Welcome to the No Barriers Podcast where we explore the gritty reality of the struggles we all face, with the detailed stories of those that have persevered to find amazing outcomes on the other side. Hosted by No Barriers Co-founders Erik Weihenmayer & Dave Shurna along with longtime No Barriers partner Jeff Evans. Together, they talk with individuals who are defying all odds in the pursuit of learning to live a No Barriers Life.
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We want to hear from you! Email our Producer, Didrik Johnck, at [email protected]. Ideas for guests, questions and comments, are all welcome. Thank you!
No Barriers Co-founder, adventurer, author, and first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest
Co-founder of No Barriers, entrepreneur, and educator
Adventurer, expedition guide, and Co-founder of No Barriers Warriors
The day before we recorded this episode, our guest Geoff Tabin, returned to the US from Ethiopia after a two week -surgical outreach where he and his team completed over a 1000 sight-restoring surgeries. He’s the co-founder of Cure Blindness. Their vision is a world where no person is needlessly blind.
It’s mid-november and 2021 is rapidly coming to a close. This week were sharing an episode from Season 2 with you. It’s a staff favorite. The question is this: If you had the option of knowing the day you would die and how it would happen, would you want to know? The guest in this episode found himself in just that position. His name is Jim Kwok. He accepted his fate and made it his mission to squeeze as much life out of the short time he had left. And along with that, committed himself to encouraging people to wake the hell up and value this one precious life that we each have. Jim, sadly is no longer with us.
A virus wipes out most of humanity. The survivors and their distant descendants have all lost their sense of sight. Society has found new ways to socially interact, build, hunt, and survive without vision. The concept of vision has become a myth, and any mention of it is considered heresy. That is the premise of the Apple TV Series “See" starring Jason Momoa. This episode goes behind the scenes with co-producer and blindness expert Joe Strechay. He shares the systems and processes he’s developed working with sighted and non-sighted actors on how to portray a science fictionalized level of blindness, ideas on abilism, stages of minority portrayal in Hollywood, echo locating, fight scenes, and much more.
Erik and guest host, Tom Lillig, speak with Sarah Will. Will is the one of the most decorated athletes in U.S. Paralympic Alpine Skiing Team history with 13 Paralympic medals in 10 years of competitive skiing.
Erik and guest host, Tom Lillig, speak with 16-year-old Alex Knoll about his innovative app: The Ability App. Ability App helps people find accessible and inclusive features at businesses around the world. This episode is brought to you by Wells Fargo, 16-year-old Alex Knoll is a tech founder and international speaker with a passion for helping others.
Erik and Dave speak with self-named, One Arm Wonder, Faith Malton. Faith helps others break through mental barriers and navigate the world with limb differences via her social media and her day job at a civil engineering firm. Faith Malton is a natural-born engineer. She was born missing her right arm and thus, grew up problem-solving and adapting to her environment through innovation
Erik and Dave speak with East Coast running champion, award-winning coach, and barrier-breaking athlete, Amy Rusiecki. This episode is sponsored by Winnebago Industries Foundation. Amy Rusiecki is the owner of Beast Coast Trail Running and the Race Director for the Vermont 100 mile race, Seven Sisters Trail Race, Chesterfield Gorge Ultra Event, and Mount Tobey 50k, as well as a winning endurance athlete herself
This episode is brought to you by our supporters at CoBank. In honor of 9/11, we interviewed an old friend and No Barriers Warrior, Mark Yearsley. Mark is a Gulf War veteran who, despite many challenges hopes to pass on the same encouragement and enthusiasm he received and inspire others to create their own stories of success while living a No Barriers Life.
Content Warning: Profanity and Adult Content. This week we are sharing an episode we recorded with comedian, Josh Blue right before COVID hit. Now more than ever we can use Josh's joy and humor as we are still navigating the pandemic and our “new normal.” And, since we spoke to Josh last we’ve got some news! Josh has been competing in this season -#16- of America’s Got Talent and has made it all the way to the semi-finals! Watch Josh and make sure to vote for him TONIGHT. You can cast your vote for Josh on America’s Got Talent “AGT” app on your phone or head to NBC.com/AGTVote. We’re rooting for you, Josh! Enjoy today’s episode and some laughs before the holiday weekend.
Hosts Jeff and Erik speak with our resilient guest, Colleen Rose, about her role as a military caregiver, as a care recipient herself, and her incredible work with the Dole Foundation. Special thanks to Prudential for sponsoring this episode.
