Choosing to See partnered with Lonnie Bedwell and his team to climb Mount Denali in 2022
Our mission is to build public awareness and create connections between the sighted and visually impaired communities by providing assistance, opportunities and encouragement to the blind while inspiring and educating the sighted.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
— Helen Keller
As we provide encouragement, assistance and opportunities to the blind/ visually impaired community, we hope to educate and inspire the sighted community by creating connections and opportunities that will encourage empowerment and self-confidence in everyone.
Shawn Cheshire joined the U.S. Army in 1994 and served as a helicopter armament systems mechanic for eight years. Following her years in the service, she became an EMT-Paramedic, and in 2009, during a snowstorm, she slipped while treating a patient in an ambulance and sustained a traumatic brain injury that resulted in total loss of vision. The introduction to para-sports ignited her competitive spirit and helped her confront her blindness.
She is a 13-time Paracycling US National Champion, both on the road and the track and represented the US at the inaugural Invictus Games in London in 2014 and the 2016 Rio Paralympics. Shawn is a member of the US Army Women’s Hall of Fame. Since Rio, Shawn has focused on breaking social norms for the blind.
In 2019, she broke the blind world record for the double crossing of the Grand Canyon (45 miles with 22,000 feet of elevation change in 24 hours and 15 minutes, breaking the blind man’s record by almost 4 hours).
In 2020, Shawn completed the 50-mile route of the Dirty Thirty gravel bike race in Michigan on a single bike following a speaker playing music on the back of her sighted guide’s bike. It was the first known time a blind person has completed a bike race on a single bike (as opposed to a tandem).
In 2021, Shawn set another world record, she raced her single bike from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean (3700 miles in 60 days).
In 2022, Shawn took on the Tour Divide, a 2700-mile mountain bike race from Banff Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide with over 400,000 feet of elevation change. It was the worst weather in the history of the race and more than half of the riders who started the race dropped out. Shawn finished the race in 50 days, cycling through snow, mud, hail, rain, freezing temperatures and triple digit temperatures, and with this feat came another world record was set.
TELL SHAWN A BLIND PERSON CANNOT DO SOMETHING AND SHE WILL PROVE YOU WRONG!
Jesse Crandall is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Grand Rapids Community college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jesse and Shawn Cheshire have been skiing, running, and adventuring together for the past 9 years. After growing up in Wisconsin, Jesse attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota where he was a top skier on the cross country ski team. He went on to be Head Ski Coach at Western State College of Colorado (now Western State Colorado University). Following that experience, he attended graduate school at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York and earned a PhD in Chemistry. Jesse now lives in Western Michigan, and in addition to teaching chemistry to college students, he enjoys cross country skiing, exploring trails, and spending time with his family in Northwestern Wisconsin.
As an Assistant Professor in Fitness Wellness at Northern Arizona University (NAU), and with a broad background in exercise and sport science, Scott teaches primarily exercise programming, strength and conditioning, and facilitating active living coursework at the undergraduate levels. Furthermore, Scott’s research focus is on sport performance augmentation and altitude training for different types of athletes (e.g., skill oriented, endurance, combat) as part of the Health Sciences Department and Student-Athlete High Performance Center at NAU in Flagstaff, AZ. Scott enjoys the lifestyle rigors of higher education and practices what he preaches, often, as an avid trail/adventure runner, mountain biker, rock climber, cross country skier, and twice-weekly ‘gym rat’ where he ‘throws’ around iron. Scott has always sought different challenges in the mountains, especially while speed hiking or scrambling or vertically climbing the tall peaks around the West and Pacific Northwest. A highlight of Scott's outdoor adventuring habit was teaming up with Shawn and Jesse (and others) to ride over 2,500 miles and 150,000 feet of elevation gain during the Tour Divide (along the Continental Divide) mountain bike race (summer 2022) where Shawn became the first blind person to accomplish this route on a single bike. Scott embraces being part of a highly collaborative team at Choosing to See to plan, implement, and expand what is possible – physically, mentally, and emotionally - for visually impaired, totally blind, and other participants as they discover a ‘challenge by choice’ mindset and take this attitude into the front or backcountry of personalized adventure. Scott is always excited to team up with anyone involved with Choosing To See and beyond to redefine what is possible for themselves and other individuals that "choose to see" past perceived limitations and aspire to live an active, outdoor-oriented lifestyle…for the health of it!
As a founding member and instrumental in the formation of our organization, Rich’s selfless service, drive and commitment to help others inspires all of us. He came by his strong work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile through his time with the US Army. Rich retired in 2008 with over 30 years in the Field Artillery. Following retirement, Rich continued to serve our nation’s greatest assets. His first opportunity was with the US Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) serving veterans who are blind and visually impaired by accelerating their rehabilitation and reintegration back into their home communities. More recently, Rich helped to enhance the lives of veterans living with the invisible injuries of war (TBI, PTSD, and MST) and to give them a better life using evidence-based therapeutic recreation practices and the sustained continuum of care necessary for a successful reintegration into families and home communities with Higher Ground Sun Valley. In addition to a soldier’s sense of duty and mission, Rich brings a warm sense of humor and a quick smile to his work with Choosing To See -- traits that make our days, as well as those of our participants, brighter.