It is utterly amazing to witness individuals who push themselves to show the world what determination, teamwork, and a common vision can accomplish.
Imagine cross-country skiing nine miles a day with a total of 208 miles over the course of 16 days in temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit and winds blasting against you at 50mph. To add icing on the cake, put yourself in the shoes of someone pulling 154 pounds on an arctic sledge with your eyes and hearts set on the vision of reaching the South Pole.
As some of you know, this is the 2013 South Pole Allied Challenge, a project No Barriers has taken on. Three teams of wounded servicemen and women are challenging themselves mentally and physically to show the world the courage veterans have after sustaining physical and cognitive injuries. Their ability to take on adversity after serving in the military, and facing life-altering injury is in itself inspirational. The teams departed on November 14, 2013. Their aim is to reach the South Pole around December 17, 2013. Way to go No Barriers and the staff for supporting such a great cause!
Back in August, at the No Barriers Summit in Telluride, I met the entire team. Just last week they were honored to meet the Queen of England. I have been telling my friends I am only two people away from knowing the Queen of England! I am figuring out if I can make this into one of my good jokes or not . . . jury is still out. Either way, it gets me talking about the South Pole Allied Challenge and what a significant expedition this is, to reach across the globe and along the way touch civilians, active service members, and veterans.
My friend, Charley Mace, with whom I climbed Everest, has been training the US Team for the last year. Thanks Charley for helping the Team! The three teams taking on the challenge are the US Team, which No Barriers is supporting, the second is from the UK, and the third is a combination of Australians and Canadians, referred to as the Commonwealth. To show support for veterans, Prince Harry, who is an active duty Captain in the British Army is accompanying the team.
The South Pole Allied Challenge is truly a living testimony of the No Barriers Mindset, “What’s inside of you is stronger than what’s in your way.” To give you an example of one of the individuals on the team, meet Mark Wise.
Mark served as an (Army) infantry officer in the First Battalion. During his time in Afghanistan in 2009 Mark was involved in an IED incident where he suffered from partial hand/forearm amputation, facial damage, and burns. Mark doesn’t see his experience as a reason to take a step back from serving but rather as another reason to keep going. Here is a quote from Mark, “As a leader of soldiers your responsibility never ends. I feel obligated to continue to set the example for those who follow not only in my footsteps as a wounded service member, but also for those returning home from combat.” To learn more about the team click here.
To learn more about the SPAC Challenge of 2013 and see current updates please visit the link to Walking with the Wounded’s website: http://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/southpole2013/
If you would like to support the US Team please visit the link here: https://nobarriers.fundraise.com/southpole
Below are some of the videos on the South Pole Allied Challenge of 2013
A short video describing the SPAC of 2013: http://www.soldierstosummits.org/The-Program-Allied-South-Pole-2013-Challenge.aspx
Video on the departure of the teams on November 14, 2013: http://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/southpole2013/video/
If you happen to be in the Portland Oregon area, check out the new Human Plus: Real Lives + Real Engineering exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It features the BrainPort device that I have been testing to let me “see” using a sophisticated camera and tongue display.
Here are some photos of the display.
National Geographic interviewed me for an article on the World’s Best Hikes. I recommended Peru’s Ancascocha Trail, which is an alternative to the more crowded Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu. Sometimes called the Super Inca Trail, this is a real workout but a great way to visit the world famous ruins. Read more about the hike here (this is the direct link but you may have to copy and paste to get it to work: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/trips/best-trails/worlds-best-hikes-dream-trails/#/ancascocha-trail-peru-best-hikes_68706_600x450.jpg).
Hope you’re having an adventurous summer!
A year ago, the parents of then five-year-old Fernando Caled Alvarado Rios gouged out his eyes for a satanic ritual. He and his older brother Kevin, who witnessed the attack, survived but are now in a children’s shelter. The parents and five others are in jail, hopefully for a very long time.
When a friend first told me about this horrific story, I sat on it for a longtime because it was so inhuman I didn’t even know how to react. I think we all have the tendency to look away from such cruelty and brutality.