Hosts, Erik, and Dave (welcome back, Dave!) speak with U.S. Army Veteran, Sean Passmore. Sean speaks about his work helping other Veterans navigate their career paths after their time in the service. A special thanks to Wells Fargo for their support of No Barriers and their sponsorship of this episode.
Our hosts, Erik and Tom Lillig speak with writer, speaker, entrepreneur, and overall barrier-breaker, Antoinette Lee Toscano. Special thanks to Prudential for sponsoring this episode.
Hosts, Erik Weihenmayer and Tom Lillig sit down with “StrokeHacker” Sean Entin. After a debilitating stroke at 39, Sean used the skills he learned in his own recovery to start a community for stroke survivors, enabling them to push past barriers and thrive.
Hosts, Jeff and Erik, speak with Entrepreneur and Disability Activist, Keely Cat-Wells. In honor of the 31st anniversary of the ADA, we are highlighting Keely’s work changing the landscape for those with disabilities in the entertainment industry. Today’s episode is brought to you by Wells Fargo.
Erik and co-host, No Barriers Board President, Tom Lillig, speak with recovering idealist, adventure seeker, and trauma specialist, Chris Prange-Morgan. The adoption of her son in 2009 immersed her in issues of developmental trauma, which continued to have a significant impact on her family after she suffered a life-changing accident in 2011, and became a trauma survivor herself (a result of secondary PTSD).
Erik and our guest host, Tom Lillig, chat with self-proclaimed, Feminist Plumber, Judaline Cassidy on her barrier-breaking career journey. Special thanks to Prudential for sponsoring today’s episode.
We are re-releasing an interview we recorded with adventure athlete and No Barriers co-founder, Mark Wellman back in October 2018. Mark's episode was one of our first when our podcast was just getting off the ground. We hope you enjoy this story of the origins of No Barriers the organization and the movement. Enjoy the conversation!
Our hosts, Erik and Tom, speak with their “two favorite Manning brothers,” Bradford and Bryan. Known as the Two Blind Brothers, they discuss how they turned the challenges in their lives into a hugely successful clothing brand that donates 100% of its profits. This episode is brought to you by longtime No Barriers supporter, Prudential.
This episode is brought to you by Winnebago Industries Foundation as part of their series highlighting folks breaking boundaries in outdoor recreation. Our hosts, Erik and Jeff, speak with Reggie Showers a two-time motorcycle drag racing world champion who is also a double leg amputee. Reggie speaks to the power of community and positive thinking in propelling him to not only follow his dreams of racing but to become a world champion. Now, Reggie continues to race and shares his life lessons with others around the world.
Erik and Dave speak with Anthony Ferraro - a talented athlete and musician who happens to be blind. Anthony is currently training in Judo to participate in the upcoming Paralympic Games and has a background in wrestling. He has recently gone viral for his short videos showcasing his life - everything from making oat milk to skateboarding - as a blind person. But ultimately, Anthony aims to spread love and kindness. Enjoy!
Dave and Erik speak with award-winning global facilitator, Peter Bailey. Peter walks us through each step of what he calls the “Heroic Journey Mindset" which echoes many of the waypoints of the No Barriers Map we aim to illuminate with this podcast.
Dave and Erik speak with entrepreneur and coffee aficionado, Gerry Leary about his background as an auto mechanic and his later employment roasting gourmet coffee and running his own coffee shop. Gerry has been blind since birth but doesn’t let that be a barrier to diving into any field or industry he’s interested in and offers up what has led to his own success.
Erik and Dave reconnect with tech designer and visionary, Hadeel Ayoub to chat about her incredible innovation: the BrightSign Glove, which can “translate any sign language into any spoken language - instantly.” Her work serves to give individuals with non-verbal disabilities a unique voice and is a stunning feat in the world of adaptive wearable technology.
Erik and Tom speak with activist and disability advocate, Nicole Kelly. Nicole was confronted with the world’s view of her own disability when she competed at Miss America and now seeks to help others confront ableism and break down barriers.
As part three of our Veterans Series, sponsored by Cobank, we speak with Former Command Sergeant Major, Gretchen Evans. We are re-releasing an interview we recorded with Gretchen back in October 2018, when our podcast still in its infancy, because Gretchen's message of Alchemy is more poignant than ever. Enjoy the conversation!
