Subscribe, download, and enjoy our free educational and uplifting podcast, 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.
No Barriers Co-founder, adventurer, author, and first blind person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest
Executive Director and Co-founder of No Barriers, entrepreneur, and educator
Adventurer, expedition guide, and Co-founder of No Barriers Warriors
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.
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.