Empowering teens and young adults with hearing loss

Hearing Loss Association of America, Hartford Chapter

A History of Hear Here Hartford

Co-Founded by Terry Bedard and Ari Shell in 2007



A focus on careers kicked off our year of events featuring 20 mentors representing different professions such as education, law, law enforcement, social services, fire fighting, sales, science, and audiology. A ropes course event highlighted teamwork as our mentors worked with teens and young adults to accomplish various goals. Our Chapter came together to create "Listen with your Hearts" themed ornaments to adorn a holiday tree donated to the Festival of Trees at the Wadsworth Athenium where we had our Holiday Party. A bowling social brought many families together for some fun during a very cold winter. Our inspirational speaker was Nancy Williams who led a workshop helping us to find our passion despite a hearing loss. A Walk4Hearing kickoff event at ASD also featured the presentation of 3 HHH college scholarships. Our year ended with the Walk4Hearing at the Mortensen's Riverfront Plaza in Hartford raising awareness and $90,000 in funds supporting people with hearing loss.


Our first meeting of this new school year involved role playing by volunteers of actual situations that happened to teens with hearing loss such as bullying, illegal interview questions and others. After these scenarios were acted out, our panel of mentors shared their personal stories and advice for handling such situations. Our many audience members asked interactive questions to develop the discussion about how best to handle these common situations occurring in the lives of preteens/teens/young adults with hearing loss. In October, deaf comedian Mike Murray shared how he handled his challenges with hearing loss using humor, and then he got the audience laughing with many jokes. Our holiday party was at The Bushnell where we gathered for a pre-show reception before enjoying the show, A Christmas Story. HHH President, Terry Bedard gave an advocacy presentation in February using common PPT situations presented through videos and then an interactive discussion ensued with the audience to explore how to effectively advocate in those PPT situations. During March, we strapped on roller skates at Ron-A-Roll to have some fun. April was a busy month that included a Walk4Hearing kickoff event at The Gallery in Glastonbury, and our headliner inspiration speaker, Justin Osmond of the famous Osmond family. Justin amazed us with his personal story of growing up in a famous family that included family members with hearing loss. The Osmonds actually got famous while performing to raise money for hearing aids for their older two deaf brothers. Justin shared his musical talent by playing the violin that also conveyed the message that anything is possible for someone with a hearing loss. The year ended on May 31st with the Walk4Hearing at the Great River Park bringing our community together for this great cause!


HHH joined forces with Toastmasters International to sponsor our 3rd Youth Leadership Program (YLP) for 12 of our HHH teens. President Terry Bedard led this YLP along with fellow toastmasters, Rick Kominowski & Julie Stack to help HHH teens to develop their communication & leadership skills through this six week program from September through the end of October. The Holiday Party never disappoints with DJ Bob Adamowicz of Entertainment Unlimited. An Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) game was hosted by Marc Anthony Gallucci, Attorney and Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights, to help us to understand this law in a fun and entertaining way with prizes awarded at the end. A "Glow in the Dark Miniature Golf" event was held in Canton which was a big hit. Terry & Jim Bedard chaired this year's Walk4Hearing once again with committee members Karen Dalke, Megan Dalke, Heather Haversat, Diane Marques, Maura McGuire, Diane Nelson, Greg Ryan, Alex Steinbrick, and Ellen Steinbrick. The Kickoff event for the walk was held at the Old State House with honorary guest Governor Dannel Malloy attending and speaking about his own challenges with dyslexia. At this same event, The National Theatre of the Deaf performed a shorter version of "Journeys of Identity" showing how Alice Cogswell inspired Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc to bring American Sign Language to America and help start the very first American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT. This event led to our most successful Walk4Hearing ever with $90,109 raised to help many people with hearing loss throughout CT, including those supported by HHH. Through the generous donations of many to our HHH organization, we were able to award 3 college scholarships to teens who are attending college this year. Congratulations to Chandler Johnson, Caitlyn LaManna, and Michelle Stoehr!


Our kickoff meeting was led by none other than inspirational speaker Curtis Pride -- the first regular season deaf baseball player. Curtis shared his story about how perseverence led him to the major leagues playing for teams like the Red Sox and Yankees. In December, Hear Here Hartford worked with the CT Science Center, Dr. Kristen Dilaj and her UConn audiology students to unveil "Jolene" -- a lifelike mannequin showing how hearing loss can occur by using headphones. Jolene is used at the CT Science Center to educate children about hearing health. The annual Holiday Party also took place in December at the Riverfront Community Center with DJ Bob Adamowicz of Entertainment Unlimited. Hear Here Hartford sponsored a community event at the Governor's Mansion in January to provide information about a Deaf Child Bill of Rights initiative. This initiative became a bill in February; passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in May; and was signed into law by Governor Malloy on June 15, 2012. As a result of this law, a Language & Communication Plan must be attached to every deaf/hard of hearing child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) making their IEP focused on meeting their language and communication needs. In March, the Kickoff Event for the Walk4Hearing took place at the CT Science Center while showcasing Jolene. The 2nd annual Walk4Hearing took place at the Great River Park in East Hartford on June 2nd under the leadership of Chairs Terry Bedard and Karen Dalke and committee members Jim Bedard, Maura McGuire, Greg Ryan, Diane Nelson, Eileen Bukowski, Megan Dalke, Caitlyn LaManna, Erica Labbe, and Sharon Strong. This walk raised close to $75,000 for the Hearing Loss Association of America and local organizations such as Hear Here Hartford; Southwest Chapter of HLAA; CREC Soundbridge; the American School for the Deaf; the CT Children's Medical Center; CT Association of the Deaf; Yale New Haven Hearing & Balance Center; Lawrence & Memorial Hospital; and the CT Family Support Network.


