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PSA showcases recipients of hearing devices

Cate McLaughlin of Batavia can hear the cheers – and constructive pointers – of her softball coaches, thanks to a charitable organization started by a Geneva student-athlete and Sarah Spain of ESPN.

Hear The Cheers was created three years ago by Eliza Peters, now a freshman at Geneva High School, and her mentor, Spain, an ESPN radio host, espnW columnist and ESPN SportsCenter reporter.

The pair teamed up with the Chicago Hearing Society to raise money to supply hearing aids and other audiology devices to student-athletes in the Chicago area, believing that all athletes deserve to “hear the cheers” of the crowd as they play.

One recipient is McLaughlin, 9, who has severe hearing loss. The third-grader at Alice Gustafson School is totally dependent on hearing aids, although she reads lips and uses sign language to enhance her communication skills.

But the donation of a Roger Pen helped improve her softball game.

Hearing aids amplify all sound, including background noise, which can make it difficult for those with hearing loss to pick out individual voices in public places.

A Roger Pen, however, uses a wireless microphone to pipe the speech of one person straight into a user’s hearing aid.

“I can hear my mom in the car or my coach when I play sports,” McLaughlin said. “Normally, when we’re in the car and stuff, it’s really loud from the outside [noise of] the other cars. It helps me hear my mom more … [and] makes me feel good.”

“When she had it on, she could hear what the coaches were yelling out to the field,” added her mother, Marty McLaughlin. “It enhanced her game as well. She knew what was going on – which, to me, is huge. Because of her hearing loss, she misses a lot.”

The third-grader recently took part in a public service announcement to help raise awareness for Hear The Cheers. The PSA, put together by students at GHS, stars 15-year-old Peters, who explains that her charity has raised $81,000 in the past three years to benefit 29 student-athletes. It ends with Spain praising the teenager for her hard work and asking viewers to support their cause.

Cate McLaughlin shares the spotlight with other grant recipients, using American Sign Language to sign “hear the cheers.”

To watch the PSA, visit chicagohearingsociety.org/hearthecheers and click “A Message from Eliza.”

Choosing to matter

In 2012, Spain’s co-worker, Julie Foudy – a two-time Olympic gold medalist from the U.S. women’s soccer team – founded the “Choose to Matter” contest, encouraging girls and their moms to create positive change through small, but meaningful community service projects.

Spain didn’t have a daughter, but she recently had hit it off with Peters, who had toured a Chicago radio station with Spain to learn about sports journalism. Spain asked the then-sixth-grader for ideas on how they could choose to matter, and an interesting subject came up.

“Eliza is the one who suggested [raising funds for] hearing aids,” Spain said. “I knew she had dealt with hearing loss, but I didn’t know that hearing aids weren’t covered by insurance.”

Peters has worn hearing aids since second grade, but her family initially experienced sticker shock when they learned the devices can cost upward of $2,500 an ear, and that they last only about five years, said Amber Peters, Eliza Peters’ mother.

The entire Peters family, and Spain, jumped onboard with Eliza Peters’ idea, Spain said.

“It’s so important in communities like Geneva for people to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as everyone else,” she said. “[Eliza] grew up with hearing loss, but she’s a popular, happy, smart kid because her family was able to make it as easy as possible for her. And I know she understands that she’s been very fortunate to have that.”

Eliza Peters said, initially, she wasn’t sure Hear The Cheers would last beyond a year. But the charity’s success – and a waiting list of student-athletes in need of hearing devices – has prompted her and Spain to aspire to raise $100,000 by their five-year anniversary next year.

“That would be pretty exciting,” Eliza Peters said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky this year and we’ll hit it; but most definitely next year, we’ll hit $100,000.”

“When we tell people that [hearing aids are] not covered by insurance, it’s really mind-blowing,” Spain said. “And then when you hear the kids saying what a difference it’s made, and their parents saying how it’s changed their lives, they’re more confident, they can hear their coaches better … we want to make it as easy as possible for kids to just be kids.”

How to help

Hear The Cheers accepts donations all year, but it is hosting a special online campaign through Feb. 14. During the blitz, every $15 donation will earn donors an entry to win a prize, including tickets to Chicago sporting events, autographed sports memorabilia and more. To donate, visit chicagohearingsociety.org/hearthecheers.

