By Beth Foote
On Saturday night we held our 3rd annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction. This year we had a record turnout of 136 in attendance, far greater than last year, and with over $10,000 worth of donated items for our charity auction. It was a successful event all around, our best yet.
However, the day began on a very somber note. All of the 2020 Vision Quest staff members received an email around noon from Randy telling us that his father had passed away in the small hours of the morning after a long illness. Randy said that the event was still on, and that it would be ok–the thing he needed most from us was our friendship and support. Together, we would get through the day and make the event a success.
Our hearts went out to Randy and Tracy. Given this earthshaking news, I didn’t know what to expect going into the evening. Last year, Peak Potential was a fun and festive night, full of laughter and lightheartedness. I wondered, how would this year be, with Randy and Tracy facing such a difficult burden?
I needn’t have worried. Randy and Tracy were buoyed up by the outpouring of support from everyone there. No doubt things were difficult for them, but the atmosphere of the evening was fun, warm, and loving. Randy was greeted by person after person offering good wishes and support. I was floored by the generosity of so many of the patrons of the event, bidding on the array of auction items and urging others to do the same. The spirit of the event was jovial and joyful, and together, our purpose was clear–we were all there to celebrate this crucial mission and make sure it could continue on into the future. We were all in this together.
One of the most wonderful parts of the evening was the contingent of marvelous people there who were raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Puppy raisers receive a six-week-old puppy from the program and then raise the tyke up, teaching them household manners, socializing them to be around people and as many different situations in the world as they can.
At 18 months old, the young dogs go back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind to undergo a six-month Guide Dog training program. These puppy raisers then go to their dog’s “graduation,” sending them off into the world to become a Guide for a someone suffering from vision loss. After raising these dogs, many go back and take another puppy and start the process all over again.
Many of these remarkable puppy raisers had brought their young dogs with them to the dinner. The youngest I saw was an adorable nine-week old German shepherd named Banner–I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to scoop him up and take him home.
Having so many of these dogs there helped to demonstrate in a very physical way organization’s mission. One of the most touching moments for me was when Chrissy Vetrano, Quinn’s trainer at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, talked to the audience about how Quinn had been the first dog that she had trained, and told the story of how difficult it was to give him up, worrying about whether he and Randy would be the right fit, whether he would be happy, etc.
At a crucial moment in their final walk, Quinn looked up at Chrissy with a look that clearly said, “Mom, I got this.” It was at that moment Chrissy knew she was doing the right thing. When she brought Quinn to give to Randy, Quinn bounded into the room to greet Randy and instantly she could tell from seeing them together that they would do great thing–more than either could have done on his own. And so they have.
Together Quinn and Randy have accomplished so much and have made a difference to so many who have heard their story. Guiding Eyes for the Blind has provided many Guide Dogs who have opened up their owners’ worlds to a greater degree of freedom and independence.
Chrissy’s moving presentation reinforced how important this mission was. Guiding Eyes and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind both help form an essential community of support and resources for people with vision loss. Together, all of us in attendance celebrated and rallied around this important cause. I know I for one have come away with a new enthusiasm for this mission and for this community of people.
We at 2020 Vision Quest depend on the support of our community to accomplish our mission–not only through donations, but through actions, and emotional support. I am heartened and happy at how generous, caring, and supportive this community is. On Saturday night, Randy and Tracy felt the benefit of this community of support in their own especially poignant way.
We look forward to what this year has to bring for 2020 Vision Quest. Randy plans to finish hiking the summer 48 in 2013, and to reach many many more students with his message of “Achieving a Vision Beyond Your Sight.” What else the future brings, only time will tell–but we have an amazing community of people who are all coming along for the ride.