Then I started thinking, “What can I do?” I can’t change what happened to Fernando but maybe I can bring a little bit of good into his life. So perhaps donating and helping spread the word will help Fernando understand that there is love in the world.
My friend, Laura-Osorio Gonzalez, has contacted the shelter and was told both brothers are adapting well. They say that Fernando is well cared for and he sings in the choir and plays violin. The Mexican government is currently covering all their expenses but we can send letters, books, toys or clothing. And a trust fund has been established for when Fernando turns 18.
Item donations and letters can be sent to:
Lic. Maria Isela Avila or Enriqueta Alonso
In care of: Fernando Alvarado Rios
Address: DIF – Atencion Ciudadana
Paseo Colon, Esq. Paseo Tollocan, 2do Piso
Colonia Isidro Fabela, Toluca, Mexico
Money can be sent to:
DIF Edo. de Mexico
Account Number: 4054723887
In care of: Fernando Alvarado Rios
If you make a donation, please provide them with contact information so that they can keep track and send thank you letters.
A lot of friends have called me recently to say they thought they heard my voice or got a brief glimpse of me on a TV ad. They wanted to know if I’m the blind guy climbing while they were watching Dancing With The Stars and other prime time shows. Yes! It all came together quickly, and I’m psyched to be represented, along with the Wright brothers, Rosa Parks, and the Mars Curiosity landing. Very cool and an honor to be working with Wells Fargo.
They’re right. Conversations lead to some amazing things!
PS the sound works in some browsers but not Safari.
As a graduate of Boston College, and a runner, I was greatly impacted by the horrors of the tragic bombing. So I am proud to share the news that we have established the No Barriers Boston Fund to help amputees acquire advanced prosthetic legs. The goal is to raise $500,000 in the next 60 days so that these victims can once again run races, climb mountains, bike, swim, and live a normal life.
My good friend and former No Barriers board member, Dr. Hugh Herr, is the impetus behind this project. Hugh is both a bilateral amputee and a research scientist at MIT who has spent decades developing the most sophisticated prosthetic legs available. Another No Barriers board member, Bill Barkeley, who is deaf and blind, ran the Boston Marathon last year and will serve as the official spokesperson for this project.
If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing take the next step in their lives, please contribute and spread the word about this worthy cause! If you know someone who was injured, please share the No Barriers Boston Fund application form.
My good friend Tricia Downing is in the running to win a wheelchair accessible van and she needs your help! Trish is an amazing athlete who was paralyzed from the waist down after a car hit her while she was riding her bike. That hasn’t stopped her and she’s now doing incredible things, such as starting Camp Discovery for women affected by injury or disease.
The contest is part of National Mobility Awareness Month and the grand prize is a fully decked out van worth $40,000. Check out her story in the video and then please vote her into a some new wheels. You can vote once a day until the contest is over on May 3rd.
Last Friday, I went skiing at Vail with my usual guide, Jeff Ulrich, and a producer from NBC news. Jack Chesnutt just posted this article on the Today Show Health blog.
At the bottom of the article, you will find two old Today Show videos. The first is about me using an early version of the BrainPort device to “see.” And the second is about our Blindsight expedition to the north side of Mount Everest with six blind Tibetan teenagers.
Last November, the New York Times published an article about me that was written by Erik Olsen. He also produced a short film, called “Paddling Blind,” that is now up for a Webby Award. Please take a moment and vote for Erik’s film!
My buds, the Modern Gypsies (Eric Post, Taylor Filasky, and John Post) have completed their first Compassionate Adventure and produced a series of cool videos that are starting to appear on Vimeo. On this expedition, they travelled to Ecuador and climbed Cotopaxi (the same peak our Soldiers To Summits team climbed last December). Then the Gypsies took their adventure to the next level by installing a well in a remote town to provide clean, safe water for the locals. Great stuff!
Check out some more of their videos here: http://vimeo.com/user12535525/videos
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