Deaf receive the gift of hearing, speaking using non-traditional methods
Suwanee – It’s become somewhat of a tradition by now; the Green Financial Charity Golf Classic has become a “must” on the calendars of golfers and philanthropists in Gwinnett and beyond. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the weather was picture-perfect for the 14th annual event, which was held once again at River Club in Suwanee.
While the recipients of funds raised by the popular tournament are always worthy ones, this year’s beneficiary was one that is uniquely near and dear to Roger and Laura Green of Green Financial.
Left: Debbie Brilling of AVC with Roger Green of Green Financial and currently acting Chairman of the Board of AVC for 2016.
Introducing this year’s recipient of the tournament’s proceeds, Roger Green said, “At the Auditory-Verbal Center (AVC), they take people who can’t hear at all and can’t speak at all, and they teach them how to hear and speak.” Then the rest of the introduction got personal, as Roger explained his family’s connection to AVC. “This cause is so near and dear to my heart, because my son Michael was born deaf. He was trained by AVC as a child.” The passion and pride was evident in Roger’s voice when he introduced his son Michael to the dozens of people enjoying dinner after the tournament.
When Michael took the microphone, one could hear a pin drop as the young man began to speak. Expecting to hear the stereotypical speech of a deaf person, people in the audience stopped eating and chatting, and all eyes were on Michael. His speech was as normal, as near perfect, as a trained speaker’s might be. But that’s not where the surprises stopped. Michael, thanking his family and AVC for their dedication to his achievements (both in the auditory-verbal world as well as the “real” world), went on to talk about his achievements in education and career.
After graduating high school and making a name for himself as a wrestler, Michael earned acceptance to both Georgia Tech and Mercer University at Macon. Since Mercer offered him an impressive wrestling scholarship, that’s where Michael chose to go to college, earning a dual finance/accounting degree. He recently completed an accelerated one-year Master’s in Finance program at Georgia State.
When he was asked to explain – in one word – how AVC impacted his life, Michael answered, “Independence.” Had Michael’s parents accepted what schools and many professionals told them, he would have attended schools for the deaf, learned sign language and had a life far more limited due to an ability to only fully interact with those who know sign language. He could have been taught to read lips, but that skill would have done nothing to improve his speech. He likely wouldn’t have been mainstreamed in school and athletics, as he probably wouldn’t have been able to fully participate without assistance.
“In my job, I spend a lot of time on the phone,” said Michael, who has a cochlear implant. “I communicate with clients, and I report to the CFO and the Vice-President of Finance. I also develop forecasting models.” Michael is living proof of what can happen at AVC; today he is fully equipped to manage independently and succeed in a job of this nature.
In the case of deaf children, a cochlear implant is life-changing. When a child can hear and make sense of the sounds in his world, he is then able to interact with that world. Beth Mahaffey, co-founder of AVC and now a Board member, is visibly passionate about the methods that AVC uses to teach deaf children to hear and speak. “I have been going down to the Georgia State Legislature for years, trying to get them to listen to me. They give millions to schools for the deaf, but I am trying to get them to understand that those children will stay deaf, and they don’t have to.” By contrast to those millions of dollars, AVC received $137,000 in state funds this past year. While Mahaffey has the utmost respect for the accomplishments that deaf schools have achieved, and while she understands that for so long, those schools were a deaf child’s only hope, she wants people to know that now, there are more options for deaf children. “They don’t have to stay deaf,” Mahaffey emphasized.
Right: David Pollack - former UGA 3 time All-American college football player and NFL Cincinnati Bengals football player and current ESPN college football analyst, came to greet everyone and to kick-off the festivities with a prayer
“People who remain deaf and who are taught that sign language is their only means of communicating, typically read at about a third grade level. What we have learned is that they must get sound in through a good device, in order to get sound out, in order to understand those sounds” Mahaffey said. While Michael has a cochlear implant, that is certainly not the only option for someone who is deaf or hearing-impaired. The highly trained specialists at AVC work with the child and the family to choose the best option for that particular child. The goal, said Mahaffey, is to bring a lifetime of listening and speaking to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
While Michael was taught at AVC from age one through age eight, that can differ from child to child. The youngest student to received assistance at AVC was two months old. Research has proven that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. But whether the deaf person is an infant, a child or an adult, AVC can help.
“Today, we want to bring awareness to those who have – or know of - a child with a diagnosis of deafness,” said Laura Green. “We’ve been very blessed, and we want to give back to our community.” As is the case with every Green Financial Charity Golf Classic, every penny raised by the event is given to the named organization. “We’re very proud to be able to say that,” Laura said.
“We want our clients to know how very much we appreciate their loyalty and faithfulness in supporting our chosen causes for this event each year,” said Roger. The golf tournament was originally a client-appreciation event; eventually, the Greens combined it with a fundraising event. “We want to do good in our community and encourage others to do the same,” Roger said. “We also want to express our deep gratitude for the generosity of the many sponsors and clients who made donations directly payable to Auditory-Verbal Center to support this very worthy cause.”
No story about a golf tournament, charity or otherwise, is complete without announcing the winners of that tournament. The team who won the 14th Annual Green Financial Charity Golf Classic was : Don Britt, Chris Cawthon, Dan Chelko and Jim Cauthen – The Gwinnett Citizen team! And the team who came in 2nd was Bill Skinner, Gary Wright, Jon Otting, and Ryan Floyd – the amplifii team. Longest Drive was made by John Otting, Longest Ladies Drive by Monica Chandler, Closest to the Pin was made by Patrick Burnette, and the Putting Contest was won by Phillip Weatherly of the Walton EMC team.
Platinum Sponsors of this year’s event were Jeff Threat Drywall Company; amplifii; the Gwinnett Citizen; PMC Building Materials; Henry L. Gibson, III, CPA; Cox Enterprises; Cetera; SEI, and Cetera Advisors, LLC.
Gold Sponsors were Excalibur Homes and Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation
Silver Sponsors were John Hancock Mutual Funds, Chick-Fil-A and Walton EMC
Bronze Sponsors were PFS and CTR Commercial Real Estate
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