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No Barriers Newsletter Fall 2017

Looking Back on

Lives Changed in 2017

As the year comes to a close we wanted to share stories with you that highlight some of our amazing No Barriers alumni, champions and ambassadors. They are part of our family, as are you. Your generosity has transformed this organization as much as it has transformed their lives. Enjoy the stories and take pride in knowing that when you support No Barriers, you are making a difference far and wide.

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Donor Profile: Ron McGinty Youth: Abigail Warriors: Wade Spann Summit: Ethan Johnston

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Corporate Event Spotlight 2017 Summer Events Recap 2018 No Barriers Summit in NYC!


In the Spotlight Ron McGinty Meet the man behind the Learning AFAR SW Florida Foster Program

Who are your mentors? My parents. They were dedicated to the success of their children and sacrificed so much for us. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? I’ll let you know when I am no longer a kid. What is something people might be surprised to find out about you? I am never afraid of the unknown or taking a chance. I proposed to (my wife) Diane after knowing her 90 days... *Source: Profiles in Paradise, by Bob Harden | Naples Florida Weekly, 2014



espite the fact that he retired nearly 20 years ago, it’s evident that Ron McGinty has no desire to stop working. Unlike his previous career in technology and information systems, Ron’s current focus has been on serving youth in the foster care program of southwest Florida where he resides. For those who know Ron, his passion for helping kids is not surprising at all. He served three years on the board of directors for Youth Haven (an emergency shelter for youth in the Naples area), trained to become a Guardian ad Litem (a court-appointed advocate who investigates solutions in the best interests of a child), and recently launched a new program with No Barriers Youth. And it’s safe to say, he’s not slowing down anytime soon.

No Ba rri e rs USA

WORKING TO BREAK THE POVERTY CYCLE AND EMPOWER DISADVANTAGED YOUTH Ron’s experiences as a Guardian ad Litem brought to light many of the struggles foster youth face: as high-risk students likely to drop out of school with diminished chances of attending college, several who are from multi-generational foster situations, their lives are often destined for hardship. Ron was determined he could make a difference and find a way to break the cycle. In 2011, Ron met No Barriers co-founder Erik Weihenmayer, who introduced him to the nonprofit’s youth program. After learning more about how No Barriers Youth supports students in inner cities to build self-esteem and discover their potential to make a positive impact in the world, Ron recognized the opportunity to create a similar experience for foster youth.

Ron McGinty reunites with the 2016 all-girls Learning AFAR Southwest Florida group at the 2017 No Barriers Summit in Lake Tahoe, CA.

With Ron’s input, the organization established program curriculum and a scholarship-based travel experience specifically for the foster kids he’d been serving for many years. But his work didn’t stop there—along with his wife, Diane, Ron hosted fundraisers, wrote appeal letters, made phone calls, and reached out to friends, not stopping until they had raised enough money to launch “Learning AFAR Southwest Florida.” EMBRACING A BRIGHTER FUTURE, ONE STUDENT AT A TIME Now approaching its third year and third group of students from the foster care system, the program is thriving. Teenagers like Abigail (featured on page 4) are being dealt a new hand—a chance to embrace life, discover their inner strength, and see a future bursting with hope and purpose—all thanks to one man who wouldn’t settle for less or accept “no” as an answer. Ron McGinty believes that “if you can change one person’s life, you can change the world.” And for the foster kids he mentors and those whom he tirelessly advocates for, he is making that difference.

If you can change one person’s life, you can change the world. The 2017 all-boys Learning AFAR Southwest Florida foster group in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona this July.

To learn more about this program or funding a student, please contact No Barriers. 03


Southwest Florida

Foster Program Two Thousand Miles from Home, a Teenage Foster Girl Learns a Powerful Life Lesson

425,000 Roughly the number of U.S. youth in the foster care system at any given time. Recent data indicates that more than half of these children are young people of color.



