Schools at the heart of 2020 Vision Quest–In more ways than you might expect

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.

No school vacation for our outreach to schools

By Randy Pierce

2020 Vision Quest presentation at Memorial School presentation, June 2013.
2020 Vision Quest presentation at Memorial School presentation, June 2013.

We consider our school presentations to be a core part of our Mission for 2020 Vision Quest. We’re proud to announce that our “For Educators” page has been recently updated.

Having reached nearly 30,000 students with our presentations, we had a disappointing but appropriate easing of our schedule during Quinn’s battle with bone cancer. While we will always mourn the loss of the Mighty Quinn, we are now fully returned to scheduling and we are presenting at schools everywhere possible. What school or student shouldn’t hear the powerful message we provide? That’s our motivation in always striving to be available for these opportunities.

Are you an educator at a school, youth organization, or other appropriate group? Do you believe our message should be heard somewhere? Please consider reviewing and sharing our “For Educators” page, or this post with anyone who might benefit from the information. Continue the great support our charity receives or even share with us a contact you think we should approach to ensure the opportunity is understood. We are not taking a February or April vacation in delivering upon the mission of our educational outreach and we hope you’ll help us in this effort!


A special kind of birthday gift

By Randy Pierce

Memorial School

I freely admit that it is more challenging right now for me to sit and write on any topic without Quinn dominating my thoughts. I wanted to lean away from him this round and found a path, but due to some incredible schools and students you’ll note I didn’t get to stray far.

Just before Thanksgiving we had a trio of interactions with schools which produced a veritable cornucopia of rewards worthy of sharing with our community. Given the nature of the gifts along with that fact that December 11, 2013 is Quinn’s 9th Birthday, it seems appropriate to feature them while honoring Quinn’s Day.

We made our fourteenth visit to Memorial Elementary School in Bedford, NH and during this final time the presentations were to us rather than from us. Through a generous “Pennies for Paws” program incredibly matched by a family, they donated $1,156 to 2020 Vision Quest in honor of Quinn! Additionally the hand crafted cards in support of Quinn are clearly signs of the positive impact of this incredible pup!

Quinn sits amongst a batch of get well and thank you cards
Thank you and get well cards from students.

Sunapee Middle High school requested a pair of consecutive presentations for grades 6-8 and 9-12 in their gymnasium. Their 2013 theme of “perseverance” seemed an appropriate topic for our presentation. Yet again, we were the ones gifted, not just with an honorarium to the charity, a school sweatshirt for Randy, tasty soft treats for Quinn and a school website article, but also an incredible video slide show with musical accompaniment all in tribute to the Mighty Quinn!

Our final gift did not involve our even attending the school. Our friend, frequent hiking partner, and sixth grade English teacher, Kyle Dancause, shared our story with his class at F.A. Day Middle School of Newton, MA. While we didn’t get to meet the students directly, they were given a taste of our celebrations of life and sent along a group poem in four parts. The audio files of their reading the poem to us was a Birthday worthy tribute to the mostly Mighty Quinn!

Four More Poems Part 1

Four More Poems Part 2

Four More Poems Part 3

Four More Poems Part 4

Happy Birthday Quinn and thank you for the gift of sharing life with you!


School presentation favorites

By Randy Pierce

“I just wanted to thank you one more time for coming to inspire our students and staff yesterday.  Many staff approached me afterwards to say how great it was to hear you speak. You spoke to 345 6th graders, 336 7th graders and 402 8th graders.  There were also about 20 staff at each presentation for a total of about 1143 people you reached yesterday.”

Karen A. Turcotte – Londonderry, NH

I’ve been asked what age range I most prefer to visit with our 2020 Vision Quest Educational Presentations. We provide our presentations to all ages from kindergarten to high school as well as colleges and corporations. Certainly there are ranges in which various parts of our message have the potential to resonate more powerfully, and there is definitely a part of me which hopes to have the most powerful positive impact possible. Yet even in the youngest of our presentations, there are clearly moments which convince me the efforts are always worthwhile. Having a six-year-old tell me “I know not to pet him but he’s so cute!” always earns a smile as I tell Quinn he’s off duty so full greetings can occur. It still shows a little learning took place.

The topics and the emphasis change with the audience and the desired points of emphasis, as does the type of reward I receive from the experience. I strive to demonstrate all things are possible, albeit with considerable belief and determination as part of the process. I’ve found there is never an age and rarely a person who doesn’t come away from a presentation with a challenge to their prior vision for the world.

Fortunately for me, there is rarely a time I do not hear from various folks present on the positive impact we have already had upon their lives. These comments are the primary inspiration and motivation for my continued efforts with our charity, and as such are all the essential part of my favorite presentations. Still, if I had to pick an absolute favorite, the answer would be simple: it’s always my very next presentation! Drop me an email if that presentation may be for your school or group!


