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Blind Hiker, Guide Dog Visit CSDC

By Beth Potier, Media Relations
May 25, 2011

Randy Pierce '88 and his guide dog The Mighty Quinn visited UNH's Child Study and Development Center Monday (5/23/11) to teach preschoolers and kindergarteners about blindness, teamwork and possibility.

Randy Pierce ’88 and his guide dog Quinn visited the UNH Child Study and Development Center Monday (May 23) to help preschool and kindergarten students understand blindness, teamwork, and possibility. Pierce, the founder of nonprofit organization 2020 VisionQuest, has set out to be the first blind person to hike all 48 New Hampshire peaks over 4,000 feet. This week he’s joining his former UNH classmate Brent Bell ‘89, now an assistant professor of kinesiology at UNH, and Bell’s outdoor education class on a week-long backpacking trip in the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area of the White Mountains.

Pierce taught his attentive audience about blindness, interacting with people who are blind (“we’re just like anyone else, except we don’t see”), and approaching a service dog. After showing a short video of Quinn leading him up a mountain trail, Pierce expanded on the intimate partnership he’s developed with the dog he calls The Mighty Quinn, from fitting him with bootees to protect his paws on rocky trails to teaching Quinn to advise his 6’4” master of a tree limb hanging at 6’2”.

“He gives me the freedom to go out and enjoy all these things,” said Pierce.

The Mighty Quinn shows Randy Pierce some love.

Chief among the things Pierce and Quinn enjoy together is climbing mountains. Pierce told the students that the same neurological disorder that began taking his vision more than 20 years ago affected his balance so severely that he spent several years in a wheelchair. “After that, walking became very important to me,” he said. “I love feeling the air and experiencing the openness of being on a mountain. I love accomplishing things with people. When we get to a summit, we’re going to be so proud of how we worked together.”

Teachers, children and their parents reported great excitement and curiosity following Pierce’s visit, as the children connected Pierce’s blindness and hiking adventures with their own experiences. 

“I see the children as establishing a relationship with Randy as an adventurer – someone who takes risks in the natural world,” says CSDC executive director John Nimmo, an associate professor of family studies. “In the approach to learning at CSDC, we not only value risk-taking as a critical learning disposition that will fuel children’s investigations, but we also value the opportunity for the children to learn from adult role models in their community – in this case, the UNH community.”

Students in the CSDC’s kindergarten and preschool 2 classes are following Pierce, Quinn and the outdoor education students via a GPS tracker on http://www.spotadventures.com/user/profile/?user_id=55221; weather and technology permitting, Pierce will connect with them via Skype from a summit. More information on Pierce and Quinn’s quest to tackle New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot peaks is at www.2020visionquest.org.

Young students at the CSDC learn about peripheral vision from guest Randy Pierce.
The CSDC students had plenty of questions for Pierce and Quinn. "The longer I answer your questions, the longer I'm not out in the rain hiking," said Pierce.
The Mighty Quinn

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