Part two of our Veterans Series features Richard Casper, co-founder and Executive Director of CreatiVets, a non-profit that provides art, music, and writing programs for wounded veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Our hosts today are Jeff Evans and Dave Shurna. They chat with Richard about his personal experience utilizing the power of art to process his pain and the creation of his non-profit. Special thanks to CoBank for sponsoring this series of podcasts focusing on Veterans.
Erik and Dave kick off our November series of episodes focusing on Veterans with Ret. Army Veteran, Aaron Hale. Aaron has experienced more than his fair share of hardships including being blinded by an IED and losing his hearing from bacterial meningitis a few years later. But, he has turned his tragedies into triumphs. Aaron is a wonderful father, husband, athlete, speaker, and entrepreneur. His lessons on resilience are more important than ever during these unprecedented times. A special thanks to CoBank for their generous sponsorship of our Veteran series.
For our final episode in our Caregiving series, we speak with Debbie Fisher. Debbie is a full-time caregiver for her daughter, Grace, who is paralyzed from the neck down as a result of a virus called Acute Flaccid Myelitis. Debbie speaks to the very real struggle of being a caretaker and the tools she has developed to find joy and not lose her own identity in the process.
Our second installment of our Caregiving Series features the Director of the American Red Cross Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, Melissa Comeau. Erik and Jeff speak with Melissa about how her personal experience influenced her to pursue a career in helping Veterans cope and thrive in life after combat.
Kicking off our newest series featuring Caregivers we speak with Connie Siskowski, President & Founder of the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY). Connie speaks with Dave and Erik about the hidden population of caregivers in our society: children. Her organization provides programming to offer support to this often-overlooked population - providing them respite and resources. Connie’s work illuminates what hardships are most pressing for youth caregivers and how, as a society, we can hopefully implement policies and secure funding to address these inequities.
Erik and Jeff speak with adventurer and runner, Jill Wheatley. She joins us from her current home in Nepal but when not in lockdown Jill travels extensively skiing, climbing, and running mountains all around the globe. But only 6 years ago she was trapped in a series of hospitals after a devastating injury. Listen to her story to hear how she used the power of the mountains to find transcendence.
For our final installment of our Education Series, Dave and Erik speak with Lisa Yokana. Lisa is the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) coordinator at Scarsdale High School and oversees an innovative program that focuses on "Design Thinking." Listen to hear more about her hands-on approach that encourages students to approach real-world problems with a No Barriers mindset.
Hosts, Erik and Dave, interview Expert Yoga Therapist and mindset guru, Christian Leeby. Christian speaks to his own experiences, disillusionment, and ultimately, his reunification with yoga. He offers his tips on mastering the mind and other insights for how to handle the struggles inherent to life, and especially in the time of COVID. This episode wraps our Alchemy Series, generously sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential.
Continuing our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential), we speak with world-renowned Chef, Christine Ha, who happens to be blind. Jeff and Erik listen as Christine talks about her artistry, her passion for cooking, and her journey to become the high-level Chef she is today.
Greg Brenneman speaks to Erik and Dave about balancing work and life in the time of COVID on this latest episode. His lengthy business resume and acumen have positioned Greg as an authority on how to succeed in the corporate world, but he is also a believer in spending equal time investing in family and giving back to the community. With his unique lens, Greg offers wisdom in the form of what he calls "the five F's" and other strategies to prosper in both life and the workplace.
Our No Barriers hosts, Erik and Dave, catch up with Heather Zoccali as part of our sponsored Alchemy Series. Heather has long been a leader in our No Barriers community. She heads our Caregivers Program: a curriculum-based program of transformative workshops, retreats and expeditions designed to improve the lives of family caregivers. And Heather knows firsthand the stress and isolation that comes with being a caregiver. She was thrust into the role as a child and then again experienced tragedy in her adult life when her son, Connor, was in a vehicle-pedestrian accident that led to a Spinal Cord injury that put him in a wheelchair. But Heather is the ultimate Alchemist. Her attitude and mindset have helped her to be strong in the face of adversity and to turn her pain into action that benefits those around her.
Dave Shurna and guest co-host, Tom Lillig, interview Dr. Andres S. Maldonado for another installment of our Alchemy Series (generously sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential). Andres was in his third year of residency as an emergency doctor in New York City when he tested positive for COVID-19. He was rushed to the ICU and came close to intubation. After a week, with the help of his fellow physicians and intense treatment, he was considered ready to be discharged. Andres recounts his harrowing experience and the lessons he gained in the process.