Cate McLaughlin of Batavia can hear the cheers – and constructive pointers – of her softball coaches, thanks to a charitable organization started by a Geneva student-athlete and Sarah Spain of ESPN.

Hear The Cheers was created three years ago by Eliza Peters, now a freshman at Geneva High School, and her mentor, Spain, an ESPN radio host, espnW columnist and ESPN SportsCenter reporter.

The pair teamed up with the Chicago Hearing Society to raise money to supply hearing aids and other audiology devices to student-athletes in the Chicago area, believing that all athletes deserve to “hear the cheers” of the crowd as they play.

One recipient is McLaughlin, 9, who has severe hearing loss. The third-grader at Alice Gustafson School is totally dependent on hearing aids, although she reads lips and uses sign language to enhance her communication skills.

But the donation of a Roger Pen helped improve her softball game.

Hearing aids amplify all sound, including background noise, which can make it difficult for those with hearing loss to pick out individual voices in public places.

A Roger Pen, however, uses a wireless microphone to pipe the speech of one person straight into a user’s hearing aid.

“I can hear my mom in the car or my coach when I play sports,” McLaughlin said. “Normally, when we’re in the car and stuff, it’s really loud from the outside [noise of] the other cars. It helps me hear my mom more … [and] makes me feel good.”

“When she had it on, she could hear what the coaches were yelling out to the field,” added her mother, Marty McLaughlin. “It enhanced her game as well. She knew what was going on – which, to me, is huge. Because of her hearing loss, she misses a lot.”

The third-grader recently took part in a public service announcement to help raise awareness for Hear The Cheers. The PSA, put together by students at GHS, stars 15-year-old Peters, who explains that her charity has raised $81,000 in the past three years to benefit 29 student-athletes. It ends with Spain praising the teenager for her hard work and asking viewers to support their cause.

Cate McLaughlin shares the spotlight with other grant recipients, using American Sign Language to sign “hear the cheers.”

To watch the PSA, visit chicagohearingsociety.org/hearthecheers and click “A Message from Eliza.”

Choosing to matter

In 2012, Spain’s co-worker, Julie Foudy – a two-time Olympic gold medalist from the U.S. women’s soccer team – founded the “Choose to Matter” contest, encouraging girls and their moms to create positive change through small, but meaningful community service projects.

Spain didn’t have a daughter, but she recently had hit it off with Peters, who had toured a Chicago radio station with Spain to learn about sports journalism. Spain asked the then-sixth-grader for ideas on how they could choose to matter, and an interesting subject came up.

“Eliza is the one who suggested [raising funds for] hearing aids,” Spain said. “I knew she had dealt with hearing loss, but I didn’t know that hearing aids weren’t covered by insurance.”

Peters has worn hearing aids since second grade, but her family initially experienced sticker shock when they learned the devices can cost upward of $2,500 an ear, and that they last only about five years, said Amber Peters, Eliza Peters’ mother.

The entire Peters family, and Spain, jumped onboard with Eliza Peters’ idea, Spain said.

“It’s so important in communities like Geneva for people to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as everyone else,” she said. “[Eliza] grew up with hearing loss, but she’s a popular, happy, smart kid because her family was able to make it as easy as possible for her. And I know she understands that she’s been very fortunate to have that.”

Eliza Peters said, initially, she wasn’t sure Hear The Cheers would last beyond a year. But the charity’s success – and a waiting list of student-athletes in need of hearing devices – has prompted her and Spain to aspire to raise $100,000 by their five-year anniversary next year.

“That would be pretty exciting,” Eliza Peters said. “Maybe we’ll get lucky this year and we’ll hit it; but most definitely next year, we’ll hit $100,000.”

“When we tell people that [hearing aids are] not covered by insurance, it’s really mind-blowing,” Spain said. “And then when you hear the kids saying what a difference it’s made, and their parents saying how it’s changed their lives, they’re more confident, they can hear their coaches better … we want to make it as easy as possible for kids to just be kids.”

How to help

Hear The Cheers accepts donations all year, but it is hosting a special online campaign through Feb. 14. During the blitz, every $15 donation will earn donors an entry to win a prize, including tickets to Chicago sporting events, autographed sports memorabilia and more. To donate, visit chicagohearingsociety.org/hearthecheers.

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