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First blind woman to climb Mount McKinley graduates with her dog

Joan and HamptonBy Guiding Eyes August 2015 Graduate, Joan Phelps

Thank you for the time and the effort that you have put into what we have here today. In my home in North West Pennsylvania, I put my hand on the front door and Hampton here will be by my side. I will walk down the sidewalk and Hampton will show me the pole where I can feel the button and press on that button and the traffic light will change for me to cross. I can choose to go to the grocery store or to the coffee shop. And half a mile further I will find my church, and maybe a mile more and then make a left turn and return home on a quiet residential street. And I can also choose to walk along the city park that borders the Allegheny river. Or I can make the other choice and walk on a forestry road in the Allegheny National Forest. And as I do that, I will feel gratitude, and I thank you for that.

Now I’m sure that all of you at one time in your life were told, “you can’t do that.” The entire year I spent training to climb Mount McKinley, the highest mountain peak in North America, many people said that to me. They said things like “no blind person has ever summited Mount McKinley, don’t you know people die climbing that mountain every single year?” Well, I said, “so be it.” I would like to share a short poem written by Edgar Guest with you:

Joan and Hampton during the weeks of training at Guiding Eyes
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done

      But he with a chuckle replied

That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

      On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

Joan and Hampton during the weeks of training at Guiding Eyes      At least no one ever has done it;”

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat

      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,

      Without any doubting or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.