Percentage of foster students that will graduate from high school by the age of 18.



bigail has spent most of her life in the unknown. Like most 18-year-olds, she’s unsure about her future, but unlike most, she’s also unsure about many of the things we all take for granted in life. Where will she live? Who can she turn to when she needs help or advice? Growing up in foster care has made both her past and her future full of questions. Though many unknowns surround her, Abigail can see a light in her future now, thanks to an unexpected journey she made last year in the Desert Southwest through No Barriers’ Learning AFAR Southwest Florida Expedition. A LIFE-CHANGING OPPORTUNITY “I knew it was going to be a challenge both physically and mentally,” Abigail recalled, “but I realized I had only one opportunity and I shouldn’t let it pass me by.”

Along with several other teenage foster girls, Abigail was selected to attend the fully funded expedition, a program co-developed by local Florida foster youth advocate Ron McGinty. The goal was to provide the group of girls with a life-altering experience, one that would introduce them to an entirely new perspective on the possibilities for their future. For some, it would be their first time ever traveling. Having always lived in the East, Abigail couldn’t imagine the majestic beauty of Canyon de Chelly. She’d never seen a canyon and soon she would be heading into the 83,840-acre national monument in northern Arizona. LEARNING ABOUT OTHERS, LEARNING ABOUT ONESELF Canyon de Chelly is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, a place where people have lived for nearly 5,000 years and where Navajo people continue to make their homes farming and raising livestock. More than the hiking or rafting, it was the experiences meeting the Navajo residents that left the greatest impact on Abigail.

“I learned that some people respect their culture, and protect it, even when faced with adversity. It was beautiful to see how they respect and cherish who they are as a culture,” she said. The journey, like all No Barriers journeys, also taught Abigail a lot about herself. “I learned that I like being girly, but I’m also brave, proud of myself, and that teamwork makes a difference in the world,” she explained. Having lived in survival mode most of her life, it was new for Abigail to reach to others for strength. That idea of

teamwork—the No Barriers Life Element of “Rope Team”—inspired her to believe that she can overcome big challenges in her life. “My rope team was more embracing and supportive than I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she shared. It’s a lesson she’ll carry forward as she now builds a rope team in her own community to support her goals for the future. A PLEDGE FOR A BETTER WORLD On the last day of her No Barriers expedition, Abigail and her newfound rope team gathered around a water tank in the

desert and they shared their pledges for the future. “On my last day, I realized that we can be the change the world needs,” she expressed. “It starts with you and me.” Abigail made three pledges that day: to stay strong; to believe in the impossible; and to never let anyone stop her from reaching for her goals. Next year, Abigail will graduate from high school and pursue her dream of becoming a dentist serving those less fortunate across the world. “I know what it’s like to have need, to not have parents,” she explained. “I know I can’t stop it, but I can make it better.”

“On my last day, I realized that we can be the change the world needs – it starts with you and me.”

Learning AFAR scholarship programs aim to ensure that all youth, regardless of background or ability, have opportunities to experience the world and their place within it. Too many of today’s youth are being left behind. Many young people live in neighborhoods where poverty and crime are common and jobs and education opportunities are not. Youth with mixed abilities must continually advocate for themselves to receive accessible opportunities to grow and learn. This puts these young people at a serious disadvantage when it comes to having a chance at economic self sufficiency, full civic participation and becoming leaders for sustainable change. Closing the experience gap is more important than ever.

To watch a video from Abigail’s trip, visit:

Learn more about No Barriers Youth at



2017 Warriors to Summits training expedition near Mt. Elbert, CO

A Chance Encounter

Leads a Veteran Down a New Path I

t was back in late January when Wade Spann met Julie Cane. They were both at a memorial service in San Francisco for a prominent figure in the veteran community. Jon Paulson, a relative of Wade’s, had passed away in 2016 after a long battle with multiple myeloma caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Though Wade had met him barely a year before, he said they had an instant connection.

