Taking the Lead

On this episode with talk with Leader Dog client Jeff Hawkins about his journey with vision loss and representing Leader Dog as a keynote speaker.

What is Taking the Lead ?

Leader Dogs for the Blind empowers people who are blind or visually impaired with the tools for safe and independent daily travel. Our goal is to educate, advocate, and share real life experiences of those with blindness. Come learn, laugh, and grow with us.

Christina: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Taking the Lead podcast where we empower people to be unstoppable. I'm Christina Hoeppner with my co-host Leslie Hoskins and Timothy Kyo. So I have to tell you both. I picked up another hobby just to add to my list. You
Leslie: have more time,
Christina: but this hobby kind of wasn't by choice Golf. Oh, I love golf.
Yeah. See, I've never golfed in my life and this summer, this I golfed in my first like tournament and we actually got first
Leslie: place. Oh my God. Really?
Christina: Beginner's luck. Yeah. Well my boyfriend Johnny is like
Leslie: a huge golfer. Was it a scramble? It was, but we used some of my shots. Okay. We did, we did. We used some of my shots Really?
Christina: I was very shocked. It's hard though because I played like softball and baseball my whole life. So to go from that
Leslie: to like a very different swing. Oh yeah.
Christina: Like there was sometimes where I was like doing a combination of both swings. I was like, whoa,
Leslie: this is [00:01:00] like, this is your first time ever playing golf.
Yeah. I've only done like
Christina: puppet. Was it all
Timothy: par three or was it par fives?
Leslie: There were some par fives. Nice. Yeah. Yeah. I
Christina: didn't know though, like how much equipment you needed to
Leslie: golf. It's like a very, like it's an expensive hobby. Yeah. I was like, golf clubs are not cheap, nor is just going to the golf course.
No, and then you have to wear like certain outfits. Well obviously you have to have a cute outfit to go golfing. Yeah, that's half of it. And we did
Christina: like matching sort of outfits, like the same color
Leslie: scheme obviously. I was like, dang, this
Christina: is very expensive hobby,
Leslie: but. I mean, yeah, I do really enjoy golf. My grandma was a huge golfer and my grandpa still is.
Um, and golf, I mean, we've been golfing since we were little. My kids, actually, even my grandpa made them little clubs, so he like cuts 'em in half. Oh my gosh. And then, you know, puts the little, uh, thing on 'em. So my kids have had golf clubs. Since they were born too. So it's just been a fun sport that we've always played.
But golf is a really nice, like lifelong sport. You know? Like, you like football, you kind of [00:02:00] grow out of playing football. But golf you can play, you know, my grandpa is, oh gosh, is he, I think he's 87. Um, and he still plays every day. He also has macular degeneration. Yeah. He's legally blind. Um, so he golfs with his buddies, but he still goes out every day.
He uses a very, um, bright metallic colored ball that helps him. Um, but of course you can work on a different ball that's gonna work for you. And then his buddies really help him. So he goes out with his friends and they, you know, tell him where his ball is and where he is Gotta aim. And he, it's his hobby.
Yeah. He does it every single day. He absolutely loves it. That's really cool. Mm-hmm. I can't imagine him not playing golf. I, I, I'll just stick with playing golf. You mean mean do golf? Golf for life. That means
Christina: like, 'cause
Leslie: Johnny's a big golfer. That means I'm gonna have to Yeah, no, it's not gonna stop. Play golf for life.
Yeah, for sure. Well, if I end up staying with him, oh my God. Oh my gosh. Questioning hat Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. Listen, he's like an avid listener. I feel like I'm a bigger Johnny. You're, you're, he always tells
Christina: me. When he listens, he's like, [00:03:00] you know, I really like
Leslie: Leslie, obviously, because I'm the one supporting you.
I'm holding this relationship together. I'm just kidding. Oh my Lord.
Christina: Without you, we would not
Leslie: be together. Right. And as well, I mean, he did beat you in the race, Timothy. Um, so you played pot Pott then. Do you, have you played Pott Pott recently? Does Glacier like
Timothy: to pop up? I haven't played, I used to like it.
I, I would like to try it, see if I could still do it. Yeah. I think I would have to have my wife put her. Put the, uh, her putter where the hole is and I can just try to aim, I guess. But, um, I, I wonder how they could make a, an adaptive put putt course. That would be kind of cool.
