Tag: success



26 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

The ever affectionate Autumn interrupted my attempts at typing a blog so I provide a short video on the heart of our mission and how we get there… after a overcoming the Autumn distraction factor!

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13 Nov 16

By Beth Foote

The Peak Potential Team thanks you for your support!

The Peak Potential Team thanks you for your support!

“And you were all there.”

That’s what Randy said on Saturday night during his remarks at 2020 Vision Quest’s 7th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Charity Auction. He ran through the history of this amazing event–from its humble beginnings in 2010 with 65 people in the Manchester Derryfield Country Club, to last night when we packed 200+ into our massive ballroom in the Courtyard Marriott in Nashua. He told how, in our first year, we gave $2,020 each to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and New Hampshire Association for the Blind, and that now, 6 years later, we’ve been able to give $20,000 to each association each year for the last few years.

“And you were all there.”

In a lively ballroom full of friends and supporters, Randy shared some of his own journey. He shared triumphs: climbing all 48 4,000-foot peaks in a single winter, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, running two Boston Marathons. He also shared sorrows and hardships: the death of his father on the morning of the 2012 Peak Potential, the death of his beloved Guide Dog Quinn a little over a year later, and a resurgence of his mysterious medical condition over the last year that caused frequent blackout episodes. Randy took his audience through his personal highs and lows of the last few years, and came back to this statement:

“And you were all there.”

Both this event and 2020 Vision Quest have grown by leaps and bounds every year. At Peak Potential 2016, with our new expanded space and biggest auction yet, we are expected to have raised more money than any Peak Potential so far. 2020 Vision Quest has reached a total of 53,000 children in our school presentations, 10,000 just this year. We’ve now created the “2020 Visionary” award to honor those who embody the principles of 2020 Vision Quest, and presented it to our inaugural recipient Dr. John Dagianis. Dr. Dagianis’s quick diagnosis of Randy’s condition over a decade ago helped Randy save partial sight at the time, and he is also widely known for his skill, compassion, and humanitarianism.

But what keeps breathing life into our mission is the joy, friendship, and support of our community. Year after year, both at Peak Potential and in between, our community comes together to support us and each other. It’s because of you that we can keep making the difference that is so important to make.

Last night, Michelle Croteau, a teacher at the Adeline C. Marston School in Hampton, NH, gave a presentation about how important our mission was to her students. She said that 2020 Vision Quest shows that “turning a vision into a reality is possible if you just believe in yourself.”

Our mission to encourage people to achieve their dreams and to financially give back to Guiding Eyes and NHAB wouldn’t be possible without you. By believing in us and coming back, year after year, you’ve helped us turn the vision of this event and our charity into reality. Together, we’ve built something that’s amazing and meaningful. Together, we’ve helped make a difference to so many people who need it.

“And you were all there.”

So thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We are humbled and honored by your presence and your support. We hope you’ll keep on coming! We can’t do it without you.

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5 Nov 16

By Randy Pierce

Have you ever wondered how a blind person votes? In the past, it has been more challenged than most would prefer. It has generally resulted in me, my dog guide, a volunteer to record my vote and a witness all climbing into one of those small booths together. Often they were wonderfully patient, open-minded and non-judgmental people with whom I had the good fortune to share the details of my voting choices… but not always. There was also a former phone/fax system installed in the polling locations which failed at an alarming rate.

But new this year is the “One4All” voting system which showed considerable promise in the primaries and is now ready for its full debut in our November elections. Let me make it clear for all my NH community, visually impaired or not: this new accessible method of voting needs as many testers as possible. I am inviting all of you to take whatever voting choices you have and enact them on the same voting system I’ve been asked to use.

The New Hampshire Association for the Blind wrote an excellent piece about it which I recommend for those wanting more information. They also created an introductory training video for those wanting to be a bit more prepared for the experience ahead:

In a highly contentious time, I’m proud to suggest the opportunity for each of us to  be guaranteed to vote together in a comfortable solidarity. This system needs to be tested by use. It needs feedback from those who can see where it struggles and those of us entirely trapped by the auditory aspects it provides.

It may take you an extra moment or two at the polls, but if nobody is in that line, perhaps you’d consider giving it a try and ensuring the staff gets a little extra opportunity to test their equipment and that proper feedback can be provided going forward. Tell them you have a friend who is blind and has struggled at times with polling equipment and locations, and has friends who have heard enough horror stories they are intimidated to even attempt it until they hear enough good stories.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to be confident you are part of at least one good story this election cycle?

