Tag: Randy



24 Jan 15

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Jose enthusiastically posing before the Superdome in New Orleans February 3, 2002

Randy and Jose enthusiastically posing before the Superdome in New Orleans February 3, 2002.

I have been a passionate supporter of both the New England Patriots and football in general, a sport which I’ve found to be tremendously entertaining for many years. I appreciate the pauses in play for socialization and strategizing as well as the drama of setting the personnel and formation for the physically intense moments involved in every play. Athletes of many abilities bring together brute strength, speed, agility, and intelligence with incredible athleticism and skill.

As a blind man, it lends very well to description and the weekly pace allows me to fully invest in the entertainment of it without unreasonable impact on the rest of my life goals. The Sports Emmy Award Nominated HBO Inside the NFL Fan Life documentary on me showcases that rather well.

As I should be excitedly preparing for the team’s competition in Superbowl 49, the talk has been of “Deflate-Gate” and general allegations of cheating. I take my integrity very seriously and that of those with whom I associate, as well as the integrity of a team/sport which I support as a season ticket holder and very passionate fan. After years of below mediocrity, the team’s rise to prominence was matched with my own fortunate naming as the Fan of the Year for their first Superbowl Season and the NFL award as the Ultimate Patriot Fan that same year.

Such success has brought some level of doubt, suspicion, and mistrust at times for the Patriots. I can relate, as I’ve had my blindness called into question after some successful endeavors and it is frustrating to me that for some it is easier to justify our own perceptions of failure by finding fault with any who succeed. That isn’t entirely the case in all things, to be clear, but it is a too often disappointing phenomenon. The Patriots brought this upon themselves when “Spygate” in 2007 showed they had violated a rule, albeit one of questionable impact. They were punished severely, and from that day forth earned to some extent the accusations and allegations which would falsely follow them for every success.

This has had a not inconsiderable impact upon my enjoyment which is at the heart of any entertainment source. Once again this year that has emerged as a theme, and while the results are not finalized at the time of this writing I have significant reasons to be hopeful my comfort with the team may remain.

What I do know is that I do not blindly  or mindlessly follow the team and sport. Ray Rice and Ray Lewis abominations matter to me. Player safety and the league’s continued lip service to real change matters to me. Integrity matters to me and the escalating costs of corporate-level financing replacing fan support matters to me. I love to join my many friends in shared excitement during a Sunday afternoon contest. I respect the players’ hard work, skill, determination and teamwork to bring victories or occasionally defeat.

I hope that can continue because that is the root of what I chose to pursue as a fan. When the mismanagement of the league or team shifts too far I must shift with it for my comfort and I will make the right choices for me in such things. I hope and want to believe better management and a better approach is just ahead to keep this entertainment a valued part of my life. While I respect the choices and opinions of those who feel differently, I hope they do so with a reasonable amount of thought, facts, and consideration for the process with which they communicate their concerns and frustrations. It is ultimately in this communication where too many things go needlessly awry.

Go Pats!
Randy
FOTY 2001

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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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20 Dec 14

By Arielle Zionts

I am a recent graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, ME. Over 15 weeks, Salt students study and make videos and multimedia. They also each chose to focus in writing, photography, or radio. Rather than focusing on pure reporting, Salt teaches narrative, documentary, and story-based work. Our stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. They have tension or a conflict that is either resolved or being addressed.

I was struggling to find a topic for my second radio story so I googled “miniature guide horse in Maine.” I thought it would be interesting to do a story about someone who uses a guide horse instead of a guide dog. However, Randy’s website appeared in my search results and I began to read about Randy, his dogs, and their adventures. I knew there was a story in Randy and his dogs but I wasn’t sure what it was at first. I was afraid of making a cliché story: man has disability, man pushes limits of disability, listeners feel inspired.

After conversing via e-mail, phone, and text message, conducting two formal interviews, and going on a walk and hike with Randy and Autumn, I knew my story. I was struck by the strength and, to be honest, the adorableness of Randy and Autumn’s relationship. I was also moved when he talked about his former dogs, Quinn and Ostend. My radio story was going to be a relationship story.