Continuing with our Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, we interview Sofija Korać, a senior human rights adviser at the United States Mission to the UN covering a range of issues including the human rights of persons with disabilities.
Around the time when lockdowns were becoming a reality for most of the U.S., our hosts had the opportunity to slow down and catch up with world-renowned athlete and long-distance runner, Joseph Gray. Living in Colorado, Joseph was enjoying time with his family and took some time out of his training schedule to chat with our No Barriers Team. As part of our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential), we are excited to share his episode and story. It is definitely one to inspire.
The first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. President Obama named her a White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, and a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Chancellor Angela Merkel have all honored Haben. Haben believes disability is an opportunity for innovation and she travels the world teaching the benefits of choosing inclusion. She is also the author of the bestselling book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.
Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib was elected Washington State’s 16th Lieutenant Governor in November 2016 at the age of 35. As Lt. Governor, he is President of the State Senate, serves as Acting Governor whenever Governor Inslee leaves the state and oversees an agency whose key issues include economic development, trade, and higher education. A three-time cancer survivor, Lt. Governor Habib has been fully blind since age eight. His parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran before he was born, and he is the first and only Iranian-American to hold statewide elected office in the United States.
Since 2013, Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser has served as President and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a public degree-granting institution with eleven campuses serving 12,000 square miles of the central Rocky Mountains. Dr. Hauser has held leadership roles at the Kauffman Foundation, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Daniels Fund. While at Daniels, she was a loaned executive advising Denver’s mayor on a citywide college scholarship program and assisting the Metro Denver Sports Commission on an initiative to attract top-tier sporting events, including the Olympic Games. An outdoorswoman and athlete, Dr. Hauser has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro and climbed to the Mt. Everest base camp just to name a few of her non-academic accomplishments
Mick Ebeling has sparked a movement of pragmatic & inspirational innovation. Ebeling is a film, television, and commercial producer, philanthropist, technology trailblazer, author, and entrepreneur. Ebeling founded Not Impossible, a multiple award-winning social innovation lab and production company, on the premise that nothing is impossible. His mantra of "commit, then figure it out" allows him to convene a disparate team of hackers, doers, makers, and thinkers to create devices that better the world by bringing about accessibility for all.
What does it mean to live a good life? Jim Kwok has been reflecting on this simple but important question since his colorectal cancer diagnosis 3 years ago. After 41 rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and 28 rounds of radiation, Jim is stage 4 and is told it is non-curable. He has recently ceased all treatment and now focuses his energy on making the most of his remaining time.
For part nine of our No Barriers Alchemy Series hosts Erik and Dave interview Dr. Rana Awdish. Rana is a critical care physician operating on the front lines during COVID-19 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI. Her own serious illness in 2008 has informed her belief in the power of compassion, sacred listening, and community. As medical director of the Care Experience for the Henry Ford Healthcare System, she is training staff to practice empathy in critical care.
Continuing on with our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential) our hosts Erik and Dave speak with a world-renowned expert in perception, Dr. Beau Lotto. Beau's perspective during these particularly uncertain times explains how our brain is built for adaptability and evolution. We've encountered perilous times before and our brain is equipped to handle change and risk. His research explores the ways in which we experience the world through our own versions of reality. As Beau puts it, "the brain never sees the world as it actually is, only the world that is useful to see." By illuminating these principles of perception, he has helped individuals and companies transform their approach to creativity and innovation.
On this episode of our Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, we speak with Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. Nadia was our most popular guest to date, not to mention one of our first guests, when we began our podcast in 2018. We knew we had plenty to catch up on and that Nadia would be a perfect guest to offer guidance during these confusing times of COVID-19. An ordained Lutheran Pastor, Nadia is not your typical faith leader. She often writes and speaks about personal failings, recovery, grace, faith, and really whatever the hell else she wants to. As she puts it, she always “sits in the corner with the other weirdoes.”
In part 6 of our Alchemy Series (sponsored by Prudential and Wells Fargo), our hosts, Erik and Jeff, meet with Rebecca Rusch—a familiar face of the adventure scene. Rebecca speaks about her journey "home" and what that means in this pivotal moment in history. Known as the “Queen of Pain” with a heart of gold, Rebecca is a multi-decade professional athlete and 7x World Champion. Her career includes numerous adventure sports, and countless wins and accolades including induction into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
As we continue to speak with thought leaders and experts during this pandemic for our Alchemy Series, it became clear a voice was missing: how are younger people adapting during this time? After all, Gen Z is notably affected: missing graduation ceremonies, virtual learning replacing the classroom entirely, proms, and other milestone moments being called off - we wanted to hear how someone in this demographic was responding to this moment in time.