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22 Oct 16

By Greg Neault

Just over a year ago I was scurrying about making last minute preparations for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a trip across the world to Africa with a group of people I respect and admire to scale the flanks of Kilimanjaro, to watch the sun rise from Stella Point, to stand at the continent’s highest vantage point and look out onto the cradle of civilization, and then to explore that region’s amazing natural splendor, a wildlife show like no other on earth.

The team hiking Kilimanjaro in September 2015.I remember very distinctly the eve of our departure. A torturous night spent memorizing the subtle nuances of ceiling tiles. My body calling for sleep, but my mind a flurry with myriad questions about the journey to come. A new continent, country, and culture.

What would the climb be like? Would I make it to the top? Did I forget to pack some critical item? Would Cathy Merrifield be eaten trying to pet a lion? Excited anticipation goes a great deal further than caffeinated beverages in terms of fending off the sandman.

Earlier this month, life found me once again being robbed of sleep by anticipation of a major event: a trip to the hospital with the girl I love to welcome our baby into the world. Fortunately, I had a whole new ceiling to explore as I pored over the questions of things to come.

Kilimanjaro is a giant, for sure, but I’m not unfamiliar with the ways of mountains. My experience and knowledge, acquired over a life of traveling through mountains, canyons, deserts and forests would serve me well in this endeavor. I’m quite accustomed to packing and traveling with the necessities of daily life outside the comforts of home, to living within nylon walls and staying warm on cold nights under starry skies.  Kilimanjaro was a new, exciting, and unique experience, but was still representative of a new chapter in a story that has been unfolding for decades.

As I lay waiting for the alarm to sound on the morning of October the 6th, my mind was a whirlwind of rumination. I have about as much experience with babies as I have with firearms: people have let me handle theirs, but I don’t think they’d be foolish enough to let me wander off with one unattended. We went to the birthing class, we had a baby shower, and I was confident that we possessed all of the equipment necessary for a baby to survive in our care, but once we leave that hospital, we’re it. We are now solely responsible for the survival, well being and healthy physical, mental and emotional development of a brand new human being.

We didn’t even know what sex the baby was and had no clue what we were going to name it! How would we fare in the transition from unfettered adventurers, traveling about the region, country, and world to find new places to run, jump, and climb on a whim, to being responsible for a tiny person in need of care for every necessity around the clock? Do I have what it takes to be a good father? What kind of person will our child grow into? What is up with common core math?

Any anxieties I had in relation to my imminent parenthood were put to rest the minute the nurse put that sweet little baby in my arms for the first time. She was tiny and cute and weighed not even eight pounds. At that moment I knew that I didn’t have to know all the answers to all of the questions swirling around in my mind.

Too few days have passed to declare our success in clearing the hurdle that is the transition from carefree youth to steadfast parental figures. Obviously only time will tell what kind of person she’ll grow to be. I still have no idea what common core is all about.

What I do know is that I’ve mastered the changing of the diaper. I know that, for the time being, if she’s crying, there are only three reasons why and the process of elimination is a short route to a happy baby. I know that a car ride is an even shorter route to a happy baby. I know that my chest is a very comfortable place to take a nap. I know that there are more problems with more complexity than poop in the pants coming our way, but I know that we only need to solve one problem at a time. I know that with the right amount of forethought and a little help from my people, that we can make it happen.

The Kilimanjaro expedition was billed as the adventure of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint. A trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu could be in our future, and that may bear the “adventure of a lifetime” moniker as well.

But raising our daughter, that will be an adventure that LASTS a lifetime. She wasn’t even two full weeks old when she went on her first hike. I’m pretty sure she slept through most of it, cuddled up in a bundle on my chest (like I said, she loves to nap there), but she seems to enjoy the fresh air. As her eyes develop, I bet she’ll grow to appreciate the scenery as well. I hope that one day Stella and I will stand on lofty peaks together, sharing in the types of adventure that I hold dear. But right now, only weeks old, she has a very long journey ahead of her and it’s my job to put her on the path.

Greg and baby Stella on the top of a mountain with a beautiful fall valley view in the background.