Leslie: P putt would be really difficult 'cause those courses are so crazy and they have like all those weird loops bumps and everything.
But yeah, you can always put a sound source in the, the hole like so you have an idea where, where you have a bigger hole too, probably. There you go. There you go. Yeah. You can absolutely make any sort of sport adaptive. Um, and that is one of the things we do at camp is try to make different sports and hobbies.
Adaptive so that kids can go back home and then do it. So like yoga for [00:04:00] example, is something that you can do very easily with or without vision. Um, and it's really good for your core strength and your balance and body awareness and all of that. Um, and that's something that we've incorporated to camp the last couple years.
But yeah, something they can go home and do. And we did it one time at Leader Dog, we did as well. Yeah, I remember that. That was fun. And look at us would
Jeff: like, I would like to see, uh,
Timothy: somebody play the beep. Kickball. That
Leslie: would be cool. We did, we played beep kickball for camp one year, and honestly it was so much fun.
So much fun. I think, again, the instructors may have had a little bit more fun than the campers did, but they were so good at it. But there's beep baseball, there's goal ball, there's, I mean, there are so many different things. People play hockey, they go skiing. They do. I mean, you name it. Everybody's doing everything.
So there are leagues
Timothy: down here in Georgia for that beat, kickball. I mean, they're serious
Leslie: about it down there. Yeah, yeah, they're definitely growing, which is very cool, and it's nice to, most of those sports, it's an even playing field, so most times you have to, like, everybody is blindfolded or, you know, [00:05:00] it's, it just makes it a little bit easier or fairer, I guess you would say, maybe for everybody, but it's, it's a good time.
Highly recommend anybody if they get an opportunity to give it a shot and play. Awesome. Well, good luck with your golf journey, Christina. I can't wait to follow along and good luck to Johnny, honestly at this way. Yeah, of course. Johnny. I swear Johnny, we're rooting for you. Um, but today we're very excited about our guest and learning more about his experience with Leader Dog and the public.
Christina: As Jeff Hawkins had a successful career in the paramedic industry for over 30 years, and he represents Leader Dog as a keynote speaker and has addressed at thousands of people, organizations, clubs, and associations. Jeff,
Timothy: it's great to have you on a podcast. I met you last year up at Leader Dog and your amazing man, but can you tell us a little bit more about your life before you
Jeff: started losing your vision?
Absolutely. Uh, good to hear from you again, Timothy, and, and thanks for having me on guys. And. By the way, uh, [00:06:00] uh, I'm playing in an outing four liter dog at the end of the month, and. Christina is, uh, on our foursome, so yeah, see how that goes. She, she says she won her, won her event yesterday, so we're, we're expecting big things.
Leslie: It was scratched. Did you coordinate your outfits yet? Because that's obvious. Be top on the list, you know. I did
Christina: ask Steven and Dave, the other two people playing with us. I walked in, I said, it's Caddy Shack theme. Are we, uh, matching outfits?
Jeff: Oh God, I can't wait. I can put a skirt on, but I'm not shaving my legs.
Um, anyways, yeah. Uh, listen, uh, thank you. And, uh, I've always been a, uh, a, a very social person, outgoing, uh, um, sort of a self-proclaimed, uh, uh, adrenaline junkie, if you will. Uh, just. I just loved to live my life. I was always somewhat outspoken, a very egotistical at, at a, at a young age and, uh, really, uh, Uh, probably a downside [00:07:00] was I, I was a lot about me, me, me, me, me, and, uh, these were all things that were prior to my, my vision loss.
But, uh, basically you're just a happy go lucky guy. Didn't pay a lot of attention in school. Wish I would've 'cause I could've done better. I know. But, uh, just living life, uh, and, uh, just grabbing every bit of it that I could. That's so
Leslie: amazing. I love your, uh, your own definition of yourself. It's really self critical, but also so great.
Like, it's great to reflect and, and understand and, and recognize too that you change, right? Absolutely. So many life events and, and things happen that really do change your whole outlook on life. So can you tell us a little bit about, uh, what it was like experiencing vision loss and what that journey was like for you?