In “Guiding Eyes,” Randy’s long-term journey of bonding and training with Autumn is explored and represented through a hiking scene on Pack Monadnock. The story also focuses on the cycle Randy goes through with his guide dogs: getting paired up with a dog, training, working together, death, and repeat.

At Salt’s show opening last week, over 50 people were moved to the point of laughter and tears as they listened to Randy speak about his relationships with his dogs.

To listen to my other radio stories, click here.
To learn more about the Salt Institute, click here.

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17 Dec 14

By Randy Pierce

Jose and Randy epitomize determination as they begin the final strides to the finish line.

Jose and Randy epitomize determination as they begin the final strides to the finish line.

When Ryan Ortiz, Assistant Executive Director for the USABA called us to the podium during the award ceremony, I was both surprised and delighted to think I’d somehow managed to place third in this National Marathon Championship. My excellent friend, Jose Acevedo, had guided me for the entirety of our 26.2 mile race.

It was just the second successful marathon for both of us and his first with the very significant additional work of Guiding. We had set a fairly modest goal for many reasons including my three-week battle with pneumonia which had grossly impacted my final weeks of training. I was proud of us and marveling in the teamwork which led to this momentous occasion, one which proved all the more powerful as we learned we had actually earned first place in the B1 division which is “total blindness to effectively no usable vision.” How did this happen?

For me, it started with my inspiration and decision to run the Boston Marathon as I detailed in one of my favorite blogs ever: “Qualifying for Quinn.” My very first marathon was a “success” on many levels though it was not indicative of the better approach I hoped to take for full marathon success.

I understood so little about long distance running but I was determined to listen and learn from the many resources available online and in the experienced runners such as my friend and coach Greg Hallerman. It was overwhelming how many people shared their knowledge, experience and perhaps most importantly running time as Guides to enable me to run train. Thus, it was all the more disappointing to me when my next attempt at a marathon–which had such better preparation and results, right up until my dropping out at mile 23.5 as detailed in my comment to the blog: “Bay State and Beyond.”

The California Marathon opportunity was made possible because the tireless drive of Richard Hunter and support of USABA, CIM and many others enables the large gathering of blind athletes to do so much more than just compete in this event. I didn’t expect or necessarily intend to personally compete as I explain in my pre-race blog for the event “CIM: Coast to Coast Blind Runners Share a Common Vision”

Tracy, Jose, and Randy pose before the race.

Tracy, Jose, and Randy pose before the race.

Tracy, Jose, and I paused and posed in Folsom, CA before sunrise on the morning of the race. We were excited, apprehensive, and slowly building towards the mental focus and physical readiness for the endurance experience ahead. Jose had mostly trained in Seattle for the sole purpose of guiding me at this event and I had joined him via phone for a few of his training runs but we’d only had two shorter runs together to practice the guide work and never in crowded race conditions. We felt confident that at a gentler 9:30-minute mile pace, we would support and sustain through the entire journey. While official time was “gun time” we didn’t press to the front as we knew our bibs would capture chip time and that was good enough for our goals. Thus thousands of runners were across ahead of us as we began.

The first stretch involved my needing to be tight behind him as we managed larger groups of people and brought our communication comfort up to speed. These early miles were crowd-restricted to a slower pace. Just over a mile, I was able to stride to the opposite side of the cane from him and allow my legs to stretch a little more. We picked up the pace comfortably and steadily began the work of passing individuals and groups. The first  pace  pack of 4:40 (four hours and forty minutes) took some time to manage with patience and talking to our fellow runners in order to find the space to work through together. By mile 9 we had passed the pace group for 4:25 and 4:10 and were running well together at above our intended pace. Shortly afterwards the first bathroom pit stop seemed sufficiently uncrowded to give Jose his opportunity, but the line was slow moving and at least six minutes were lost to the needed stop.

Back on the course, we had to navigate once again through a pace group cluster but felt strong as we approached the alleged significant uphill of the course. Reaching the halfway mark without noting a significant hill, we understood we were running strong and ready for the course which would roll and be flat for the duration of our trek. Race supporters played music, held humorous and inspirational signs, or simply cheered encouragingly throughout the many miles.

Water stops and nutrition moments were in great supply by the race and we availed ourselves of them appropriately. This required a return to tight behind and a slow to a walk. This cost us a little time but gave a little rest and kept us well hydrated and supplied with the energy we needed. Thus at mile 20 when we ran with a friend and peer, Kyle Robidoux, there was still good strength in both of us.