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25 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and the expedition hiking group on the summit of Kilimanjaro. “’There and Back again’ by Bilbo Baggins” was the alleged epic title of the fictional hero’s epic recording of his own journey from Lord of the Rings. I struggle a bit with the notion because every experience changes us so much that even while it may seem like yesterday, we are so vastly different there is no real return. As if autumn nostalgia wasn’t already powerful enough in my life, the shadow of Kilimanjaro also looms over as I make the return trip in my reflection for the one year anniversary.

For me, it is so often the people which take primary focus and even upon a pillar of the earth that was once again true. The team which stood together on the slopes of that mighty mountain were passionately dedicated to supporting each other and yet we never know until it happens whether we ever will stand together on any similar quest. The commitment to each other, the determination to achieve, the raw emotional sharing, the joy of celebrations and the feeling of absolute certainty we would reunite were powerful and real. Many of us will connect for various adventures and in fact have already throughout the year, but capturing that exact group is a difficult and unlikely reality for most expeditions. Even should we manage it, we all will have changed and so too will our experience together. That seems sad initially but for me we’ve achieved those glorious moments and have them captured in our memories as well as how they have shaped our lives. So I’ll be glad for the reflections even as I plan many future adventures and experiences, hopefully including many or all of the team who touched my life so well in Africa

This day, I will remember September 2015 and the energy and nervous anticipation we shared in Arusha. I’ll smile at our challenges ordering pepperoni pizza, I’ll feel the awe of the real exclamation from those in my van as the first view of the mass of Kilimanjaro came into view. I’ll recall the shift from playful monkey thievery to worry that my friends shared as they noted the monkey making Darwin-like realizations about my blindness and ability to protect my juice boxes! The hopeful eagerness as the rainforest wide and smooth trail of the Machame gate allowed us to hike a little too quickly before “Polley-Polley” eased us to the “Slowly – slowly” we would need. The ever ascending views above the clouds day after day in a world so foreign in both plant and animal life, the cold winds at Shira camp, the ever cheerful and polite porters, “Harris Tweed!”, the impossibly distant summit cone illuminated each night by the splendor of a nearly full moon, and a foreign night sky my companions would share with voices filled with marvel and delight. All these and more were common occurrences as was a rotational sharing of guide duties for my ability to trek the trails.

There were struggles and some of us took ill. There was difficult terrain at times and none of us will likely forget how well our team came together for the Baranku Wall! That was our team together in the most health and celebration during the higher climbing I think, but you climb a mountain ultimately for moments near the top. While we did not all reach the summit together, a large contingent did and in weary, oxygen starved, sleep deprived, cold and hungry reality; we touched a point atop the second-largest continent in the world. With the glaciers beside us, the crater of Kibo peak and a horizon more distant than any of us had known from the ground, we experienced something together.

Each of us had different dreams and visions which brought us to that point and likely were touched a little differently by the experience. I do not envision ever standing at that point in the world ever again and yet I know the strength, determination, sacrifice, pain and amazement which are part of that moment and stand within me since then. It is as fresh as yesterday in some ways and as fleeting a memory as something from another life at times. Such is the difficulty I have with trying to hold time in my mind, yet I know if I close my eyes and breathe deeply, I can let my mind slowly wander to that time and place and steadily things become more clear and vivid to me. I can travel there and back again just well enough to keep it all so very real for me and to remind me of the fortune I have in the companions I keep here and there.

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17 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Autumn and Randy walking, but with LEGO robots!Stepping in front of the energized auditorium for the kick-off event of the FIRST LEGO League Animal Allies season, Autumn and I were excited for all the possibilities ahead. We were also lost, as our route to the podium had been a little blocked by standing room only and she had taken a rather creative route to get me to the front of the room. We did a little problem solving and made our way there with her managing the obstacles safely if not necessarily the way I might have chosen. There was a lesson right in our very approach to the podium and in our brief 15 minutes we needed to build on the excitement, highlight and connect to the core values of FIRST LEGO League, explain our connection to the project and robot challenge with just a hint of our own core messaging worked into the mix.

This might be a tall order if our core values didn’t align so well already, which speaks volumes to the successful aspects we experience. This is part of the reason sponsor BAE systems first coordinated to invite us to the event as well as having us included as a fundamental part of this year’s international experience. I must admit there was an extra bit of amusement in learning they had created a LEGO version of Autumn for their introductory video which can be found along with the full description of their organization’s approach which has become so successful around the world here. 