Jeff: Yeah, it was, uh, it was really a, a big hard slap in the face, if you will. I mean, obviously it's not something anybody, uh, expects, uh, when, when they begin, begin life. Um, but, uh, I, I went in for my driver's license test when I was in my early [00:08:00] twenties. I'd just come out of school, uh, uh, with my, uh, credentials to, uh, begin working in emergency medicine.
And I couldn't, uh, pass the, uh, driver's license test and I didn't have any, any, uh, inkling that I had vision problems at that time. But obviously I, I did and. So, um, yeah, it was quite a shocker. And, uh, the course of six months or so, uh, uh, lots of specialists in testing as they talked about some really pretty bad things.
And, uh, ult, ultimately they settled on a disease called Stargardt disease. And, and it is a form of macular degeneration. It's a, um, a juvenile form. It's not the age-related, uh, leaky vessel kind that most people are familiar with. Uh, you know, I was told you're gonna begin to lose your sight. And, uh, so over the course of the next, uh, 20, 25 years that that's exactly what happened.
And, and that journey, uh, um, was really quite incredible. As I transformed [00:09:00] from sighted to legally blind from, uh, this happy, positive, uh, go get it kind of guy to, uh, Just to a point, total, total darkness, uh, depressive days. Like what the heck's going on with my life. So, um, yeah, it was really an incredible journey and I feel like I have popped out the other side and, and, uh, I'm a much better person I think.
Leslie: That's so interesting. So when you, uh, you were going to be a paramedics and then you recognized that you had vision problems, what's interesting too is hearing from people who had no idea that they had a vision condition, right? Like your whole life, you had probably been adapting and just assumed that's what everybody saw, uh, until somebody told you no, it's different, right?
Like you don't see, like everybody else sees.
Jeff: That that's very true. And, and, and once I learned that I had a problem, you know, a few years later I could, I could look back and, uh, [00:10:00] I could remember things, uh, you know, uh, driving wise, whether it be in the ambulance or just personally in my car. Uh, and, and like, oh, well that's, that's why I almost hit that car, or that's why I almost did that.
Yeah. And, and just different things that, uh, diff different difficulties that I would have, uh, that it didn't. Really put much thought into, but really was quite apparent there. There were some issues. Absolutely.
Leslie: We've had people on the podcast too with, um, children. Yes. And we've asked them, you know, like, how did you know?
Right. Be, and it's like minor little things, right? Like we used to, they thought that their, um, daughter was just super clumsy, right? She just, she ran into things all the time. She just tripped over stairs all the time and you just think, oh, she's just clumsy. And then she went in for an eye appointment and found out, you know, she had RP or whatnot, but, It happens.
Right. And especially too, from my experience when I talk to clients who have experienced vision loss kind of growing up, or in the younger years, you just don't know any different. Right. So it impacts you [00:11:00] so much differently versus somebody who loses vision later in life who's had perfect vision their whole life.
The impact is very, very different in the experience is very, very different. Okay. So you're losing your vision, uh, you're a paramedic. How did that all play out? What happened
Jeff: there? Well, I had, uh, uh, the, the good thing about that Stargardt disease is that it's a slow progressing disease. So I was told I would have several years, which I did.
And, and so I was able to have a successful career. Um, uh, you know, my vision didn't really impact, uh, the job or the job performance at all until later on, maybe about 2020, about 20 years in. That's when, uh, um, I realized that, uh, um, Things were getting to the point now that, uh, I could probably no longer do this job safely.
I was relying a lot on my, uh, my partners and, and help around me to read certain things. Yeah, I mean, you realize when we're using small medication [00:12:00] vials with very small writing and, and, uh, These are things that would literally kill somebody. Mm-hmm. If you give the wrong dose or the Yeah. The wrong type kind of thing.
And so, um, yeah, I, I, I knew that I had a, a early retirement coming and uh, um, it, it definitely was the first breaking straw, uh, uh, in my whole journey into this stuff. And, uh, it was, it was killer. 'cause I, I had to, I had to quit. I joke when I speak about, uh, you know, the last thing somebody wants, uh, when they call 9 1 1 is their paramedic to walk in the dog, walk in the door with a seeing eye dog in his left hand.
So not, not gonna go over too well, but, um, uh, I, I did, I did retire and uh, um, you know, things sort of begin their down downward, uh, spiral at that time. And, and remember, I, I'm talking, I worked, uh, In the, uh, uh, early eighties, uh, through about 2001, and there was not a lot of, um, uh, [00:13:00] disability reform. Mm-hmm.