The essence of our mission as we strive for our “Peak Potential”

By Randy Pierce

As we officially begin our fourth year of charitable service, I am tremendously proud of the support and achievement realized by 2020 Vision Quest. We have developed three primary points of emphasis which not only showcase considerable success but also tremendous hope for how much more we might accomplish if we continue to earn the trust and support of an ever growing community.

4th grade, Memorial School - Bedford, NH

1) School and non-profit presentations.We provide to any school or non-profit organization a demonstration and message of Ability Awareness, Achievement through Adversity, Teamwork, Communication and more. These have been exceedingly well received. In just three years we have reached an incredible 26,000 students in schools alone!

We feel strongly that these efforts are important in supporting our community, and we hope that these efforts will in turn encourage community support for our efforts, including the fundraising necessary for the second part of our mission.

2) Fundraising for the blind community. We allocate half of the net dollars we raise to the two organizations that have been most essential in helping me manage the transition through vision loss. Due to our incredibly supportive community, a hardworking staff, and the nearly tireless Mighty Quinn, we are proud to have just made a pair of disbursements to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind in the amount of $20,200 each! This was double the amount of what we could contribute last year and both organizations have expressed overwhelming appreciation for the results of our efforts.

I will certainly be striving to sustain such incredible support . As Quinn must sadly near ever closer to retirement from work, I even dare dream that one year we’ll be able to deliver a check which may match the cost of a Guide Dog to these organizations: $45,000. This will require much work and more tremendous support in growing our community and our fundraising.

3) Inspiring others to do their best. We hope through all of our efforts to help inspire others to strive for the very best of accomplishments for themselves and our world. While the results of this may be the most difficult to measure, the thousands of testimonials we have received suggest we have a very positive impact on our community.

Our Mission Statement is:

2020 Vision Quest inspires people to reach beyond adversity and achieve their highest goals — personal, professional, and philanthropic. We believe in leading by example, in climbing the highest peaks, and in sharing our successes and challenges with each other. Funds raised through these endeavors will be given to two remarkable organizations which benefit the visually impaired community: Guiding Eyes for the Blind, and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind.

Peak Potential 2012

Right now I’m delighted to celebrate three years of accomplishment and to heartily thank so many for having helped us achieve so very much already. I am similarly excited to announce the official launch for our Fourth Annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction. This fantastic celebration is also our largest fundraising event.

Ticket sales have officially begun! As our thanks to the many friends of 2020 Vision Quest, those who purchase an 8-person table by August 24 will enjoy an extra savings. So whether you are signing up to join us, helping us acquire quality auction items, or simply helping us share the news of our event or mission, we welcome all the support you can provide as we attempt to continue the great work of 2020 Vision Quest.

Last year we sold out the event. We hope you’ll attend and help us achieve that again this year!


2020 Vision Quest Becomes 20,000 Vision Quest?

By Randy Pierce

“Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are probably right” – Henry Ford

Randy shows a classroom Quinn's hug. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Liang.

We recently had a barrage of school presentations, which are a fundamental part of our mission with 2020 Vision Quest. We offer the myriad quality messages to any school or non-profit organization free of charge because we believe in the positive impact they provide, especially to students in grades K-12. While the messages are adjusted to challenge and properly reach the various ranges of students, there is a common theme delivered: Believe in Your Ability to Achieve!

The Ides of March this year provided me with a proud moment of surprise. I’ve always suggested I want to connect with more people than peaks, despite my love of our mountain journeys. I can hardly believe that in less than three years of our many efforts with 2020 Vision Quest, we have now spoken to more than 21,000 students!

If we can deliver our message to 20,000 then why not 48,000? Why not even more?

Our “For Educators” page highlights some common topics, though most presentations are customized for the purposes of that specific presentation. We are proud of how many schools request that we return year after year to continue making a difference. The benefit of sharing our mission is enabling more and more opportunities.

Will you help us share the message and be part of the team that does this work? Will you be one of the many drivers who help ensure Quinn and I are able to arrive at so many schools all across New England? Will you be a sponsor or donor to support our cause and ensure 2020 Vision Quest continues its positive impact?

I hope you can and will be part of our team!


“Doing the very best you can”: Doctors Without Borders

By Beth Foote

I’m covering the blog this week as Randy recovers from his recent whirlwind of school presentations. Randy will be back next week!

Recently, I was having a bad day at work. It was one of those terribly busy days when everything seemed to be taking twice as long to get done as it should have. So when my cell phone started buzzing on my desk, I glanced at the unfamiliar number on the caller ID and then looked back at my screen, letting the call go to voicemail.