This year the emphasis is upon how humans and animals can improve the way we interact to make things better for each of us. The teamwork Autumn and I employ is exceedingly demonstrative of this and that is why we represent a project challenge as well as a robot table challenge component possibility.

FIRST LEGO League uses three approaches to the season of competition:

  • Core Values
  • The Project
  • The Robot Challenge

The project requires the team of students to research a problem, identify a solution, share their solution and present this process and result to a panel of judges. One suggestion made in their video involved the present Dog Guide harness and there are so many other avenues around service dogs or our 2020 Vision Quest which might qualify for such a project. I’ll be interested to see how creative the thousands of teams prove as they progress forward.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you as I left them with this notion of the seven core values. If they learn those core values they will likely perform better in the competition, but if they embrace them as a part of their approach to life, they will not only perform better in the competition, they will also likely find more success in life. The difference is in the investment to truly understand the reasons why each of those values is a benefit to us, our teams and the world around us.

This should be no surprise because most things in life which we deem worthwhile likely deserve more than paying minimal attention to perception rather than full investment. Perception matters, sometimes more than I wish, but the reality behind our approach will always carry a more lasting meaning for us and those with whom we ally. This is the true secret strength behind the bond I share with Autumn and all my Dog Guides and why we reach our “peak potential” so well together! It is why I was glad to partner a bit with first, BAE and FIRST LEGO League because we hope these messages will help guide students to take tomorrow to better and better places.

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30 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy sitting on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunrise, thinking about what's next.

Randy sitting on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunrise, thinking about what’s next.

I ask myself “what’s next?” often in part because despite my lack of sight, I do like to spend more time looking forward than back. I try not to get caught in a trap of devising grandiose depths of challenge to compare to prior challenges. Rather, I think about what inspires me for the present moment of my life. Let’s face it, Kilimanjaro was quite the experience last September and from Tough Mudder to TEDx talk I have plenty of experiences to savor already.

The year has been somewhat laden with medical challenges which we are still exploring and attempting to properly address. I’m excited to have achieved the freedom to return to so many of my training activities in very reasonable condition for them. So as August 2016 arrives, I’ve put three endurance goals into my autumn sights. Training has begun for all three and that’s quest enough for the short-term accompaniment to the work of 2020 Vision Quest, Lions, and life.

First up is a collaboration I hope to announce in more detail next week, but we’ve assembled an all visually impaired team to undertake an ultimate running relay called “Ragnar” or “Reach the Beach” in which with the help of our guide team, we will run from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach as a massive relay effort. I’ll be logging nearly 40 miles for my part in that. Pete Houde is my guide and inspiration for the undertaking.

A second quest reunites me with Brent Bell as we return for another century “tandem” bicycle ride, although rumors abound about whether we may turn the NH Seacoast Century ride into a triplet and celebrate in style.

My final quest takes me into October and allows me the opportunity to complete the Bay State Marathon which I departed at roughly mile 23 just two years ago. I hope to use this to earn my Boston Marathon qualifier as well. With better health ahead, I hope to continue my Boston Marathon streak in the future with the more solid ability I had my my first year instead of the determination and perseverance (but more health-related obstacles) highlighted by Jose and my efforts last April.

Training has already been silently underway. August training will ramp up and September and October will become interesting opportunities to return to some of the adventures which are so often a part of this 2020 Vision Quest. I hope you’ll be a partner in some way in our adventures ahead!

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23 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy behind white canes, representing barsDespite all I’ve learned and achieved, there are still days I allow myself to be a prisoner of my blindness. Coming from the state of NH with the motto ”Live Free or Die” brought the imagery to the right playfully to mind even as the feeling of being restricted in many aspects of life is very real for most of us at one time or another. It is easy to see how I might let blindness trap me because it does make some things more challenging and it provides a ready-made excuse which many are more than willing to embrace or, at times, even attempt to force upon me.

I’ve long understood and espoused the idea that problem solving is a key to escape such chains. Frequently, I share how positive the experiences of prior problem-solvers can be for this–in my case, the knowledge and training of the New Hampshire Association for the Blind for my sight-related challenges.

What about the more perilous prison of drifting unaware into prisons crafted by ourselves or others? This could be as distracting as the excuses we embrace or the unhelpful habits which creep upon us. How many of us chain ourselves to Facebook, computers, or cell phones? There’s a fine line between having a tool we use to enrich our life and having a tool which uses us to trap us unwittingly.