Well, there was, but it, uh, even more so, uh, uh, back then, uh, was not being adhered to. So to get accommodations mm-hmm. You know, my struggles were, were pretty rough. Yeah. So I really had to find myself, uh, uh, faking at times and Yeah, and and adapting by, yeah. Yes. I see that. Yes, I can do that. You know, Kind of things.
It was a, it was a tough road.
Christina: Yeah. And how did, I guess after, you know, you retired, all of that, how did you find Leader Dog? If there wasn't really, you know, that knowledge out there from, you know, your eye doctor or anything? I
Jeff: was, uh, I only live about, uh, eight or nine miles from the campus. I was aware that Leader Dog was there.
I was under the impression as most people are, that uh, um, anytime you see somebody with a dog or a cane, That person is totally blind. Mm-hmm. Right. And I feel, I still think that perspective is out there that people, they can't call Leader Dog 'cause they're not blind. That's what the way I thought of myself.
I just mm-hmm. Thought of myself. I can't [00:14:00] see. But I'm not blind Boy was I, was I wrong? But, um, as my life began to spiral a little more, um, one day I got online and I began watching the YouTube videos from Leader Dog. I watched the one from, uh, from, uh, Lenny, uh, the, um, where, where he is sitting in the restaurant, uh, one day and the guy said, why ain't you got a dog?
And I don't know if y'all have seen that
Leslie: one. I haven't, but I'm gonna be looking it
Jeff: up now. You should. It's really, uh, um, it's called Independence Day. 'cause I think he got his dog either right around the 4th of July or something. But, um, it really was an incredible, uh, uh, uh, video and, and it actually brought, uh, tears to my eyes and I said, That's it.
And of course my wife is, uh, about sick of me at that point too. Uh, the brunt of a lot of anger and frustrations that I was going through, and I made the call and, and I, and I like, oh, okay. I don't have to be totally blind. So, yeah. Yeah, that's how I, [00:15:00] that's how I found y'all.
Leslie: Timothy, I'm curious, did you have that perception too, or an idea that like you couldn't get a guide dog or you didn't need a cane or anything like that because you still had some remaining vision?
Well, of course, yeah. '
Timothy: cause I mean, blind to probably, like me and Jeff, you just can't see anything and to find out if you're legally blind, you do. Uh, qualify for a dog or the o and m training at Leader Dog. And they, that's what's great about it and I, I'm glad I went one so I can kind of ease into all this instead of all of a sudden, you know, waiting and waiting and I'm glad I found you guys when I did.
So I just talking and I'm hearing the same story in my head is exactly what I went through.
Jeff: Yeah. Isn't that funny how that works? I mean, yeah, it does. The circumstances are different for all, for all of us yet. That journey is so similar, you know, it's just bizarre. And that
Leslie: is one thing, I don't know how to break that myth.
That is like something that we are working on all the time, is people understanding that they deserve and qualify for these services that, I mean, I, it feels like we're screaming it from the rooftops. Yeah. [00:16:00] But like you said, we're still letting people know that services even exist, let alone like who qualifies for them or how to get to them.
You know, blind rehab is something, it's a very, very small field that not many people even know is available. And
Christina: I think too, you know, like you both have said, you didn't think to yourself that you were blind. And I think, you know, we have to figure out a way to tell people what blindness actually is, because I'll be completely honest, before I started working at Leader Dog, I thought most people were completely blind or only saw like, you know, Very little or shapes or whatever it may be.
So, um, I even thought that before I even started working here.
Leslie: So I think it's something, and we talk about too, like vision's tricky and it can be really hard for family members or friends to understand, you know, why you can see something one day and you can't see something the next day or even in the same day, but with different lighting or whatever it is.
Eyes are so tricky. Did you have a hard time navigating those conversations with your family and friends about your vision? Yep.
Jeff: [00:17:00] Not, you know, not, maybe not so much with family because they love me. Mm-hmm. But, uh, honestly, with, with friends and, and, and the public and different things, you know? Very much so, because you're, you're right.
