Tag: Outreach



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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24 Nov 14

By Kim Kett Johnson

On Saturday night my husband Todd and I were fortunate enough to attend our 5th Peak Potential dinner and auction put on by 2020 Vision Quest and our friend Randy Pierce. We have attended all of the Peak Potential dinners over the past five years. Let’s face it, when you have three small children, having an annual event where you get to go out as a couple, dress up a little, and see many friends, all while supporting a fantastic cause is something we look forward to every year. I’d like to highlight a couple of the things I love most about the event.

Group photo of Randy and his fraternity brothers reuniting for a fun evening out.

Randy and his fraternity brothers reunite each year at Peak Potential for a fun social evening.

The social part: Randy Pierce and I have been friends since 1986. I see Randy and speak to Randy outside of the Peak Potential event, but every year at Peak Potential I reconnect with many other people who are mutual friends to Randy and me.

Many of these friends of ours are Randy’s fraternity brothers. Last night there were 18 brothers there so assuming each had a +1 that is 36 seats at the dinner that were there because of the brotherhood they share with Randy and with each other. A lot of people do not understand the bond and camaraderie of being in a fraternity or sorority but 30 years later the outpouring of support Randy’s fraternity brothers give him is fantastic to watch. This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the night. I was lucky enough last night to see a couple of my sorority sisters and my great friend and first roommate. We were all brought together by this wonderful event.

Kim gets into the spirit of the event by making a bid on silent auction items.

Kim gets into the spirit of the event by making a bid on silent auction items.

The philanthropic part: 2020 Vision Quest and Randy Pierce’s vision has grown to where he has introduced his message of true vision and believing in yourself despite adversity, to 34,000 students since the organization was started. How many of us can say we have touched the lives of tens of thousands of students over a few years? He is not stopping there. Randy spends his days traveling to any school that will have him in many states. All the efforts of Randy and 2020 Vision Quest benefit the organizations “Guiding Eyes for the Blind” and “The NH Association for the Blind”. Both of these organizations helped Randy in his darkest days when his vision of what his life would be like was much different than it is now. 2020 Vision Quest is the definition of “Paying It Forward.”

Everyone at Peak Potential pays for the dinner, bids on silent auction items, buys raffle tickets, bid on live auction items and some playfully bid against each other on bigger ticket items. It is a real tribute to Randy and what he and the 2020 Vision Quest organization has built as to how many people come out every year. Whether you have attended a Peak Potential before or are reading this and thinking about attending next year, I will see you there!

 Puppy dressed up with cuffs and bowtie

The next generation of Guide Dogs wants to know: Will we see you next year?

All photos courtesy of Kevin and Heather Green Photography.

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8 Nov 14

By Randy Pierce

Moosilauke - Flags on 48

Randy and friends fly an American flag atop Mt. Moosilauke in honor of those who died in service, both civil and military.

My vision of Veterans Day is from my youth with fog encroaching on a chill morning over a memorial in my hometown of Colebrook, NH. The haunting echo of the bugle is barely finished when the 21-gun salute rips through the echo and startles my somber reflection. My parents and community had instilled in me a sacred duty to honor the service gifted by all our veterans to our country. Veterans Day was one of the special holidays.

Is it still special? Certainly some make efforts to appreciate the choices and all too often sacrifices of our veterans. It does seem less emphasized to me today though, and I wonder if it’s the advent of so many “special” days, from “Unwrapped Twizzler Day” (yes, I hope I only made that up) to a culture that seemingly has lost some intensity of focus on any particular holiday or other day of note. Perhaps the ugliness of war and the reality of instant news coverage of any and every atrocity or failing has desensitized us and increased apathy?

For me, all of this is entirely my subjective observation. I sadly believe it as firmly as I believe there are many very worthy causes deserving of our limited attention and it is our personal responsibility to cut through the dilution of emotion and give focus to as many as we can reasonably manage.

Blindness is a cause to which I dedicate much time and energy. Cancer has impacted my life in so many painful ways it must get my full focus and all too often fury. These are reasonable and worthy points and I’m proud of the means by which I support them both. For all the people who do and have served our country, from my father to the many friends and family across all branches of service, I am humbled and appreciative. For some it may have been just a job or means to an education, and for some a career, but for all an agreement to serve. The reality of such service in hostile and abhorrent circumstances I likely may never fully fathom.

I’ll be grateful all year for the very significant freedom their choices provide. On Veterans Day this year and every year, I hope I will join many in recalling the people who are the veterans so worthy of our dedication on their day. Thank you veterans and to all those who join in honoring them with me.

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27 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

Many people managing vision loss are uncomfortable with the word “blind.” Whether it’s a more horrific imagined final stop of their journey or some other reason, I’ve had enough conversations to understand the challenge some have in the term, far more than terminology of “visually impaired,” “sight-challenged,” or many others.

The reality for them is that change is difficult. I remember in my early transition how unsettling I found it to be labeled and to be different. I recall the many looks of pity from those who would part like the Red Sea as I tapped my cane along and learned to use the little vision I had to my best ability. I remember viewing (no pun intended) that as only “a little vision,” until I gradually came to have none left at all; my total blindness helped me realize how much perspective impacts our evaluation of everything. The truth is that it hurt to see reactions of others even as I was battling my own acceptance.

To my discredit, as soon as I’d learned to scan well enough with the limited vision I had before total blindness, I broke my white cane over my knee and threw it out. Why the emotional assault on the cane? It was a symbol of my feeling less than complete, inferior, and the warning sign for everyone else to see and realize that same notion. I’ve come a long way in acceptance and managing blindness with a bit more grace but I had a rough start and still have more bad moments than I wish.

So whether you are managing a transition yourself or know someone who is struggling with any facet of their life, please know it is hard and will often include some rougher moments. It can get better and everyone can have a hand in the improvement. For those in the midst of challenge, learn all you can about your challenge and how others before you may have succeeded. It’s a great way to begin the essential forward-moving work that’s at the heart of turning a challenge towards the positive.

For those wishing to better understand and help, do both of those things the best way possible. Consider the obvious and the subtle ways your interactions may impact someone. Treat them as close to your typical approach as possible and respect them as you ask what if anything you might do to help them. Well intended but unexpected help has walked me into a few doors, bumped a few heads, and made me feel I was thought of in a lesser way even when I knew the intent was so positive. Give encouragement, support, and accountability in equal measure but most of all give good exploration into truly understanding the reality of the challenge and the help which is wanted and necessary.

I strive to emphasize Ability Awareness and the notion we can solve problems to reach any destination that is important enough for us to be worth the perseverance required. In the midst of the challenge or transition, though, it is often hard to begin thinking of what we have ahead of us as we become tangled in how much we’ve lost. I have been there, will be there again I’m sure, and yet I know I can also come to an understanding and move forward again. Any of us may, though it helps if you are as well surrounded by people who are willing to share that approach and belief. This is true whether you are visually impaired, blind, or facing any of the multitude of challenges all of us will likely confront in our lives. The choice of how to respond is entirely up to you.

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