Our pace did slow for miles 20-24 where my first battle with a little leg pain arrived. My right leg, lower quad was cramping and spasming a little. I gave it two stretch breaks over the final 2.2 miles and used it as a little bit of a mental excuse to take an additional water stop I might otherwise have avoided. These final two miles were not my strongest and it is where I had to dig deeper for the mental and physical resolve. This made Jose stronger as he rose fantastically to the occasion of offering more support.

Crowds of supporters made communication more challenging and narrowed the course so tight behind was common as we found space to continue passing people on the stretch run. Our final turn was captured in the above photo and showed the determination and focus both of us needed to reach the finish as strong as we did. At his call, I slid up the cane and we clasped hands over our heads in celebration as we strode across the finish line. It was jubilant and emotional in ways endurance events bring forth. The post-race celebratory feelings and race support buoyed our proud recollections as we slowly eased our bodies towards the well deserved rest.

Randy, Jose, and Tracy triumphantly sport Santa hats at the finish line.

Randy, Jose, and Tracy triumphantly sport Santa hats at the finish line.

The atmosphere was electric and we waited in the USABA tent for Tracy to finish her first marathon as well. Celebrating our own success is a great feeling and yet the sharing of it is so much more powerful to me. Not just the sharing of pride in Jose and our teamwork, but the sharing of accomplishment and joy with all the runners as they crossed the finish line. Kristen, Jose, and I cheered as Tracy crossed with a huge smile overpowering the also well earned exhaustion. That moment carried as much powerful emotion as our own success.

The work on race day is certainly tremendous as is the reward. The hardest work lies in all the preparation. I ran more than 1200 miles of training which creates wear and tear on the body and considerable amounts of time. The dedication and consequences of the commitment are significant. I have the required challenge and benefit of running as a team most of the time. This certainly enhances the motivation and the enjoyment significantly.

My initial goal of the Boston Marathon is still ahead and my determination is beyond unwavering as it’s grown steadily. I understand reasonably well the sacrifice and efforts involved and even now have begun forming the plan for training ahead. The entirely unexpected and surreal additional reward is that now I hold a title beyond my expectations. I am the B1 National Champion of the marathon!

The reality is there are many fantastic runners, sighted and blind, of all levels, who may better my time. I hope to be one of those as I strive to improve and grow my own running ability. What I know is that in reaching for goals, in working towards our dreams and perhaps just in the conceiving of such, we are already winners. That is what makes it so easy for me to celebrate all of the glorious moments from our entire California trip even as I begin using my sightless eyes to look forward with confidence I will indeed Achieve a Vision Beyond my Sight. I always love the last experience and hope to always use those prior moments as a springboard to begin the next opportunities.

Better than all of those experiences, however,  are the many people with whom I hope to share the experience. Thank you to so many folks for letting me share their experience and for choosing to share in some of mine as well – this time particularly to Jose Acevedo my friend and teammate in this national championship! Congratulations on all the hard work and well earned rewards!

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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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6 Dec 14

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn trek through the airport on their way to their first plane trip together!

Randy and Autumn trek through the airport on their way to their first plane trip together!

As Autumn and I stroll through the airport and onto the plane, and then settle into a seat with her curled up against my feet on the floor in front of me, it may seem a simple process. For Guiding Eyes Autumn, December 4 was her debut flight and we thought we’d enlighten the many who have asked how the entire process works. Like most things, it begins with planning and preparation.

Thankfully the A.D.A. (American’s With Disabilities Act) ensures she is welcome to accompany me on a flight and not require any additional cost or ticket purchase. Guiding Eyes for the Blind has ensured that we as a team are trained for our part in the responsibilities involved. She has proven able to exceed the behavioral needs despite all the possible surprises which might arrive on a flight. I’ve been trained to ensure the ability to keep her within those expectations and properly educate the people around us through the process.

Depending on the length of flight and possibilities for relieving Autumn, I’ve adjusted her schedule of food and water to ensure she can fly comfortably without risk of an accident nor of insufficient nutrition and hydration. This is more difficult with the extended security approaches, although many airports have very kindly provided relieving stations beyond security. I have food ready for her immediately after we finish our flights.