For our fourth episode of our Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, there is no greater example of harnessing adversity than No Barriers co-founder, Hugh Herr. In his early 20s, Hugh had both of his legs amputated after a tragic mountain climbing accident. An avid rock-climber, he was determined to return to the sport. Hugh created new iterations of prosthetic limbs for legs and feet he could use to climb even better than before.
Welcome to part three of our new Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, where we speak to experts and thought leaders to attain advice and practical strategies to harness the adversity of COVID-19 and not just cope, but possibly thrive. Our guest today, Dan Thurmon, advocates for always being a bit “off-balance” in order to achieve greatness and expand our potential. Now, more than ever, as we are all forced out of balance in our daily and professional lives, his philosophy takes on even more importance.
Welcome to part two of our new Alchemy Series, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Prudential, where we speak to experts and thought leaders to attain nuggets of wisdom during COVID-19. The arts have played a critical role in everyone's lives during this trying time. When crisis occurs, art and music take on a new role in our lives. Whether that is escape, relief, or outlets of creativity, the importance of the arts becomes clear.
Introducing our new Alchemy Series, presented by Wells Fargo and Prudential. Our first guest is Dr. Paul G. Stoltz. Dr. Stolz is considered the world’s leading authority on the integration and application of grit and resilience. He is author of five international bestselling books on the subject, including the Adversity Advantage, co-written with host, Erik Weihenmayer. Dr. Stoltz has served as faculty for MIT’s acclaimed entrepreneurship program and for Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished Global Leaders Program, where his AQ and GRIT-related methods and assessments have been used to equip tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs. Harvard Business School has selected and incorporated Dr. Stoltz’s Adversity Quotient® tools and methods into it’s top-rated MBA and Executive Education programs.
There’s a longer version of this content available in episode 41. If you’d like the more condensed version, play on! Introducing our new Alchemy Series, presented by Wells Fargo and Prudential. Our first guest is Dr. Paul G. Stoltz. Dr. Stolz is considered the world’s leading authority on the integration and application of grit and resilience. He is author of five international bestselling books on the subject, including the Adversity Advantage, co-written with host, Erik Weihenmayer. Dr. Stoltz has served as faculty for MIT’s acclaimed entrepreneurship program and for Carnegie Mellon’s distinguished Global Leaders Program, where his AQ and GRIT-related methods and assessments have been used to equip tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs.
Content Warning: Profanity and Adult Content Comedian Josh Blue sat down with Erik and Jeff at our studio in Golden, CO to discuss his career as a comic who happens to have cerebral palsy. Following his groundbreaking win on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in 2006, Josh Blue has risen through the ranks to become a well-established headliner at venues throughout the world. His story has been featured on Fox, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CNN. He was the first comedian to perform stand-up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, was named Best Winning Reality Show Guest on Live with Regis and Kelly, and made standout appearances on Comics Unleashed.
Laura DeMaio Roy has been training pet and service dogs for 10 years with a specialization in guide dog training and instruction. She has run successful dog training businesses in Connecticut and Colorado and currently owns DoggyU LLC where she runs a popular YouTube channel and helps owners train their own service dogs. Her YouTube channel, DoggyU, brings practical, positive reinforcement-based step-by-step training instruction to those who may not otherwise have access to it. Her channel also covers product reviews, dog lifestyle videos, service dog training, and dog and van travel videos. Laura has performed with her dogs all over the country, spoken at national and state conferences, and her dogs have appeared in print media ads.
Born in Casablanca to a multi-ethnic / multi-cultural family with roots in Europe, Africa, and South America, Laurent had the privilege of growing up, living, and traveling around the world. In 2012, after years of business in the technology and real estate arenas, he decided to take on a new adventure. With his wife, Aïcha Nyström, they started their own accessible travel company: Tapooz Travel, which focuses on encouraging, supporting and assisting travel experiences for the community of people with disabilities. They've organized accessible trips for hundreds of clients, from individuals and families to small group travel.
Born in Kuwait to refugee parents, Ryan Letada was raised in the Philippines before his family immigrated to the Bronx. His journey from failing student to CEO of his own organization has taught him a thing or two about luck, grit, and survival. While living and going to school in the Bronx, Ryan was awarded the Posse Foundation Scholarship, a recognition that paved the way for a Fulbright. During his Fulbright year, he launched the One Laptop Per Child program in the Philippines (the country’s first one-to-one digital learning program in rural communities).
