Sponsor Spotlight: Griffin Pinkow

“I am not uncomfortable with my visual impairment. As a matter of fact, I believe my visual impairment is one of my greatest strengths because I learned to deal.” ~ Griffin Pinkow, Founder of The Foreseeable Future Foundation

Can We Keep Talking?

Have you ever met someone you wish you could spend an entire evening just talking with? If so, you have an idea how much I enjoyed getting to know Griffin Pinkow.   

I’d like to start this article at the end. As Griffin and I were wrapping up our two-hour conversation, I asked, “Griffin, have you ever had a pity-party?” The question was sincere because his positive energy was tangible and never waned. His answer was six words. Six profound words….

“There is no time for that.”

I struggled to find the best word to describe Griffin. Positive. Affable. Encouraging. Focused. Driven. All of those adjectives are accurate. But he’s more. He’s vibrant. You hang up the phone feeling better about life and the challenges we all face. You say goodbye hoping one day to say hello again. I’m going to try very hard to put Griffin’s personality on the page. But I know I will fail at that endeavor. His energy is hard to put in black and white. 

 

Always the Athlete

Griffin was raised in New Jersey in a stable, loving home. He started playing ball as a young boy and baseball became his favorite sport. While playing on a travel team, he began to have a hard time seeing the ball. At first, everyone thought he needed glasses. But glasses didn’t solve the problem. After exams by eye specialists, at the age of eleven he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa [RP], a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often complete blindness

While he admitted the loss of vision “sucked,” it did not slow him down.

Griffin was born to play sports. Although no one ever told him he couldn’t play, he intuitively knew when it was time to hang up the bat. But there was no time for Griffin to wallow in self-pity. He had a football to pick up. 

“I could see the bigger ball.” In his sophomore year of high school, his vision prevented him from playing certain positions, but rather than give up, he moved to a new position on the football field and found excitement on the wrestling mat. 

While in high school, a guidance counselor recognized the same vibrancy I saw today. He encouraged Griffin to attend Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, where he studied Business Marketing and Speech Communication. 

In his sophomore year at Susquehanna, he became active with Students in Free Enterprise (now called Enactus). That first year, the club hosted one event – a community awareness and fundraising walk for the visually impaired. They raised $800. In Griffin’s senior year, the Club offered six events. They raised $40,000. Through his hard work, Griffin was awarded the “Can’t Never Could Award”. This award “recognizes students who have overcome significant challenges to achieve success and, in turn, have used that success to advance the work of Enactus on their respective campuses.” 

Even while studying and making his mark, Griffin never left the field of sport. At Susquehanna, he found a place on the rugby field. When his vision continued to decline and he could no longer see the ball well enough to compete, he continued to train as hard as any athlete. He moved off the competition field but only so far as the coach and manager sidelines. Griffin was there – every practice, every sprint. 

The summer before his senior year, he set a goal to run a marathon. He expected to reach that goal within ten years. Years changed to months when a friend challenged him to run a marathon before the end of the year. If you issue a challenge to Griffin, you can be assured he will do everything in his power to succeed. He used a guide and ran the New York City Marathon in November of his senior year. Griffin is now 27 years old and he has run in four marathons.

Along the way, Griffin found tandem biking and he is on his way to elite status. When you speak with him, you quickly learn he is never without a goal and a challenge. You can expect to see him in the Paralympics.  Sooner rather than later.

More Than An Athlete: A Dream To Impact Others

Griffin tells me of his experience with Students in Free Enterprise, he began to dream and plan for what would one day be The Foreseeable Future Foundation. Griffin graduated in 2015 and spent two years working for his father and then flexing his entrepreneurial skills with two start up companies. During that time he also solidified his goals and vision so by 2017, his dream had become a reality. 

The mission of this foundation is “to enable the visually impaired to live fulfilling lives through sport and recreation.”  

He built his foundation on four pillars: Humility. Empowerment. Persistence. Leadership.

When Griffin sat down and envisioned the Foreseeable Future Foundation, he could have selected an entirely different framework. Why, then, did he begin with humility?

Humility

Griffin explained his dream that the sighted feel comfortable to ask questions and the visually impaired be comfortable to share. As he said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” He wants people to be secure in their curiosity. “I want people to feel safe enough to ask. And proud enough to answer.”

It was during this conversation we stumbled on Griffin’s interest in pottery. As his vision declined, he was unable to continue painting and chalking. Needing another creative outlet, he searched for a pottery studio. The first few told him they could not accommodate his needs. 

Griffin doesn’t accept NO. He kept searching until he located a studio who would listen to his needs and make the adjustments. 

While taking the pottery classes, Griffin says he was being too hard on himself. He decided to change his mindset. Instead of trying to be great at everything, he said to himself…

“If it’s crap, it’s my crap. I didn’t give up. I can be proud of the hard work I put into it.”

Empowerment & Persistence

It was at this point in the conversation, Griffin began to buzz with energy and excitement. We were tapping into Griffin’s truth. It’s a truth he demands the Foreseeable Future Foundation embody 100% of the time…

“This is how I am. It’s me. It’s about never giving up. If something doesn’t work out it won’t be because I didn’t do the work. I will never not try.”

Leadership

Many of Griffin’s mentors are leaders in a variety of settings. Steve had been a role model for Griffin. Steve was a successful entrepreneur who also happened to have RP. Even Griffin wasn’t aware of his mentor’s visual impairment until much later. 

“People who are visually impaired are in all types of leadership. Entrepreneurs. Government. Athletics. Corporations. We just don’t know it because visual acuity has nothing to do with leadership.”

The Foreseeable Future Foundation

The Foreseeable Future Foundation works within communities to raise awareness and provide education regarding visual impairment and adaptive sports. Through donations and community events, the organization raises funds to support “sports at any level for the visually impaired”. 

The Foundation has made an impact in almost every state. In 2017, they raised about $50,000. In 2018, $275,000 and provided support for three sports camps. In 2019, $350,000 and twenty camps, impacting 800 individual campers.

To date, they have provided financial support to over ten different organizations who conduct sport camps for the visually impaired. 

The Foreseeable Future Foundation awarded $40,000 to Camp Abilities each of the last two years.  

Why Sport?

There are numerous ways to promote, educate and support the visually impaired community. So why did Griffin choose sport?

“Sport is my medicine. Through sport we overcome. Sport shows us we can do whatever we want and that want can vary and change. But with hard work and dedication, our goals and dreams can be realized. My RP is not an obstacle. It’s just part of who I am and part of what I do.”

What’s Next For Griffin?

Griffin, as you can imagine, has many goals. He wants the Foundation to stretch to every state in some capacity. He wants to have awareness events not just in New York but in all four corners and in the Midwest. He’d like to see the Foundation develop some of their own sport programming. And, of course, he’d like to raise more money for camps like Camp Abilities. 

He has a great base of supporters, but he knows he needs to increase Brand Awareness and broaden the reach. To do this, he will utilize the power of social media and hopefully become more active with speaking engagements. 

On the personal front, he will be a Paralympian in cycling. 

During our conversation, Griffin demonstrated he not only speaks of four pillars he embodies them. 

Griffin will not stop. There is no time for that. 

If you’d like to have Griffin speak at your organization, you can reach him on The Foreseeable Future Foundation webpage. 

~ submitted by June Converse

 

 

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