I was curious, though; I looked up the area code and saw that it was from Kentucky. I don’t know anyone in Kentucky, but whoever called me from there had left me a message. Soon the curiosity was great enough that I took a break from the spreadsheet I was working on and called up my voicemail.

A woman’s friendly Southern-accented voice greeted me. “Hi, this is Mary Ann calling on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. We just really wanted to say thank you so much for joining our field monthly giving program and we wanted to say welcome to the team.” She went on to tell me that I would receive a welcome kit in the mail in a few weeks and that I would be invited to special events and conference calls where they would talk more about their work. She ended with, “We thank you so much for your commitment.”

You see, part of my 2013 resolution was to do more things that focused outside of myself and focused more on helping others. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trials and tribulations of one’s own life–I felt like I needed to get out of my own head a little more and get some perspective, and to “pay it forward.” In addition to the work I already do with 2020 Vision Quest, I also decided to become a regular donor (albeit a small one) to Doctors Without Borders.

The concept of Doctors Without Borders (or Medecins Sans Frontieres, commonly shortened to MSF) completely floors me. Their mission is to provide medical aid “to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation,” to quote the website. They are a completely neutral humanitarian organization. They are not affiliated with any religious or political group. They purposely do not accept gifts from corporations that come into direct conflict with their mission, so as to retain their independent status. 90% of their gifts come from private donors.

Wherever there are epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or those excluded from healthcare, MSF will most often be there too. They were in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and Japan after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. They have set up projects in the most dangerous and war-torn places in the world, such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria. They help people who need it most, regardless of who has fought against whom.

In the current climate of religious and political divisiveness in this country (the US), I find it very refreshing and heartening to remember humanitarian organizations like this exist for the sole purpose of helping people in need simply because we’re all people together on this planet and it’s the right thing to do. Making the world a better place benefits us all.

Nick Lawson, MSF-USA’s Director of Field Human Resources said it best in a recent newsletter I received:

“I think medical professionals like to work with MSF because it takes them back to the fundamental essence of the medical act and the Hippocratic oath. They can use their skills to do excellent work that’s not about the HMO or the legal environment. It’s about doing the very best you can as a human being to benefit another human being. That’s the essence of MSF.”

Further demonstrating their commitment to their mission, MSF puts 86% of their donations back into their programs and services, with 12.7% going towards fundraising and just 1.3% going towards management and other general expenses. For me, these statistics feel like an assurance that a donation to them will be used to the most direct benefit possible of people in need.

It humbles me to think about the work of charity organizations, who help others with no expectation of compensation. It reminds me that enriching someone else’s life is a reward unto itself. It puts things into perspective and encourages me not to dwell too much on what I perceive as difficulties in my own life.

Perhaps, too, this perspective will give me courage to try things I might not have before. As the 2020 Vision Quest mission states: ”Achieve a vision beyond your sight.” Here’s to having the courage to try to make a difference!

For more information about Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres, please visit their website:


When Opportunity Knocks…

By Randy Pierce

“While the optimist and pessimist argue about the fullness of the glass, the opportunist enjoys a refreshing drink!”

In southern NH there’s a pair of smaller mountains well worth visiting for a short hike. The Uncanoonuc
(pronounced: un-ca-noo’-nuc) mountains in Goffstown, NH are close to where I live in Nashua. They offer a few different routes with generally mild hiking challenges, though the steepest trail takes a bit of effort.

On my first trip, I delighted in the unexpected mountain offerings so close to my home but was dismayed to find the top marred by litter. Specifically, there was a fair bit of broken glass which gave me “pause” to worry for Quinn’s paws. The story might have ended there had I not been contacted by a Trinity High School student interested in working with 2020 Vision Quest for a project called “Love your Neighbor.” This project was intended to allow students to reach out within their community and make a difference.

We brainstormed some initial goals: help raise charity funds and hopefully include a hike together. We thought about adding value to the experiences to make them appeal to more folk and involve the community. Flyers were created and distributed to publicize the hike.

On Saturday Nov. 24, a group of us gathered at the trailhead to hike to the summit together. With trash bags and many helping hands to clean up the area, we turned the experience into more than just a hike. Many from the community chose to make a donation in appreciation of the efforts. These dollars will be donated to 2020 Vision Quest to further our many missions.

This effort became about more than just cleaning up the litter on the treasured local hiking spot. Embracing it as an opportunity to do more was an excellent change of direction–the day we spent building our community while helping the community was a refreshing new adventure! Thanks Michelle and the entire group from Trinity!

Stay tuned a future blog for the inspiring tale of our new friend Chris who joined us for the journey as well!


Schedule Us for a Corporate Presentation

By Randy Pierce

Corporate presentations and keynote public speaking events have become a significant part of the 2020 Vision Quest outreach. We have received many testimonials that praise the powerful impact of the core message and poignant delivery of our presentations. For these corporate opportunities, we typically request a modest honorarium to the 2020 Vision Quest charity. Travel expenses may also be requested when applicable, but we feel that the benefits of our program are more than sufficiently significant for this charitable donation.