Our hosts, Erik, Jeff, and Dave, spoke with André, the other week during his training for his newest endeavor: to explore human potential as him and his team cross continents - from the lowest point to highest summit, starting with South America. But André's story began in 2003 when, as a 23 year old student in Prague, he wound up on the tracks in front of an oncoming subway train. His injuries required both of his legs to be amputated above the knee. After his recovery he still returned to Prague to resume his studies, but it was a long road to recovery - both physically and emotionally. He wrestled with his inner demons and the choices he made that had led him to be in this situation.
Anne Lorimor is not your typical great-grandmother sitting in her rocking chair. At age 85, Anne broke the record for being the oldest woman to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Her record was soon broken, so at age 89, she returned to the mountain to reclaim the record.
Gena Harper works as a Certified Investment Management Analyst, Senior Vice President and Senior Investment Management Consultant at Morgan Stanley and provides her clients with custom financial planning that delves into and simplifies even the most complex situations. Gena also happens to be blind, and has spent her entire adult life proving that limitations are simply hurdles to be cleared.
No Barriers Podcast Hosts, Dave Shurna and Jeff Evans, speak with school leaders Jan Harrison and Jason Malone of the Compass Community Collaborative School in Fort Collins, CO. The Compass School is a tuition-free charter school where students learn through active and engaging real-world projects, then go on to graduate with a plan, a portfolio, and the tools to make a positive impact. The Compass School was one of the first schools to partner with No Barriers based on their mission-driven curriculum and emphasis on student-focused, individualistic, purposeful learning that extends beyond the classroom.
Today, we have a special episode for you. We are sharing some one-on-one interviews with No Barriers Summit participants from June 2019 in Lake Tahoe, CA. Our host, Jeff Evans, took a “man on the street” approach and got firsthand accounts from various folks to talk about their personal experiences. He spoke with veterans, teachers, coaches, parents, and many more individuals taking part in a variety of experiential activities to get their feedback and personal takeaways. The Summit is for people from all walks of life with all types of challenges—physical, mental, invisible. The Summit experience is as diverse as the people who attend. Our next No Barriers Summit takes place in San Francisco in September 2020 and we hope to see you there.
This episode focuses on the power of travel as one of the best forms of education with our guests, the two founders of AFAR Media, Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz. When Greg and Joe launched AFAR in 2009, they joined forces with No Barriers Youth to also launch Learning AFAR, which provides travel experiences to high school students from low-income families. Over 1,500 students have been given life-changing experiences through this joint program.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Timmy O’Neill left after one semester of college to head out and design a life for himself. He quickly became known as the “Urban Ape," scaling buildings around the country, like the Chicago Tribune Tower, without any ropes. Now, he’s a seasoned Patagonia-sponsored climber with a lengthy and impressive resume that includes setting world speed climbing records in Yosemite, and first ascents around the world in Venezuela, Patagonia, Pakistan and Greenland. Timmy is also a world class slack liner, mountain biker, and kayaker, and recently guided completely blind kayaker, Lonnie Bedwell, down the Zambezi, a class V River.
Charlie Engle is a writer, runner, recovering addict and speaker. He’s run across the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, and is currently embarking on his audacious pursuit to run from the lowest point on earth; the Dead Sea to the tallest; the summit of Mt. Everest! But, Charlie says his greatest challenge has been becoming sober. He has stayed clean since 1992 and has channeled his addictive nature into his passion to run and what he calls “positive, purpose-driven pursuits.” In 2016, he wrote a memoir titled, “The Running Man” to illuminate the lessons he’s learned in his struggles and his triumphs.
Tish Scolnik is the CEO and co-founder of GRIT, a social enterprise that created the Freedom Chair, which is the mountain bike of wheelchairs. GRIT believes that everybody deserves access to the outdoors and adventure, regardless of their physical ability.
