Tag: Outreach



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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6 Sep 14

By Randy Pierce

“People will forget what you say and what you do long before they will forget how you made them feel”
– Maya Angelou

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Randy and Autumn present at Interlakes High School.

Our first school presentation of the new academic year was a pair of presentations at Interlakes High School. We began at 7:30 am with a presentation to the entire freshman class of 85 students as they explored concepts of goal setting, cooperation, community, and perseverance. Their attention was highly focused and intense with eager responses to questions and challenges provided to them.

After a brief break with some inspired sharing, the 300 students representing sophomores through seniors arrived for another hour-long presentation which used the challenges of goal setting and adversity management as a means for reaching each of their own individual peak potential. Once again rapt attention, thunderous applause and moving testimonials highlighted the experience–yet the underlying motivation was probably far more hidden to most.

These seniors had been given a presentation in the fall of 2011 and this was a repeat of the revised programs available on our For Educators. They had overwhelmingly reported how much the messages had resonated for them and how grateful they were to reconnect with the message and methods as they begin their final year of high school. It was a powerful reminder to me just how worthy an impact we may have on students’ lives.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

Randy and Autumn with an Interlakes teacher.

As students file out of the auditorium after a presentation, it is not uncommon for a thank you, handshake, or testimonial to be shared. Sometimes those points are what motivate me to work harder, encourage the 2020 team to understand the value of our work, and to expand our outreach to bring more students to our message. It is uplifting to hear the emotionally laden appreciation from students and often some staff surprises.

Such was the case when a teacher shared with the entire student body that a hiking story I had told about whether we focus on our feet upon a trail or the entire experience around us led to some changes and insight for her own life. This had so much impact that she embraced a few personal challenges from that day forward on the trails and in her life.

One such challenge culminated in a challenge she made to her fellow teachers. She refused to accept her technological limitations as she sought how to bring the perfect means to unite all teachers in sharing daily a positive experience which would uplift all of them each day. She found a mobile app to accomplish this and launched the school-wide program the day before our arrival to a resounding success in the young school year. Meanwhile all the students were challenged to set goals for September which would be reviewed as they learned skills around “positive adversity” and aiso reviewing the rewards our talks present for understanding challenges in a different way.

When you know you are changing lives and people share this with your project, it becomes the most powerful motivation. The 2020 Vision Quest team does many wonderful acts of community service. All have equal value and measure to those who receive them. The people who are touched by our message and in turn choose to touch our lives give us the inspiration, motivation, and dedication to continue our work. Thank you Interlakes and many future schools for inspiring our efforts to continue!

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

Autumn takes a well-deserved rest after a job well-done.

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30 Aug 14

By Randy Pierce

T.E.A.M. – Together Everyone Achieves More

Randy poses with his team at the Tuff Mudder.

Randy poses with his team at the Tuff Mudder. Photo courtesy of Allan Mercier.

I hear many kind words about inspiration and accomplishment. It should be no surprise that the most dramatic of all of these moments usually involves an incredible team of support making the various accomplishments possible. Yet unfortunately all too often more credit is given to me than the team of which I am only one part. It gave me pause to consider my belief in how much more all of us may accomplish when we choose to be a part of the right team and dedicate ourselves to learning the best means to work together as a team.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

As Ford said well, the beginning is coming together. We have significant influence on the people with whom we surround ourselves in our life’s journey. I firmly believe the better we choose and the kind and careful tending of those choices is the first and most powerful step in our own appreciation and success in life.

Summit shot of the team's 48th 4,000-footer, August 2013.

Summit shot of the team’s 48th 4,000-footer, August 2013. Photo courtesy of Catherine Orza.

Whether undertaking a Tuff Mudder, perilous Peak or work like the 2020 Vision Quest charity, the communities of support and friendship we build are the foundation for all the success of the experience. I think it’s important to note that we should always be striving to give and to be all that we hope for in our teammates as well and that includes understanding the difference between when someone has understandably slipped as a partner and if someone simply isn’t the team player with whom we want our life surrounded.

Building the team is important, as is understanding the individual aspects of the entire team. Learn what communication works best for which people and try to provide them with that approach. Share openly with your team which methods work best for you and adapt where possible to fit their ability to provide with your needs. Check in with each other along the way to adjust as the team grows and learns so that encouragement and support combine with question and challenge to yield the strongest support for everyone’s goals. A team moving in unison towards common goals is a powerful force indeed.