“I took it as a sign from Jon himself to do this challenge and make myself heal . . . this was the time for me to apply.”


Jon was an infantry platoon commander in Vietnam in the second wave of Marines deployed in 1965. He led 43 Marines and two Navy Corpsman, earning three Purple Hearts (though he declined a Silver Star). After he returned home, he’d rarely discuss his experiences in Vietnam, though it always weighed heavily on his mind. “I never got over my tour in Vietnam. For years I wondered why so many died. Even though I was wounded three times, I didn’t,” he wrote. Years later, Jon began penning his memories of the war to honor a promise he made to a fellow veteran who had passed away. Jon had vowed that if he survived the war, he would “give back in some way to those warriors and civilians who died and were so seriously injured, physically and mentally.” Around that time, he was introduced to a veterans advocacy group and found a way to channel his feelings of guilt and anguish into a cause that would help veterans turn their lives around.

Jon & Dianne Paulson

Through his work, Jon met thousands of veterans and veteran supporters in the community, including Julie Cane. Julie is a former SH-3 Sea King helicopter pilot for the US Navy who flew combat search and rescue missions in the Philippines. Now, she leads the Student Segment Marketing & Brand Strategy as well as the San Francisco Bay Area Veterans’ Team Member Network for Wells Fargo Bank. She also serves on the board of directors for Swords to Plowshares, a community-based nonprofit that aids veterans in the San Francisco Bay Area, an organization that Jon Paulson and his wife, Dianne, passionately and tirelessly supported for more than 20 years.

Familiar with Wells Fargo’s sponsorship of Warriors to Summits, Julie mentioned the program to Wade. It was late January and the application process was in full swing. “I took it as a sign from Jon himself to do this challenge and make myself heal through something alternative to what the VA would normally prescribe,” Wade explained. “I took that to heart, being there at his memorial service. This was the time for me to apply.” OVERCOMING BY OPENING UP Wade served from 2001-2005 as an Infantry Assaultman, assigned to 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment.

He deployed three times to Iraq. During his second deployment, he was wounded by an IED, pulled out of a burning truck by his platoon commander, and dragged to safety by two fellow Marines. After reading several bios and blogs from past participants on the Warriors to Summits website, Wade discovered a common thread: everyone talked about overcoming the adversities of past traumas. “I thought about my veteran background –combat wounded, Marine, multiple tours in Iraq—and saw that this was somewhere I could fit in,” he recalled.

Looking back, Wade realized that opening up about his experiences was really the first barrier that he overcame. “I saw that it’s okay to say ‘Hey, I have these issues and I need help getting over them,’” he explained. “There’s no harm in telling your story. We as a nation gain strength from people sharing their stories, so we can understand what it means to have a military that’s all volunteers. I want other veterans to know that if you think you’re going to apply, then apply—put your heart into it. Just put it out there.”

“I thought about my veteran background— combat wounded, Marine, multiple tours in Iraq— and saw that this was somewhere I could fit in.”


The 2017 Warriors to Summits Team circles up under the stars while training in the Wind River Range, Wyoming

FINDING A NEW SENSE OF COMFORT In June, the team of veterans gathered for the first time in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, getting acquainted with each other and their four expedition leaders. The 10-day agenda allowed a day to acclimatize to the higher elevation before attempting to summit Mt. Elbert. A month later, in Wyoming, they trekked into the Wind River Range to face rocky trails and pesky mosquitos en route to climb Spider Peak. Both the physical challenges and the camaraderie of being with fellow veterans reminded Wade of aspects of his time in infantry that he missed. And as the rain or the bugs or the aches of the day started to wear on them all, Wade realized he even missed the “misery” of his days hiking and hauling gear in the Marine Corps.