I mean, I, I, I still play hockey a couple days a week, and, I almost felt in the beginning like, I shouldn't even be telling people like this. 'cause they're gonna say, oh, well you're not blind then. Mm-hmm. Yet I am blind. So, I mean, it's just, it doesn't matter what you do. Um, it's like the public expects that you can't do any of this, and if you can then, and then you're not blind.
So, I don't know, you know, one, one person at a time, unfortunately, that, that's where we're still at to, to get the word out there. But, um, hopefully that will change. Yeah,
Leslie: I think, you know, like you talked about in the eighties, things were different and the perception and understanding of disabilities in general was different.
And it is changing. The tune is changing, you know? [00:18:00] Um, and I think that's obviously for the best and I am excited to see where the future goes as far as different rehab, uh, Options go as far as people's perceptions and stereotypes go. I think we, you know, the younger generations too are really working towards that and especially there's so many initiatives right now.
Yeah. Uh, pushing forward and letting people know that just because you have a disability, you absolutely can do everything maybe just a little bit differently. Um, so I think, you know, we're heading in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do. Yeah. So, so you found Leader Dog. Oh, go ahead, Timothy.
Timothy: Uh, okay. I was gonna ask Jeff, I heard, I know he does a lot of speaking engagements for Leader Dog. How did
Jeff: he get involved in that? Oh, well, probably the same way you did my friend. I did a, uh, an exit interview with, I think it was Rochelle. Yeah, yeah. Uh, she said, Hey, you live close. Would you, would you mind if we ever called you?
And, and I, that's something I've always done, you know, in my profession. Uh, uh, you know, communication was a big aspect of my [00:19:00] job, which you might imagine and. And, uh, and when I got into the management things, I was, uh, able to, uh, I did a lot of public speaking presentations, those kind of things. So it was something I was comfortable with and I said absolutely.
And it, uh, I think it was only a couple months, uh, home with the, with Gracie, my first guide dog when, uh, Mike Dengate called and said, Hey, I'm going to Grand Rapids for a, I don't know, it was a regional kinda meeting of some sort, but there was a couple hundred, uh, lions there. And, uh, I got up there and I did my thing, and, and Mike said, oh my gosh, that was pretty good.
Would you do it again? And basically the phone has been ringing ever since. Yeah. So, but it's fantastic. I, I, I, I, I love
Christina: it. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, um, one of the things you do is harness the power of leadership. Mm-hmm. Which is for corporations and that sort of stuff. I think that's also a way that. We can help break that barrier is having speakers like you, Jeff, and you Timothy, kind of go out and share your experiences and [00:20:00] um, you know,
Leslie: get the word out there.
I think one of the best things that I observe, uh, from many of our speakers is, One, you give them comic relief, right? Like you make a situation that's really hard and challenging and can be very scary, obviously, but you give it a little bit of comic relief so that people feel comfortable and all of a sudden they forget that you're blind or visually impaired.
They start asking those questions that they wanna know, but they totally forget and it gives them, they leave feeling like, oh yeah, like he was wine, but like he was just a normal guy. And like you said, it's one person at a time doing that. Yeah. That's
Jeff: really good. That's, that's really good. I like hearing that because you're, you're exactly right.
And really that's my speaking is kind of from that perspective, whether it be sarcastic or mm-hmm. Um, comedic kind of stuff. And, and that's my goal to walk out of the room. I feel good if I've made a crowd laugh and get up or give a standing ovation or, or be happy, you know, and realize that. Wow. Okay.
[00:21:00] This is, uh, I can talk to the next blind guy I see. Or girl I see, I can say hello. Yeah. You know, because right now it's, uh, most people are like, whoa. Get out of the way. Here they come.
Leslie: Yeah, right. You changed it, so then the next time they see somebody. Absolutely. Well, you and Timothy and many of our speakers do that.
You guys do an excellent job of conveying your story, showing the emotion, showing how difficult of a journey it can be, but that. You can do it on the other end, right? Like there's relief. And that's one of the things I always talk about too, like if we're doing a blindfold walk experience or a cane walk, my hope is that the takeaway is not, oh my gosh, I feel so bad for people who are blind, but that, oh my gosh, yeah, I could do this.
I could see how you could absolutely use these mobility devices or different tools and get around independently. And if they didn't walk away with that feeling, then I'm right. I've failed the mission, uh, because it's really important that we're portraying. Empowerment and independence. Um, I think that's just a huge thing of Leader Dog because we do believe in the mission and what we're doing.