My journey is filled with so many wonderful people who have helped enable me to achieve some incredible moments. It all falls so well inline with the very aptly named Peak Potential Annual Charity Dinner and Auction. It highlights the ultimate level of team rather nicely as well. On that night we will have our closest friends who support us and we’ll have the brief adventure experience teammates of the mountains and Tuff Mudders. In a larger sense, we’ll build a more vast community by our choices, and that greater community will help provide a means for perhaps the greatest accomplishments of our lives.

Thank you to all my closest friends, my many adventure partners, and especially to the vast network of friends and supporters who help me always strive to reach my own “peak potential” personally, professionally, and philanthropically!

Fairway Mortgage, Randy, Robbie, Sarah, and Quinn at Peak Potential 2013.

Peak Potential 2013. Photo courtesy of Kevin Green.

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22 Aug 14

By Randy Pierce

I’ve undoubtedly earned the reputation that’s at the source of this week’s post and yet I still find amusement in the three typical reactions to my August 23 undertaking:

  1. “Of course you would do a Tuff Mudder.”
  2. “Are you crazy?”
  3. “What in the world is a Tuff Mudder?”

The last is the easiest to answer: initially it was a 10-12 mile, intensely difficult obstacle course designed to test the metal of British Special Forces. As the competitive challenge was brought a bit more mainstream, it has been adapted as a fundraiser for projects such as the Wounded Warrior Program. The team approach eases the challenge somewhat, but for many it is the ultimate test of determination, perseverance, and perhaps sanity!

The Tuff Mudder youtube video will show you better than I could ever reasonably describe.

Greg, Randy, Peter, & Christine check out an obstacle

Greg, Randy, Peter, & Christine check out an obstacle

In my own defense, of sanity, I was entreated to undertake this by a couple of good friends who thought our teamwork to achieve this together would set the bar as high as any of my undertakings. I thought it was an ideal way to wreak havoc with my Marathon training. Of course I said yes, but only after being shown that at least one other blind person undertook, survived, and blogged about his experience.

Surprisingly, that made it easier to say yes because I knew I wasn’t doing it to achieve a first, but rather to support the goals of friends and attempt to take teamwork yet again to a very high level. For me that experience and demonstration is worth the challenge, struggles, and risks I’ll experience in the event.

As I write this blog, I have not yet undertaken the event but by the time of publishing it will have occurred. Whether I succeed, fail, or walk some form of middle ground to the above, I am confident we’ll have come together and given our very best attempt to do each challenge fully. Our team will come together in some incredible ways with me providing as much to the team as I’m certain to get from it. I hope to have more words for it when it’s complete but I reserve the below space for a few picture highlights of our team at work.

Up and over an obstacleRandy mugs for the camera with Greg on top of an obstacle

 

 

Randy works on monkey bars

 

I want to give special thanks (blame?) to the two people most responsible for getting me into this muddy mess: thank you Laura Mountain and Greg Naeult. In the follow up I have no doubt a full team of thanks will be owed as Pete, Christine, Tom 1, Tom 2, and a few others are sure to be essential to the rewards within our reach!

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9 Aug 14

By Randy Pierce

Autumn is fascinated by the butterfly that has landed near her.First and foremost, Autumn did NOT eat any butterflies. She did, however, accompany me to the Butterfly Place. They absolutely welcome service animals and in fact were as warm and kind with Autumn as they had been with Ostend and Quinn in their visits to this wonderful opportunity just a few short miles from our home.

They did once have a potential service animal run amok in their facility and even eat a couple of butterflies. It’s sad that I have to say “potential” service animal but a proliferation of fraudulent approaches coupled with inappropriate behavior is a significant concern at present.

Any service animal acting inappropriately may be and should be requested through the handler to depart. As a handler, it is our responsibility to ensure our dogs are properly prepared for any and all environments to which we are bringing them. It is our job to maintain control over our service animal as we work with them to benefit from their training to provide us with their service. This is something well taught at Guiding Eyes and likely all Dog Guide schools. While the occasional failure may occur, it is more common with the fraudulent situations and leads to questions about how best to manage the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Anyone being expected to grant access to a Service Dog has the right to inquire:

  1. Do you have a disability?
  2. What service is the dog trained to perform for you?

Those two questions and the right to request that inappropriate behavior cease immediately or that the dog be removed from the premises are the means to protect business owners. Truthfully, many are intimidated by the entire process. Wanting to not restrict appropriate access or fear of litigation causes a paralysis of action and may allow those abusing the system with fraudulent service animals or misbehaving service animals to cause significant problems. As much as I have been frustrated by illegal service denial in the past, I am similarly disheartened by the animal users who perform an equal injustice.