In 1992, two months after his 22nd birthday, Gabriel Cordell was en route to his first professional audition when an accident changed his life forever. Only a mile and a half away from home, his Jeep was t-boned and flipped, and Cordell was ejected from his vehicle, hitting a telephone pole that crushed his spinal cord. The accident left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down. After four months of recovery and physical rehabilitation, Gabriel continued to pursue his dream of being an actor, now as a paraplegic. He established his acting career on stage and screen, with credits including CSI, Dexter, and Numb3rs as well as national ads for IBM, Maxwell House and Pizza Hut. At the age of 42, Cordell focused on a different kind of role. He became the first person to roll across the United States in a standard, manual wheelchair — a 3,100-mile journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the final destination being his hometown of West Hempstead, New York. The inspiring trek is the subject of an award-winning documentary film called, Roll With Me: A Journey Across America. In 2014, Gabriel traveled to Israel and mounted a Roll for Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, completing that 100km journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv in his wheelchair. In 2015, he teamed with the North Shore Animal League America and Bianca’s Furry Friends to raise money and awareness, by rolling 123 miles across Long Island, New York. As a motivational speaker, Gabriel Cordell finally gets to share his inspiring story of turning tragedy into triumph.
Marisa Hamamoto is an activist, dance artist, and speaker looking to empower people through dance and storytelling to disable bias, encourage others to get out of their comfort zone, build new connections, and create breakthrough innovations. After 20 years of dancing ballet and contemporary dance in both the US and Japan, Marisa discovered and fell in love with ballroom dancing while recovering from spinal cord infarction, a rare stroke which caused her to be temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. In 2015, Marisa founded Infinite Flow, An Inclusive Dance Company, leading a global movement to make dance accessible to all and use dance to inspire inclusivity.
Jeff and Dave spoke with Scott Kim a few weeks before he was scheduled to speak at our No Barriers Summit in Tahoe. Scott called in from his hometown of San Francisco (and was appropriately sporting a Warriors jersey) to tell them about his journey to success in creation of the Rapael Smart Glove. As with other innovators and entrepreneurs they have spoken with previously – Scott outlines the difficulties and barriers he faced and how he dealt with them.
Natasha Nurse held various stints in the corporate world prior to making a foray into fashion and writing. Having been a victim of bullying as a child growing up in NYC, Natasha sought out fashion as a source of strength early on and actively uses it as a personal means of empowerment. Natasha started Dressing Room 8 which provides web-based resources through her fashion and lifestyle focused blog, consultation and coaching services. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Nassau Community College, Lifestyle Editor for Plus Model Magazine and the Program Coordinator for Long Island Girl Talk, a Long Island community-based start-up program that teaches teenage girls of color how to produce, direct and star in their own television show about women’s issues in their communities. Recently, she partnered with her husband to create the new podcast WokeNFree and she is the host of Our Voices on 90.3 WHPC. Natasha will lead a women’s track session at our No Barriers Summit this June!
Jamie Petrone is a renaissance woman with many talents and achievements under her belt. She is the Executive Director and Founder of THISAbility, a performing arts conservatory and professional theatre company, cultivating inclusion in the arts. She is also the Executive/Musical Director for Tabor Arts in Branford, CT, and for numerous productions through The Westchester Sandbox Theatre and Queens Theatre in NYC. An Actresss as well, Jamie is the subject of an award winning documentary: “And…Seen” as well as appearances on Madam Secretary, Law & Order SVU and the Today Show. Not to mention that she water skis, rock climbs, and is a professional wheelchair dancer. She will be performing at our No Barriers Summit during Opening Ceremony and leading workshops throughout the weekend.
Koichiro Kobayashi, known as “Koba,” is a “paraclimbing legend.” Koba went blind at age 28 from a degenerative eye disease and at age 31 decided to take up climbing. He has since racked up a number of gold medals around the world! Koba envisions a world where various groups of people can live together without being worried about their handicaps. To pursue his vision, he established a Tokyo-based non-profit organization called Monkey Magic that promotes free climbing among those with visual impairments. Koba believes climbing “is a lifetime sport that people with disabilities can enjoy throughout their lives which increases exercise opportunities, promotes self-reliance and social participation by empowering, and improves quality of life.” Koba is joined today by his guide, Naoya Suzuki.
George Basch is the Chief Cook and Founder of The Himalayan Stove Project, a humanitarian and philanthropic program dedicated to preserving the Himalayan environment and improving the health of the people by donating and distributing free, clean-burning, fuel-efficient Envirofit cookstoves for families and transforming the indoor air quality.
