Editor’s note: This is a weekly series of Department Spotlight stories featuring unique programs and initiatives of departments throughout The American Legion. Department adjutants are invited to recommend subjects for their departments by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through its Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow program, The American Legion Department of Nevada is ensuring that hearing impaired youth are not excluded from interacting with their peers or pursuing educational opportunities.
The program got underway in 2009 when then Department of Nevada Children & Youth Committee Chairman Harold “Hal” Sherwood questioned who provided financial assistance for families with children in need of hearing aids. His answer – no one. A hearing aid user himself, Sherwood learned that insurance companies do not fully cover the cost of hearing aids for children.
His findings resulted in him writing a resolution that established the Hear Today - Learn Tomorrow program, which provides cash grants to Nevada families that cannot cover the cost of hearing aids for their children. The resolution was adopted by the department and the program’s first grant was issued in December 2010, providing hearing aids to a 7-year-old in Las Vegas.
Since the program’s inception, more than 21 grants have been issued to help Nevada families with hearing impaired children.
“When you see the expression on a child’s face when they can hear for the first time, that’s worth any program in the world. That’ s a big enjoyment when you see that,” said Ron Michalski, a National Executive Committee member who is now overseeing the program. “It touches your heart.”
A parent’s veteran status is not a requirement to receive a Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow grant, however, the family must be a Nevada resident and the child must be under 18 years old. Families are oftentimes made aware of the program through hearing specialists who will put the families in contact with Michalski to begin the application and grant process. Michalski will speak with the child’s hearing specialists to verify the type of hearing aid needed. If the grant is approved, payment is issued directly to the audiologist or hearing specialists.
Michalski has been focusing his efforts on informing Nevada families statewide about the Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow program, as well as increasing donations. His promotional efforts have included delivering program brochures to school superintendents and teachers, as well as to staff at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System.
The program is financially supported by donations from the Nevada American Legion family (Legionnaires, Auxiliary, Sons of The American Legion and Legion Riders), and from private donations.
For more information about the Department of Nevada’s Hear Today – Learn Tomorrow program or to obtain an application, click here.