Jeff: Yeah. And you know, there's been times that, uh, [00:22:00] mostly probably with the Lions Group, uh, uh, large groups that on campus there that come in and sometimes I, I hear this stuff and I hear the comments back from people that we're speaking to, whether it be Lions or not. And, and I get a sense that they're looking at the blind community with pity.
And they're just, their comments back like, oh my gosh, that's so sad and this, and there are times that I've stood up and say, wait a minute. Yeah. You know, I want you to understand that this help is fantastic. This organization is fantastic. Yes, it makes people unstoppable and move forward, but. We we're not looking for pity, you know?
And, and I try and break that barrier too. Yeah. There's so much to do. Yeah,
Leslie: I know. I know. And the exciting thing is though, is all of those Lions people, all of the other people sitting in the audience, they came to learn more. They did. Yeah. Right. Like they came out of a positive place and they're supporting our mission.
So we couldn't do it without them. So it is great that we get these opportunities [00:23:00] to sit in front of 'em and really show 'em what we do and why we do it, and the impact it has on people's lives. Um, so we definitely, you know, I, I, you and Timothy, and again, all of our speakers just do an amazing job of sharing your story and your experience.
Yes. But what is one of your, like, favorite presentations to give or experiences that you like to participate in? Oh my
Jeff: gosh. I, I don't, I don't know that I necessarily have a favorite. I mean, I, I have, I, I'm. It's just been across the board now, whether it be a a, a one-on-one with, with maybe, uh, uh, Melissa Weiss or somebody with a, with a pers perspective of donor or v i p donor, if you will.
Yeah. Mm-hmm. Kind of thing, uh, right up to, uh, you know, large corporate, uh, kind of events or. You know, the H P L I love doing the H P L. I've done commercials and did some work with Ford. Uh, uh, when the, um, electric vehicle first came in making sure, you know, people knew how important it was that these cars had to make noise.
So [00:24:00] just really across the board, but. I, I'm probably not gonna lie, when I, when I say I'm an adrenaline junkie, I'm an adrenaline junkie. If I can, if I can get up on a stage, like say, I don't know, say like y'all's, you're, you're, you're the dinner in the dark uhhuh, when I'm in front of five, 600 people, when I can get a crowd involved in laughing and clapping.
Yeah. I walk out there going, whoa. Yeah, yeah. That's as good as any drug you can do. Yeah. For me, you know, and, and so, but, but I, I love it all. I loved, I've met so many beautiful people across this country in the last dozen year, uh, uh, dozen years, and, uh, have made so many connections. And I know that, uh, I've helped raised a lot, raised a lot of money for the organization, which I love.
Um, but most importantly, Uh, to me is, is is three things, and that is the, uh, spreading awareness for leader dog for the blind. So maybe potential people will come in and get the help raising funds, obviously, [00:25:00] but just advocating for the blind community that we, we don't sit on the corner with our white canes in our tin cups collecting nickels, right?
Mm-hmm. We are out there living our lives, so I can get that message to, uh, one person or a, a room of 6, 7, 800. Uh, it's, yeah, it's all good. That's
Christina: amazing and we are so thankful for what our speakers do because if we went out and said all this stuff, I mean, we would not make the impact that you are. Both you and Timothy are able to make so they don't wanna hear from you?
Leslie: they don't have millions. Trust me. They trust me.
Christina: They hear my voice way too much and I don't wanna hear from me. Yeah. I mean, it,
Jeff: it, and I've said that from, from day one. Yeah. The first couple times I spoke to, to everybody in any seat of power in that organization. Yeah. Is, look, you need to stop this and you need to get more client involvement.
Yeah. You need to get a client at every, we should be at every line meeting. We should be at every corporate event. We should be, yes. Because honestly, I, I see the impact that I have and I've seen, I saw the way [00:26:00] Timothy impacted the crowd when he spoke at, uh, uh, last summer. I mean, I, I see what. Yeah. Uh, uh, some of us can do
Leslie: well.
Absolutely. And plus
Christina: we have, we know what happens in class, but we haven't been in class, we haven't had the experiences you guys have all had, um, to be able to share that. So I think that's amazing.
Jeff: And I know you well, you know what the big thing is you're not blind. Mm-hmm. That is, yeah. And I've, I've said that along too, is that, uh, This place is great.
