Heidi's Story

As a 19-year-old student at a community college, Heidi was fascinated by a documentary about the Outward Bound School. She wanted to take a course to experience the challenge and adventure, but was frustrated by the lack of accessibility for a Deaf person. So she decided to wait until the time was right.

When Heidi transferred to Gallaudet University (the only liberal arts university for Deaf people in the world), she saw an advertisement for Outward Bound, and knew the time had arrived for her to apply. She received a scholarship from the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS). During the 23-day course, her patrol/group consisted of minorities and people with different backgrounds with different experiences. As a Southern Californian, Heidi found the diversity refreshing and eye-opening.

During the course, Heidi chatted with her instructor and mentioned that she had a dream of climbing Mt. Everest. “Do you think I can do it?” she asked. The instructor gave her a very positive response, the first she had ever gotten from a hearing person about her dream: “Why not? You can do it – go for it!” This was a shock to Heidi, who had to put up with negative responses such as, “You can’t do it because you’re deaf,” from hearing people in her life.

The instructor’s comment had a major impact on Heidi’s life. Today, Heidi has become the first Deaf woman to reach the top of Denali (Mt. McKinley in Alaska) and the first Deaf person to reach the top of Kilimanjaro (in Africa) and Mt. Elbrus (in the Republic of Russia). Her goal is to climb all Seven Summits (the highest peak in each continent), and she has climbed three to date. In addition to having graduated with a college degree, Heidi also was named Outstanding Young Woman in America in 1979, and won the bronze medal in the high jump event at the 1969 World Games for the Deaf (now the Deaflympics).

Prior to the Outward Bound experience and encounters with Deaf educators or role models, she had low self-esteem, was shy, and unsure of herself. Now, Heidi realizes that she is capable and has become a strong woman with a healthy self-esteem.

She believes that the time is ripe to plant a seed for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf Blind children and disabled children to pursue their dreams. It is her vision that Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind people learn that they can do anything in life they hope for and dream of, to enable them to gain more self-esteem, become confident, self-reliant and follow their goals.

Heidi often travels to speak to a variety of audiences because she has seen children beginning their lives thinking they are disadvantaged because of their disabilities. She feels it is her responsibility as a role model to encourage disabled children to be successful and gain self-esteem.