randy Pierce

“Going blind is much harder than being blind.” 

Most of us learn to depend extensively upon our sight. When that begins to fail us to any amount, it can be mildly challenging to completely overwhelming. It is very common for denial to be amongst the earliest and strongest responses. It is both sad and frustrating to know this denial often inhibits the most helpful approaches to address these challenges offered by those with the benefit of experience and education which has likely solved these difficulties many times over.

I’m still amazed at how many people contact me because they or someone they care about are facing some level of vision loss and don’t know how to approach it. I’m delighted for the contact and chance to offer support and resources. But prior to going blind, I’d have never realized what a significant number of people are challenged with significant vision loss–it’s all too often an invisible malady. As such, I wanted to suggest a few thoughtful approaches for you or anyone you know who may be experiencing any amount of vision loss.

Please especially consider that the number one cause of blindness is “age-related macular degeneration” and it is very likely impacting people you know. Remember also that “blindness” is a term often feared as part of the denial because it is the extreme case of visual impairment. Help is beneficial and available for those encountering any amount of life impacting vision loss.

First and foremost, use the benefit of a knowledgeable and capable medical world to take the best care of you and your eyes. My ophthalmologist at Nashua Eye Associates made fantastic choices and in conjunction with my neural ophthalmologists likely helped me preserve my sight for 11 years after my medical condition struck. Do everything reasonable to protect your sight and at the same time explore all the opportunities for how best to utilize the sight you have remaining.

Every state has organizations similar to the NH Association for the Blind. Whether it’s the IRIS Network in Maine, the Mass Association for the Blind or many others, there are organizations who specialize in all aspects of “Low Vision Therapy” that offer tips, tricks, and tools for managing all aspects of your life. Having trouble threading a needle? There’s a tool for that! Trouble with colors – you bet there’s a tool for that. Simply wish to read and enjoy a book or paper as you did most of your life? The right lighted magnifier for your needs is probably available. The trained staff will help you determine the right fit for your situation and even help you with the training and use of those approaches.

So if you are in or near New Hampshire, I strongly encourage that first call to the New Hampshire Association for the Blind at 603-224-4039. A quick email or google search will undoubtedly help you find the right organization near you otherwise. They’ll have some immediate recommendations available and more extensive possibilities certain to ensure your possibilities are as limitless as your willingness to conceive, believe, and achieve!

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3 Jan 15

By Randy Pierce

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn wish you a happy year ahead from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Randy, Tracy, and Autumn wish you a happy year ahead from the Golden Gate Bridge.

AULD LANG SYNE (English Translation)

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of long ago?

CHORUS:
For days of long ago, my dear, for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for days of long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared since days of long ago.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for days of long ago.

CHORUS

For me, the heart of the New Year is not in the resolutions but in the reflections and looking ahead. My years are so very full of meaning and the pace often just a bit too unrelenting for the full measure of both of those things which surges to me around January’s arrival. I’ll take a short tour of the 2020 Vision Quest year past and thoughts of 2015 ahead.

Last January’s tragic loss of the Mighty Quinn resonates still for the loss and for the legacy he left behind. Our first published work is written from his perspective in Pet Tales and has been very well received. Our #Miles4Quinn has encouraged many thousands of healthy miles and both Randy and Tracy completed their first marathons in his honor.

Autumn arrived to ease some of the pain and bring her own joy and talents into our world. Her boundless joy continues to uplift our spirits every day as our bond and teamwork continues to grow.

We continued to experience mountain climbing although running goals were a primary feature. From our pioneer work on a Tuff Mudder to a B1 National Marathon Championship, there were many accomplishments. The NH Magazine “It List”, a TEDx Talk, and the strengthening of our board and staff all highlight a year of many positive strides. I think, as always, that the 34,000 students we’ve reached with our presentations remains one of the strongest aspects of our year and mission.

The promise we seek in 2015 is to bring out our best efforts and hopefully encourage and inspire others to do similarly. Winter training is leading towards readiness for the Boston Marathon. Summer’s training is towards the trip to Tanzania and our goal to reach our highest peak at the top of the world’s tallest stand alone mountain: Kilimanjaro!

Along the way we hope to bring our total students to well above 50,000 and continue our corporate presentations which may enable us to support Guiding Eyes and the NH Association for the Blind in the best fashion they both deserve from us.

At the heart of everything we do is our hopeful intent to tend the people of our community. These wonderful friends old and new are the foundation of hope and happiness for all that will come in the future and the not so secret means to saver every present moment.

