East Coast Visit - Retracing Steps

Last week I flew to the East Coast for a sensational meeting with Paychex in Rochester, NY.  My friend and America’s Got Talent finalist, Mandy Harvey, joined me and wowed the crowd with her pitch-perfect voice. It was a No Barriers day for sure!

Photo credit: Timothy J. Toal

With CEO, Marty Mucci and Mandy Harvey. Photo Credit: Timothy J. Toal

From there I met up with my longtime friend, Mike O’Donnell and headed to Boston to attend the National Braille Press Gala. The NBP has been doing vital work providing braille materials to the blindness community and promoting literacy for 90 years.

My personal experience with Braille made a huge impact on my education. I fought learning it at first, not wanting to give into blindness, but ultimately found it an invaluable tool when trying to interpret graphs, scientific charts, spread sheets, math equations, maps, etc. I also loved reading to my kids from Braille children’s books. The active tactile engagement that Braille provides is crucial for blind kids and I’m so grateful for organizations like NBP

Photo Credits: National Braille Press, Carrington Crothers Photography

Comedian and Daily Show correspondent, Roy Wood Jr., performed at the gala, and at the conclusion stated, he didn’t know much about blindness before this event but he was so inspired he was personally donating $1,000 to the cause. Thanks to folks like Roy and committed sponsors like Cabinets to Go. NBP raised more than $50,000 in funds so thousands of blind kids will be able to read their books in Braille.

Comedian Roy Wood, Jr. Photo Credits: National Braille Press, Carrington Crothers Photography

Despite my still healing finger, I couldn’t leave New England without making a trip to North Conway, NH for some rock climbing. In fact, the first place I ever went climbing was North Conway, when I was 16 years old, part of the Carroll Center for the Blind’s recreational program. Knowing blind kids were left out of ball sports in their schools, they’d take us on weekend adventures - canoeing, ropes courses, tandem bike rides - but the climbing trip to New Hampshire was it for me.

I owe a lot to my first instructors, Marc Chauvin, a renowned rock climber who later worked for the American Guides Association, helping develop their rock guides program, and Nick Yardley, a British rock and ice climber certified as an AMGA rock guide.  

Cathedral Ledge, North Conway, NH

Now 32 years later, I was retracing my first steps after going blind and discovering that I could navigate my way up vertical terrain with just the use of my hands and feet as eyes. Mike and I met an old friend, Alden Pellett, and together we revisited many of the classics on Cathedral Ledge, a 500 foot granite face with tons of variety: face climbing, finger and hand cracks, and even lieback flakes. On the way up to the wall, we ascended steep trails covered in crisp piles of fallen leaves. Mike said the peak foliage was brilliant orange, red, and yellow, and the air was a perfect 68 degrees – the kind of autumn weather that makes you love New England. Thanks to Alden for providing these photos.

Photo Credits: Alden Pellett