Sean Swarner has many athletic accomplishments under his belt and uses them to spread a message of hope. Despite being in a medically-induced coma for a year, with only one functioning lung and a prognosis of fourteen days to live, Sean became the first cancer survivor to stand on top of Mt. Everest. Diagnosed with two deadly and unrelated forms of cancer, once age thirteen and again at age sixteen, Sean astounded the medical community when he survived both. He realized that after defeating cancer twice, no challenge would ever be too great, no peak too high. He has since topped the “7-Summits” and skied both the South and the North Poles. He continues to test his own endurance and inspire and motivate people around the world with his message of hope. He founded the non-profit organization, The CancerClimber Association, and is now an author, speaker, and most recently the feature of the documentary True North.
In this episode, Jeff and Erik met with Craig DeMartino, a renowned rock climber who is also an amputee. Craig works with an organization called Adaptive Adventures, helping people learn to or get back to rock climbing despite any challenges they are facing. But before Craig worked with this group, he was just a regular climber, focusing mostly on what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be, along with his wife and two kids. They traveled and climbed as Craig worked as a photographer.
Angie Shireman, a jewelry artisan, small business owner, certified yoga instructor, wife, mom, and artist, has seemingly lived a carefree life. But her smiling personality belies her real story. During this episode, our hosts have Angie recount these dark moments in her life and how she dug deep to find her way to the light and become the shiny person she is today.
A professional mountaineering guide, Luis has summited the top of the famed “Seven Summits” a cumulative 32 times, including being a six-time summiteer of Mt. Everest. He currently serves as the 1st State Director for the Outdoor Recreation Industry office for Colorado. Years ago, he spent a decade managing the leadership development school, Outward Bound Professional in Colorado. He also served as COO and Director of Operations for Adventure Consultants (AC), a highly respected New Zealand-based global expedition firm with a long and storied history of leading trips on Mt. Everest that was featured both in the book Into Thin Air and in the movie Everest. Luis has reported from Mt. Everest for ABC-TV News, and has filmed segments for National Geographic on Mt. Everest. Ultimately he believes, “If you really challenge yourself, you can truly change your world.”
Erik and Jeff begin the session recapping a recent experience helping Nerissa Cannon, a young woman in a wheelchair, climb a Colorado 14er. The discussion revolves around the importance of teamwork which is fitting since our guest is Maj. “Diggs” Brown who, since he left the Army, has worked with teams of veterans to help them heal.
We recorded this episode shortly after Erik had just returned from New York City where he circumnavigated all of Manhattan in a kayak to promote the No Barriers Summit that took place in October 2018. He took interviews along the way as journalists and you can read more and see some photos here.
After establishing Steve and Dave’s Chicago connection, the hosts dive into why he’s been brought on as a guest: after Steve attended a No Barriers Corporate retreat he was able to recognize the core No Barriers elements that he could bring back to his own company to reinvigorate his teams.
Jeff, Erik, and Dave talk with Heidi McKenzie, who is speaking from her home state of Kentucky. After a car accident left her as a T4 paraplegic in a wheelchair when she was just 21, she not just survived but started a thriving career and has been an outspoken advocate for folks with disabilities.
Erik and Jeff speak with Tom Dixon, a young man from Philadelphia and the inventor of a brilliant mobile app called ME.mory. Like most app inventors, Tom identified a need that wasn’t being met and created software to address that need. His tragic accident and unique story behind his creation is what sparked our hosts’ interest and what makes Tom a true No Barriers Pioneer.
George Heinrichs‘ resume is filled with awards and accomplishments for his aptitude for business as well as social justice. But George would not have gotten where he is today, the CEO of a major company, without facing barriers both professionally and in his personal life.
Billy Lister is a Paralympic cyclist who most recently represented Team USA in the Rio Olympics, competing in both track and road events. 18 years ago, Billy was diagnosed with a rare and acute brain abnormality which resulted in a loss of mobility due to a stroke.
Gretchen Evans served 27 years in the US Army, earning a bronze star, and rising to the rank of Command Sergeant Major. During her service, Gretchen survived a rocket blast which left her with hearing loss and a traumatic brain injury.
Mark Wellman is a nationally acclaimed author, filmmaker and motivational speaker. Despite being paralyzed in a mountain climbing accident, Mark has inspired millions to meet their problems head-on and reach for their full potential. A two-time Paralympian and former Yosemite Park Ranger, Mark's NO LIMITS philosophy encourages individuals to adventure into new horizons; to go beyond the seeming unreachable.
This episode will introduce our listeners to the mission behind the No Barriers Podcast and what we are trying to accomplish with putting this out to our community. To start, you will meet our hosts and hear about their background.
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