Autumn poses behind a large wooden butterfly with her head peeking out

This is why I will always strive to ensure Autumn and I are prepared for all of the situations we encounter. I want to open lines of communication in every way possible and I want to savor experiences like the marvels of the Butterfly Place for both Autumn and me… as well as the many others sharing the experience with us. I hope many others give their personal responsibility an equal due diligence and get to savor the experiences as well!

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21 Jun 14

By Brent Bell

Randy and Brent ride tandem.

Randy and Brent ride tandem.

Randy and I are planning on riding a double century (over 200 miles) Friday, June 27th, 2014.

The “century” or 100-mile bike ride, is the cycling equivalent of the marathon. It’s a ride many serious cyclists have on their bicycling bucket list. When you go beyond the marathon in running, you find a small group of ultra endurance runs of 50 or even 100 miles. In the cycling world when you go beyond the century, you have the Randonneurs: cyclists who will ride distances from 100k up to 1200k in a specific time limit.

Randy and I are working our way into this long distance cycling culture by trying out a few of the New England Randonneur events (100k & 200k), but for our 300k we are going to complete a ride special in my life. We are riding from Nashua to Lebanon on early Friday morning on the 27th (2am start) and hoping to return to Randy’s home around 7pm. The time limit for a Randonneur 300k is 20 hours.

This ride is special to me because in the 1970s I completed a Lebanon to Litchfield (Nashua border town) to Lebanon ride. I thought of this ride as a way to see a good friend who spent her weekends in Litchfield, but the ride became a “Brent against the world” event. No one thought I could ride such a distance.

Randy and Brent with the Randonneurs.

Randy and Brent with the Randonneurs.

The ride had a tremendous positive effect on realizing my potential. As I entered high school a shy and nervous boy, I often drew upon my knowledge of how I succeeded on the ride as a boost in my confidence. I credit the ride with all my success in geometry my freshman year, as I learned to be tenacious from a long bicycle ride.  The ride helped to propel me forward when times were tough.

Now that I am turning 50, I have been thinking about repeating this ride, wanting to visit the person who suffered his way home from Litchfield 37 years ago. I am happy to have my dear friend Randy to help me.

Why share this  with 2020 Vision Quest? The core message of 2020 is about human potential. Potential is realized by moving through challenges. Randy shares a positive and inspirational message, but I know he wants everyone to experience the human potential inside of each of us. As my mom so wisely challenged me, can you find the inspiration to walk across the reality between where you find yourself today and where you dream of being tomorrow (just to clarify, we will be biking through the reality).

Randy and I spoke a lot about biking on a tandem as we have spent time together over the years. We have been dreaming of longer and longer bike rides, and this is a test to help us see our potential.

On June 27th, think of us. We will be laughing, smiling, suffering, enduring, and living a full life.  I hope we learn about human potential, which could be a lesson in failure, patience, or success. All I am sure about is we will not want to sit on a bike seat for a long time. Wish us well and consider following along as we share updates through the 2020 vision Quest Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets during our epic quest.

Our route on June 27.

Our route on June 27.

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24 May 14

By Randy Pierce

I cannot give blood as the nature of my medical condition prevents the Red Cross from using it. However, I can and will join my fellow Hudson Lions and the Red Cross by giving my full support to their upcoming blood drive:

Red CrossThursday, May 29
1:00 – 6:00 pm

White Birch
222 Central St.
Hudson, NH 03051

I am working the full event and would very much appreciate as many of you as possible joining us. The White Birch provides some great food in appreciation for those who are choosing to literally save lives through the donation. Autumn is giving free licks to many of you as well. Won’t you help where I cannot and make this important decision?

It’s a fairly young event and as such process times will be fairly quick. With the online registration options, you can minimize any delays.

Click here to make an online appointment
Or call them directly at: 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

There are so many powerful reasons to give blood and yet the sad reality is although an estimated 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate, less than 10% actually do make this choice. Will you? There are so many facts available to show the importance and I urge you to explore the Red Cross website.

More than 41,000 units of blood are needed every day in the US. Meeting this need is only is possible through donations from people like you. I’m once again proud of my club for helping to make this possible, proud of the White Birch for supporting the cause, and extremely grateful to all of the Red Cross efforts to ensure so many of us have had our lives or the lives of loved ones saved because of their efforts. As I said I cannot give blood but I’ll dedicate my time and encourage you to help where I cannot. Give blood at this event if possible or a blood drive near to you. Become a regular donor and know the difference you make in our world! I’ll be at this event to thank each and every one of you personally!

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