The key here is learning to take opportunities to open our eyes and minds into a more broad awareness of our lives. It’s taking the time for mindful introspection on a regular basis and realizing where we might not be satisfied with choices which have become habit. It’s making the choice to stop the behaviors which trap us. It isn’t easy and sometimes it’s easier to supplant it with something healthier until a new and better habit is formed in place of the prior.

Ultimately, the key is that regular exploration of awareness to keep taking control of our lives and making the adjustments which let us out of our prisons.

Despite all these thoughts I still find myself behind the bars of my canes, at least metaphorically, on occasion. Expecting perfection is probably setting rather unrealistic expectations. I’ll strive for it and be as gently forgiving when I slip even as I start looking for my keys to make it better right away. I think as part of that reflection I’ll keep the first half of my state motto as the primary goal and wish that for all of you as well: “Live Free!”

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2 Jul 16

By Randy Pierce

It was July 4, 2010 and we were sitting on boulders outside Lake of the Clouds on Mt. Washington. This was our first official climb of the 2020 Vision Quest and I was certainly feeling a little independence celebration. Our weary crew was discussing the days trials and tribulations when the first bursts of color set my imagination soaring. Perched atop this pillar of New England those of us with sight could see all of New Hampshire, much of Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and even places beyond. As the various townships began launching their fireworks into the night sky below us, the notion was astounding within my mind. What a glorious way to celebrate in full festive fashion as fireworks feel to me, the exuberance of our accomplishment on this day and in a much grander way our country’s pursuit of freedom.

Kat Alix-Gaudreau created two film shorts for the experience which are well worth revisiting for the anniversary of our inaugural hike. While I’ll always treasure the team of Quinn, Tracy, Kara, Carrie, Jenifer, Ben, Cliff, Kat, and Jessie as well as our voluminous learning experiences upon that journey. I think the messages stand powerfully still today in both versions of her film productions:

Blind Ambition – Independence Day 2010 Climb of Mt Washington – (4-min. preview)

Blind to Failure – Independence Day 2010 Climb of Mt Washington – (17 mins.)

One finally amusing reality to close out this patriotic reflection. I shared the story of the fireworks in much more vivid and vibrant description at several presentations. In my mind’s eye, we were witnessing the Esplanade Finale happening all over New England again and again from our lofty perch. It was a few weeks before my wife shared the truth of it with me.

Because our distance from those towns was often so great, they were occasionally just little dots of color in the distance and not nearly the spectacle my imagination had created. Tracy was initially concerned I would be disappointed by this revelation. Ultimately I think it is ironic but telling that sometimes the blind man has the better “sight” of a situation thanks to the power of imagination.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I’m proud to celebrate the independence I feel in my life personally and in my country where I consider myself so very fortunate to live.

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25 Jun 16

By Randy Pierce

Take me directly to the Seventh Annual Peak Potential Page – I am Coming to the Event!

Lively participation in our live auction at Peak Potential 2015.

Lively participation in our live auction at Peak Potential 2015.

On July 12, the price goes up for a table of 8 to join us at our 7th Annual Peak Potential Dinner and Auction. But there’s still enough time for many of you to take advantage of our best rate by putting together a table of 8 friends and buying a table together. Until July 12, the price for a table is just $500, which breaks down to $62.50 per person. (The table price goes up to $600 after that, and individual tickets are always $100 per person.) We invite you to join us at the Courtyard Marriott in Nashua, our largest and finest venue yet, which we hope will be our home for the foreseeable future.

Your kind choice will help us continue the mission that our all-volunteer staff, myself included, work incredibly hard to provide throughout the year. You become part of the positive change in the lives of the more than 50,000 students we have reached in our school visits as well as thousands more outside of the school programs. Meanwhile, we expect to reach significant landmark donations to each of the worthy organizations we support, Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. All of the work we accomplish comes from the community of support we’ve built and the vast majority at this event each year.

You may of course purchase individual tickets or paired tickets at any time and tables will still be available until they sell out (we hope once again!). By choosing to purchase a table earlier, you will save a little–which we encourage you to use on the auction or to help entice you to bring friends with you to experience our signature event. Help us ensure it is a complete success by getting on board early. The event isn’t until November 12, but our planning is fully under way and the more tables sold in advance the easier it becomes for us to bring on more sponsors, donors, and features to this marquis event.

I truly hope to see you there and commit to providing a few worthy surprises on the night of the event!

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