Once on the trail, the struggle became a distant memory: “When I got out there, I felt more and more alive, more and more like I had been training properly, like I had been doing the right things. So I put that pack on and started getting some miles under me, and it gave me confidence.” THE FINAL SUMMIT AND A NEW BEGINNING Both training expeditions were designed to teach the veterans the skills they’d need for their final experience in Denali National Park & Preserve. Thinking about Alaska, Wade seemed less concerned about the physical challenge ahead and more about the mental and emotional tests he’d face. “It’s like riding a roller coaster—you get to the top but then you have to come down,” he said. “I know after the end of

this Denali trip I’m going to have a void to fill. And I’m going to have to find a productive way, a healthy way, to fill it.” One thing is certain: Wade won’t be alone as he seeks out his new path. Post-expedition, Wade will work with the No Barriers Warriors Phase III Coordinator to create his pledge—a meaningful, personal goal that forms a lasting connection to the No Barriers community. And, along with his fellow Warriors teammates (his rope team), he’s got one more big supporter in his corner: Jon Paulson. “I feel like, when I’m out there, [Jon] is too,” he explained. “I carry his speech about Vietnam with me. I carry that in my pack. I feel like he’s walking with me and I draw strength from that.”

To watch the 2017 Warriors To Summits team

APPLY or NOMINATE a veteran for one of No Barriers

training in Wind River Range, visit

Warriors’ programs at


2017 No Barriers Summit LAKE TAHOE, CA


s a young child growing up in Ethiopia, Ethan was kidnapped, blinded, and forced to work as a beggar. He remembers that day, how they held him down and poured chemicals into his eyes: “It was like a wrestling match, but I was little, so I lost that match.” Within a few days, he’d lost his sight completely.


Ethan was adopted and brought to the United States, but his barriers were not behind him. The physical, cultural, and emotional struggles of having to learn two new languages—both English and Braille—while confronting the prejudices faced by people who are blind were daunting. Despite it all, Ethan thrived. He completed college, found meaningful employment, and created a new motto for himself, having learned that: “Wanting it won’t get it for you. You have to go get it.”

“I learned that wanting it won’t get it for you. You have to go get it.”

This past summer, Ethan received a scholarship to attend the No Barriers Summit at Lake Tahoe, California. The experience left him even more determined than ever to break down any barriers in his way.

Q: What does No Barriers mean to you?

A: “No Barriers, to me, means the ability to tackle challenges and overcome obstacles that you are faced with in life. You aren’t always going to be successful when you take risks. When failure comes, learn from those mistakes, get up, dust yourself off, and attack those challenges with more energy. It was not possible to achieve these things without a loving mom and family back home that believe in me. It was not possible without the support of good friends, and what I learned from not-so-good “friends.” And finally, it was not possible without being honest with myself. I know who I am, and I don’t fear the barriers that may come in my way as I pursue my interests in business, goals in higher education, and live to help the community that I came from.”

Q: What was it like being at the Summit?

A: “When you are here and with No Barriers at the Summit, they do understand the struggle, they do. Because it might not be the same disability, but they have to find a way to go out in society and tackle down barriers, and keep going. There are always going to be negative people trying to pull you down to their level, but this experience with No Barriers is going to help me look back to this moment and say you can’t stop me and I am going to keep going.”

To watch more about Ethan’s Summit Journey, visit

To learn more about the No Barriers Summit, visit



Ingersoll Rand Summit Day Ingersoll Rand Brings a “Taste of the No Barriers Summit” to its Global Headquarters


ngersoll Rand, makers of Club Car and Trane products, held a “Beyond Boundaries Summit” on their campus late this summer. The goal was to offer personal development, experiential learning and an introduction to the No Barriers Life to the 2,000+ employees on-site and to partners in diversity and inclusion in the greater Charlotte area. No Barriers was on hand to provide many “Summit” adaptive activities including an artist’s workshop, kayaking/paddle boarding, cycling, yoga/meditation, an improv comedy workshop, a No Barriers challenge course, and an experiential walk. No Barriers co-founder Erik Weihenmayer gave the keynote address with a special message from Mandy Harvey, who was just off the set of America’s Got Talent. All results showcase the power of this highly motivational event that helped strengthen the team at Ingersoll Rand.

