MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s a nonprofit that has been in the Memphis area since 1959 with its mission to help deaf children in the Mid-South.
However, due to COVID-19, the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf’s largest fundraiser was canceled earlier this year. Now organizers are doing an online virtual fundraiser to help support the school and the deaf children it serves.
“We are here to support families of children who are deaf and hard of hearing from birth to age 5. All of our children have varying degrees of hearing loss,” said Lauren Hayes, the executive director of the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf and lead organizer of this year’s virtual “1920s Speakeasy” themed fundraiser.
Some of the children at the school have cochlear implants. Others use hearing aids. The goal of the school is to teach students to listen, talk and mainstream them into kindergarten at a traditional school.
"That's the goal is to help them to talk and engage with hearing peers and to the best of their ability and to go on and play sports and listen to music and sing," Hays said.
The institution has been around in Memphis and the Mid-South for more than 60 years with fundraising accounting for half of the school’s budget. During the coronavirus pandemic, fundraising has slowed considerably. The school is the only one of its kind within 200 miles serving children in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. The Speakeasy-themed online party includes a silent and live auction along with testimonials from its alumni Saturday night, Aug. 22 from 6 to 6:30 p.m.
“We have a former student who was born profoundly deaf had cochlear implants as a child went through our program and is now a doctor at St. Jude. The community needs to know that we rely on them heavily to give these children a strong foundation for learning and the Speakeasy is a great way to support the school.”
Hearing, listening and speaking -- it’s something that many of us take it for granted. For children who can’t, teachers at the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf make sure these students can for the rest of their lives.