They have all the experts, they have all the information they can give you, these dogs, they can teach you, they can teach you and you should listen to everything they say and everything they do. But at the end of the day, just remember they're not blind. Yeah. And it's, it's a, it's a barrier that you can't cross unless you're gonna poke your eyes.
I, I can, you know, it's just not gonna happen, but,
Leslie: Yes, and I think that's such a good point. That is exactly why it's so important too, that we really encourage people to come to campus when they can, is to just build that support network. Yes. Yes. Really meet other people that are going through the same things that can relate.
I. Like I [00:27:00] say it all the time, and I know I talk about camp, but like that's my favorite takeaway from camp is when a camper has another phone number that they can call and the person on the other end just gets it. Yeah. Right. Because you're right, we can support as much as we possibly can. We can give additional resources, but the best thing we can do is just help make
Jeff: connections.
You're, you are not kidding. I mean, nothing gives me more joy honestly than say if I'm, uh, Uh, I don't know. I was in Texas a a couple years ago and, and met a, met a young lady, uh, that, uh, well she wasn't young, but, uh, a lady that needed help and I talked to her and then, um, I got a c call from somebody at Leader Dog, I dunno, three, four months later and said, you're never gonna guess.
Who's here. Oh, yeah. You know, so I mean, those, those are, that's just fantastic.
Christina: Yeah. That's amazing. And I know you said I, we have to end with this question because you said you were an adrenaline junkie. So what are some hobbies that you continue to do? I know you've mentioned some, but Yeah. Um,
Jeff: well, basically I quit doing everything until I, I left this organization and, and got [00:28:00] the guts to start living my life again.
But you're right, I do still play hockey. I do play golf. Uh, um, I need a, a, somebody to give me my yardage and tell me what's in front of me and make fun of me and tell me my balls in the woods if I'm, if I'm beating them. But, um, uh, uh, Linda and I, uh, go out west, uh, just about every, every spring and, and ski in the Rockies and, and I ski with a guide and, uh, but I'll, I'll take on the blues and the blacks and I, you know, there aren't little bumps, you know, there's, I'll go through the trees if I got somebody to follow.
Um, I'm an avid water skier. Um, um, I like to hike and, uh, you know, we, we are blessed enough to live on a lake here in, in, uh, Oakland County. And, uh, so boating, jet skiing, I. Um, yeah, a blind guy on a jet ski, I'm not sure, but I, I don't usually like to tell that story, but, you know, I'll get out there and, and I'm, uh, you know, people know that I can't see whether it be, uh, [00:29:00] Linda or my son, and he'll, he'll stop and he goes, Hey, you know, there's a paddle boarder out there.
And I said, thanks, you know, but. Um, basically I, they say you got a hundred, you got, you got a hundred square yards. Have fun. And, and that's, I'd like to just spin and shoot and jump anyways. And so whether it be that, or, or Lynn and I have been doing some, uh, wilderness back pike, uh, excuse me, backpacking, where we throw, you know, 30 pounds on our back and head into the woods for a couple nights.
Uh, uh, Real, uh, really, I, nothing, nothing is, I, I won't not do anything at this point because of my blindness. And to me, that just shows, uh, the world who we are. And I'm glad I got the guts to not be afraid to let people know that I can do these things. 'cause isn't it funny in the very beginning, I, I was afraid to tell anybody that.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. 'cause they're gonna think, well wait, you're blind, but so you're not blind or you're blind. And that perception is still there, but I just don't care anymore.
Leslie: That's awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and [00:30:00] sharing your story. Yeah. Um, and we're excited. We're going to be talking with your wife soon.
Yeah. Uh, so everybody stay tuned for that as we're gonna get her perspective. But thank you again for joining us. Yeah, sure. Thanks guys. And thank you so much to our listeners for listening to the Taking the Lead podcast. I'm Leslie Hoskins with host Timothy cuo and Christina Hoener. We hope you enjoyed hearing about Jeff and his experiences.
Please join us again next time as we continue to dive into the world of blindness.
Christina: If you'd like to learn more about applying to our free services at Leader Dog, you can head to leader dog.org or call us at (888) 777-5332. And don't forget, you can reach us at taking the lead@leaderdog.org with any questions or ideas.
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