Alerting the airlines 24 hours in advance is a courtesy which can also allow me to request bulkhead seating for us. On many airlines this has just a little more leg room which aids my 6’4” frame and her 65 lbs of Labrador  to cohabitate a little better. This time we are traveling with Tracy and may negotiate a little of her leg room too.

Autumn settles in at Randy's feet, ready for the long flight.

Autumn settles in at Randy’s feet, ready for the long flight.

On the day of the flight, we’ll arrive a little early and ensure her a final relief before braving the security process. They will usually expedite us through security and thereby ensure a Dog Guide trained scanner as well. She sits in a stay while I walk through the scanner (hopefully successfully though the blind guy not touching the sides is another interesting challenge). Then while they watch I call her through and typically the harness will set off the alarm so they’ll pat her down. Often this is a treat for Autumn and the scanning agent. We then resume to the gate and request early boarding to ease things a little more. Sitting in plain view of the gate reminds them we are there to help finalize that early boarding.

Sometimes a little interaction with a fellow flyer in our row helps build comforts though there’s an occasional flight with someone unhappy to share the row with a dog guide. The airline may move that person if it’s possible and most of the time soulful puppy eyes win over travelers.

We are allowed in any seat not designated as the emergency exit row. The airline may invite us to move for better comfort and if safety is involved they may direct us to do so, but in my 14 years of flying with a Dog Guide this has never yet happened. A blanket and chew toy complete the options for her comfort especially on her first flight. Eventually she may prove to be as stoic and relaxed as the Mighty Quinn or Ostend before her, but setting the trip for success in advance is key. The final part of that is to ensure her dog food made the trip as it may be harder to find across the country. Just to be safe, a full day’s supply is in my carry-on and her collapsible bowl is on her harness.

Now we are off and ready for new adventures together!

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29 Nov 14

By Randy Pierce

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands in January 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands in January 2007. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

We are going to Sacramento, California to run the California International Marathon on December 7. For Tracy Pierce, this will be her first marathon and for me a chance at completing my second. This opportunity comes about primarily because of Richard Hunter and the USABA (United States Association of Blind Athletes) as detailed in a blog earlier this fall.

We will have the chance to be surrounded by a community of incredibly inspirational athletes, many of whom happen to also be blind. While undertaking an incredible opportunity in our own right we realized the escape from snowy New England to a vacation retreat would afford us many wonderful treasures. While the marathon is the primary goal for both of us and my chance to atone for a failure at mile 23.5 of the Bay State Marathon in October, I’m particularly proud to be running with my good friend and fellow 2020 Vision Quest Board Member Jose Acevedo as my guide.

Tracy and friends just finishing the New England half marathon. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

Tracy and friends just finishing the New England half marathon. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

So starting at 7:00 am Pacific Standard Time you can follow along our progress via the California International Marathon website or via various social media connections for 2020 Vision Quest.

Once the race is behind us, the vacation begins. Reuniting with friends (Jose, Kristen, Chris and Kat) to watch our beloved Patriots play the night game in San Diego will start that journey, though we won’t be attending live as California is simply too large a state for that part of the trip to be possible. Wobbly legs will slowly recover with a winery tour in Napa courtesy of our friend Amy Dixon, the Blind Sommelier.

We’ll catch the migration of the Bull Seals at Point Reyes and a couple of days in San Francisco for Alcatraz, eat Godiva’s Chocolate Earthquake Ice Cream Challenge in honor of my running coach Greg Hallerman, and take in other delights of the city. Later we’ll make the journey to Sequoia National Forest where the largest living tree in the world, General Sherman, will highlight a tour of some parks and majestic trees.

We are finding the balance of not overloading our schedule with plans to blend rest and relaxation with this incredible opportunity to visit a rare part of our world. Making the most of opportunities is such a gift to ourselves. Be grateful I didn’t write this blog to the tune of the “Beverly Hillbillies” as my mind first wandered. For my part, I’ll be grateful to the opportunities presented by delving into the experiences of life with a supporting wife and caring community. California, Here we come! – please have no snow!

Randy and Christine running in the snow.

Randy and Christine running in the snow. Photo courtesy of Tracy Pierce.

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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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