We remain committed to providing all schools and nonprofits a variation of our presentation similarly customized to their needs for absolutely no cost. An important way to support these charitable efforts is ensuring that we continue to schedule corporate opportunities as well.

The goal of most public speakers is to provide inspiration, motivation, and ideally methodologies which result in improved efficiencies in the working environment. Reviews of our presentations suggest that we accomplish all three of these in a manner which has sustainability in the long term.

When we give a presentation, we begin by presenting the challenges that I faced in my journey from a typical life to complete blindness and confinement to a wheelchair. I share the severity of the lowest point on that path and offer the methodology I developed with much support to work through this adversity, which I hope will help others in achieving their “Peak Potential” both figuratively and literally.

We support this discussion with powerful slides and a two-minute video to provide full credibility of the process. We then invite all those present to take a metaphorical journey with us as we anecdotally connect our methodology to their individual challenges. The sometimes humorous, often inspiring process is customized towards the desired vision of our host as we highlight such concepts as Achieving Through Adversity, Problem Solving, Communication, Teamwork and understanding the potency of having a Vision!

We conclude with a question and answer section. This is where we see if we have succeeded in reaching our audience on the individual level while inspiring a newfound perspective for their personal lives as well as their approach to their career. I am proud to say that our success rate is very good! Embracing a corporate vision and investment into the benefits of communication and teamwork are just some of the valuable takeaways from our presentation.

We encourage you to consider the benefits provided by a visit from me and Quinn to share an hour or more with your company or conference. Drop me an email if you’re interested in scheduling us!


Discrimination Still Exists–And Still Hurts

By Randy Pierce

Most of us at one time or another have probably been excluded from a conversation, activity, or opportunity. It invariably causes hurt feelings. Sometimes we may feel inferior, undesired, and unappreciated. Often anger and resentment are a natural response. I find this particularly true for those who care about me and witness discrimination against me.

We have friends here in NH who recently made headlines in a story of discrimination. Abby Duffy is a remarkable 8-year-old who also happens to be transitioning to her blindness with confident grace and skill. I’ve had the good fortune to spend a little time with her and her family and well understand the impressive life challenges they are managing. As such, I’m even more disappointed to have learned of a recent incident in which an employee at the Museum of New Hampshire History refused to admit her with her blind cane.

Federal Law clearly makes this illegal and the museum absolutely has a policy ensuring access to blind patrons with their canes and/or service animals. But because of the unacceptable lack of education of one staff member, this girl was exposed to the very real danger of being hurt. Her family aided her through the experience and the museum has since issued apologies, but what can lessen the risk of recurrence in the future?

Over the last 23 years in which I’ve dealt with my own blindness, I’m pleased to have observed tremendous increases in the awareness and education of the general public. I have been refused admittance for my cane, for my guide dog, and even for me because of my blindness, but fortunately for me I’m a strong-willed and reasonably communicative advocate for the education of someone discriminating against me. Despite this, I have not always been successful; the ugly reality of ignorance and occasional cruelty remain real parts of the challenge. Equally powerful has been the side of the law and specifically the ADA to educate people and encourage them to abide by the laws–and provide fines and other more powerful incentives for those who continue to refuse to reject discrimination in all its forms.

I’m sorry for what Abby experienced and I’m disappointed that I doubt it will be the last time she encounters this in her life. I’m hopeful that she and her parents will continue to improve their techniques of advocacy to minimize the impact of ignorance and discrimination. I am hopeful that the steady progress I’ve seen year to year enables more and more people to be sufficiently educated towards a world without any form of discrimination and less tolerant when it does occur.

My personal strategy for managing discrimination is to follow the steps below until the discrimination is retracted or until there is clearly no means to change the discriminator’s poor decision on that day:

  1. Ensure I have the full listening attention of the person attempting to discriminate against me.
  2. Explain to them why their action is illegal and have them repeat their intent to do it despite hearing that information.
  3. Request to speak to someone in a higher position of authority than they hold.
  4. Record their name and given reason for choosing to discriminate against me.
  5. Explain that I will necessarily follow up with legal authorities as a result of their illegal action.
  6. Remind myself to stay calm and polite no matter what approach they choose for managing their end of the discussion.
  7. Request anyone nearby able to witness the decision and obtain contact information if possible.
  8. Depart and immediately follow up with the many state and federal agencies appropriate to the situation.

There is no guarantee that any of this will change the emotional impact of the situation. There is no assurance things will change in the future, but ultimately the progress does seem real and with the continued efforts of everyone to advocate in all reasonable situations, there may be a time when discrimination is far less the challenge than it is today.


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