Happy New Year to you all!

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13 Dec 14

By Jennifer Streck

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been a part of 2020 Vision Quest since its inception when Randy asked me over for lunch to pick my brain about an idea. From day one, I loved the concept and goals and hold immense admiration for Randy’s courage and drive.

The most awesome part of what he does, in my not-so-humble opinion, is his school outreach. I have been there when Randy has spoken to the elementary classes that my own children were in and left each time inspired and feeling better about the world we live in.

Randy is sitting with the team of 6th – 8th graders on Team Eyrie. Autumn is at his feet.

Randy, Autumn and the 2014 Elm Street Eyrie FLL Team.

Most recently, I escorted Randy to Elm Street Middle School where the Elm Street Eyrie were prepping for their inaugural First LEGO® League (FLL) competition. (Full disclosure: my daughter Bella is part of this team and asked to have Randy come in and speak to the group and help them with their project. As Randy saw Bella take her first steps before I, her mother, did, he owes me for life and is at my beck and call for all appearances.)

Now a little about FLL – it’s not just about the LEGO® robots. As part of these competitions, the teams must also present a project around the theme of the year and work within the core values of FLL – teamwork, cooperation, discovery, mentorship and fun. This time around they needed to address how to assist in learning. It’s a pretty broad category and the kids decided that they wanted to figure out how to help someone who is visually impaired. Randy was a tremendous resource to the kids as he told them the facts of his background and shared with them all of the different ways he learns about the world around him from directions, his environment, the weather, communication tools, computers and everything else.

The team shows him some of the obstacle courses on the FLL table. Randy is using his hands to feel the obstacles as the kids describe what each does and how they program the robot to do the tasks.

Team Eyrie demonstrates the FLL Obstacle Course table to Randy.

The kids were attentive and absorbed a lot. They even got to show Randy the obstacle course table that they used to program the LEGO® robot. As they spoke with Randy, I noticed a change in how they communicated. At first they all spoke at once and their enthusiasm was overwhelming. But then they settled and learned how to communicate in a way that was detailed, thoughtful, and expressive. In the age of “LOL,” “OMG,” and “BRB” this is not as easy as you would think. Just like the robots, these kids were programming their brains and were themselves learning.

As I sat there listening, two themes resonated.

First: Communication is key. Whether it’s explaining where a door is or expressing your point of view – the world stops without key human communication. And I am not talking about Facebook posts, Tweets, texting, or even this blog. Honest-to-goodness human interaction with your voice – words and tone – opens doors to so much for so many.

Second: Don’t be afraid. Be brave. Take chances. It’s harder than it sounds, but if we all try to do #1 to our best ability, there is no fear. Such simple concepts that we all, young and old alike, should keep closer in our playbooks of life. Oh what we could be and what we could give to the world if every day we woke up and took on each day with an open mind, brave heart and emotive spirit. Am I making more of it than it is? Sure. Maybe. I am known to dig a little deeper than necessary at times. But I also know that at the end of the session one of those young men came up to Randy and thanked him because before Randy spoke with them and told them his tale he was afraid around the blind. Now he knew he did not have to be and just needed to communicate in a new way.

The team shows him some of the obstacle courses on the FLL table. Randy is using his hands to feel the obstacles as the kids describe what each does and how they program the robot to do the tasks.

Team Eyrie demonstrates the FLL Obstacle Course table to Randy.

You’re likely asking yourself, “So how did the kids do? Did they win?” The kids went to their first competition on November 22nd. They did a tremendous job all around. Their project focused on the creation of a new app for the visually impaired to lend assistance crossing roads and intersections.

The app relies on the phone’s GPS (which Randy relies on) and BlueTooth technology that would communicate with the stoplights at intersections. When connected a signal would be omitted letting the pedestrian know it was safe to cross and at which street he/she is crossing. They even wrote a letter to the mayor of Nashua explaining their proposal and making themselves available for more questions and further research. (I would never have thought of an app, but that’s why I am raising digital natives – to change the world.)

And in addition, their robot came in 4th out of 16 teams in the Robot Obstacle Course Tournament! (I almost started the wave in the stands – it was so exciting!).

In the end, Team Elm Street Eyrie did not place overall and are not moving onto the States competition but this team pulled together in short order and delivered something that they should be very proud of. They worked as a team, communicated their goals, contributed their best and took some chances. That’s a check in the “win” column no matter what.

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