“Without a doubt, this was the best company event I have ever attended. It was inspirational, challenging, and productive—and it rarely happens that I feel that way about any conference. HUGE kudos to all that organized this—what a gift to us as employees!”

“This was the best day ever on campus. Truly a productive and exciting experience and really made me appreciate my job, workplace and most of all my ability to conquer all obstacles.”

Contact No Barriers for more information about how to bring a program to your corporate campus or hometown.


“What an amazing, impactful event! I’m thoroughly grateful Ingersoll Rand felt so strongly as to invest so much time, energy, and finances to this fantastic event. Thank you!”



Summer Recap What’s Your Everest August 12 // Estes Park, CO Our annual mountain climb fundraiser, What’s Your Everest, brought together 130 people from the Colorado area to hike the Estes Cone in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an incredible day with laughter ringing through the valley as we reached our summit. Together, we overcame obstacles on the rocky trail and kept smiles on our faces through the rain and shine. And, we surpassed our goal and raised over $81,000! Special thanks to Paul Speight with Spokes N Motion for providing the amazing off-road wheelchairs that made it possible for Linda, Connor, and Joseph to summit. Thanks to our corporate sponsor TRANE and our supporting sponsors Zeal Optics, Honey Stinger, Odell Brewing Co., the Town of Estes Park, and the Lions Club of Colorado.

No Barriers Outdoor Classic August 27-29 // Asheville, NC The 6th Annual No Barriers Outdoor Classic, hosted at Mountain Air Country Club and the Cliffs at Walnut Cove, was a major success with 190 participants raising over $215,000. This annual fundraiser includes two golf tournaments, a hike and the greater Asheville, NC community hearing stories of lives changed from our No Barriers Warriors, and this year’s keynote speaker, No Barriers Co-Founder, Erik Weihenmayer. Special thanks to our event sponsors: Wicked Weed Brewing, Ingersoll Rand, Trane, Park Ridge Health, Gabriel Builders Inc., CP Medore, Sandi & Peter Heckman, Balsam Mountain Preserve, Boys, Arnold and Company, Biltmore Church, Electronic Office, Penny Insurance, Mark McLane and Walnut Cove Realty. Thank you to our partners at Mountain Air Country Club and The Cliffs. And many thanks to our generous community of individual donors and amazing event team: Col (Retired) Peter Champagne, Lynn Penny and the founder of these events, Remembrance Staber.

Walk With The Warriors September 10 - November // Denver, Fort Collins, & Virtual Nearly 500 people participated in Walk With The Warriors (No Barriers’ annual 5k walk) last month and it’s not over yet. The fundraising and walks continue in November for our corporate partners Raytheon and Ingersoll Rand. The events, which honor active-duty military, veterans, and the first-responders who lost their lives on 9/11, have helped No Barriers raise almost $55,000 to date. If you’re still interested in participating, visit to learn more. Thanks to all who attended and to our sponsors: Raytheon, Rise Broadband, and Wells Fargo.


NYC 2018

2018 No Barriers Summit

Takes Manhattan! For the past decade, No Barriers USA has perfected an event—unlike any other—that brings together people of all backgrounds and abilities who are transcending barriers to unleash their fullest potential and live a life of purpose. Until now the No Barriers Summit has been held in mountain communities to leverage the transformative power of the outdoors. For the first time, we are bringing the No Barriers Summit to the world’s biggest stage: New York City in 2018!

No Barriers USA 224 Canyon Ave, Suite 207 Fort Collins, CO 80521 970-484-3633

No Barriers 2017 Fall Newsletter  

As the year comes to a close we wanted to share stories with you that highlight some of our amazing No Barriers alumni, champions and ambass...

No Barriers 2017 Fall Newsletter  

As the year comes to a close we wanted to share stories with you that highlight some of our amazing No Barriers alumni, champions and ambass...