Tears fell from the eyes of Brooke and Robert Edie as they watched daughter Julia’s face light up. She was fitted for hearing aids on March 25 in Reno, Nev., thanks to The American Legion.
It was the first time the 5-year-old girl could hear her parents’ voices clearly, having lived up to that moment with 45 percent hearing loss in both ears.
“I was excited about this moment … it was very emotional for me,” said Brooke of Zephyr Cove, Nev. “Just asking (Julia) if she could hear me more clearer was very touching.”
The family’s joy was likewise shared by Harold “Hal” Sherwood, Children & Youth chairman for The American Legion Department of Nevada. The hearing aids for Julia were made possible by the department’s Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow program, which was initiated by Sherwood.
After he was elected the department’s Children & Youth chairman in 2008, Sherwood questioned who provides financial help for families with children who need hearing aids. The answer was “nobody.” A hearing aid user himself, he discovered many insurance companies do not fully cover the cost of hearing aids for children.
The discovery prompted Sherwood to write a resolution in 2009 to create Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow, which provides financial grants to Nevada families who cannot cover the cost of hearing aids for their children.
The Department of Nevada approved the resolution, and the first grant was issued in December 2010, providing hearing aids to a 7-year-old in Las Vegas. Since then, 21 Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow grants of up to $3,000 have been provided to help families with hearing impaired children throughout Nevada.
“I get very emotional about children who need hearing aids because they are our future,” said Sherwood, a member of Post 37 in Fernley. “The program ensures that children are not excluded from their peers or any educational opportunities at school. Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow goes hand in hand with the Legion because it gives these kids an opportunity to maybe participate in an Americanism program such as Legion Baseball or the Oratorical Contest. And that to me is more important than anything else.”
The program received a $3,000 American Legion Child Welfare Foundation grant in 2009, which provided promotional flyers to audiologists and ear, nose and throat doctors statewide. A parent’s veteran status is not a requirement to receive a Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow grant. Hearing specialists inform parents about the grants and put them in contact with Sherwood to fill out applications and discuss payment needs. Sherwood then speaks with the patient’s hearing specialist to see what type of hearing aid the child needs, and if approved, a grant is issued directly to the audiologist or the specialist.
“We were happy to receive a generous gift from The American Legion in helping us with the payment of those hearing aids (for Julia),” Robert said. “It took a load off our shoulders knowing that we didn’t have to come up with the bulk of the payment.”
Brooke was “surprised to find out that insurance didn’t cover something that’s just as everyday as eye glasses,” she said.
“As far as (Julia’s) education going forward, hearing is imperative. The American Legion has been a blessing to us and we are so grateful.”
Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow is financially supported by donations from the Nevada Legion family – Legion posts, Legion Riders, Sons of The American Legion squadrons and Auxiliary units, as well as some private donations. And often the incoming department commander or Auxiliary president will make the program their fundraising project.
“The Legion family cares about these kids,” Sherwood said.
And that compassion is illustrated in the positive impact Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow has had on hearing -impaired children in Nevada.
For example, one 15–month–old girl needed a special head unit until she could receive cochlear implants at age 7. The program provided a $1,500 grant for the head unit and now “the child can say words because she can hear,” Sherwood said.
A 13-year-old boy had been wearing used hearing aids provided by his school; they kept breaking. A Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow grant provided the boy with new hearing aids and the “look on his face when he received them makes all the work of Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow worth the effort that I have put into the program,” Sherwood said. “The program has an educational and social impact on these children. This is where our future is.”