HHH led a historic event – the first Walk4Hearing brought to Connecticut on June 4, 2011 at the Great River Park in East Hartford. Jim & Terry Bedard co-chaired this Walk and worked with Committee Leaders Cristi Alberino, Julie LePore, Diane Marques, Maura McGuire, Kelly O’Connell, and Jim Ryan. The theme was “Unity in the Community” bringing together over 500 walkers and raising over $65,000 – the most from any Spring Walk in this year. Alliances were made with Soundbridge, the American School for the Deaf, and the CT Children’s Medical Center. Our Kickoff Event for the Walk4Hearing was extremely well attended on March 31, 2011 at the CT Science Center and united the hearing loss community regardless of their mode of communication. Although most of the year was focused on this historic event, HHH had other exciting meetings. The 2nd highly successful Youth Leadership Program sponsored by Toastmasters International took place during a six-week period in the early Spring. Teens developed their communication and leadership skills ultimately leading to greater self-confidence and competence speaking in front of others. Our annual Holiday Party was a huge hit with Bob Abramowitz of Entertainment Unlimited playing music and games with the dozens of teens who attended. Our “Pizza, Panel & Prizes” meeting was successful with adult and teen panelists fielding questions about hearing loss followed by “Minute to Win It” games. Finally, inspirational speaker Catharine McNally shared her story about starting her own business, “Keen Guides” with the goal to gain accessible tours at museums and other public places through video captioning.


Speakers included Jan Melnik, Certified Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach of Absolute Advantage, Inc. who started off the Chapter year with a presentation on how to successfully write a college essay and complete a college application.  She came back in the Spring to lead a resume writing workshop where adult mentors worked with small groups of teens to develop their personal resumes.  Representatives from accessibility offices at Eastern, Southern, and Western CT State Universities spoke about advocating for college accommodations.  Deborah Fairchild, Coordinator of the Southern CT State University Disability Office, also came back in the Spring to present various hypotheticals of different college scenarios.  Games / activities included a Family Feud theme where preteen and teen “families” answered questions related to self-advocacy and social situations. Also, a “break down the walls” activity with teen mentors and preteens allowed everyone to learn different strategies about how to manage and overcome many of the challenges of hearing loss.  A teen panel of college students shared advice about college life for a hearing impaired student.  Socials included a holiday party, bowling social and finished with an end of the year picnic.  Several HHH teen members who participated in the 2008 HHH Youth Leadership Program spoke at the AG Bell National Convention in Orlando on June 26th along with HHH President, Terry Bedard.


Our Chapter year began in September with a Technology & Service Symposium with several vendors and organizations providing valuable information about technology and services available to the hearing impaired.  Workshops included a Youth Leadership Program sponsored by Toastmasters with the goal to develop communication and leadership skills over a period of six weeks.  Games / activities included a self-advocacy multiple choice game based on the game show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” using interactive keypads.  Teens also enjoyed a Wii tournament in the Spring.  Panels of teen and adult mentors shared their life experiences and advice based on questions from the audience.  Inspirational speakers were numerous and included Kathy Buckley, comedienne and author, who entertained our audience while sharing her views on overcoming the challenges of hearing loss.  Patrick Holkins, a Harvard student, discussed his road to acceptance of his hearing loss and how he developed self-advocacy skills.  Miss International, Jayna Altman, inspired our teen members with her message of positive empowerment.  Our Chapter year ended with speakers, Dr. Marc Eisen, medical director of Hartford Hospital’s Hearing and Balance Center;  Heather Carter, audiologist; and Jill Eckerly, a hearing impaired audiologist from Advanced Bionics who collectively shared information on the newest advancements involving hearing loss.


Hear Here Hartford of HLAA kicked off its first Chapter meeting in September with an ice breaker for the teens led by co-founder, Ari Shell while parents, teachers, and mentors listened to a presentation of the Chapter’s mission and goals by co-founder, Terry Bedard.  A panel of adult hearing impaired mentors fielded questions about hearing loss.  Activities included a “break down the walls” activity with adult mentors and teens which allowed everyone to learn different strategies about how to manage and overcome many of the challenges of hearing loss.  A representative from Cochlear Americas discussed the latest advancements in technology with parents during this activity.  A newsletter committee was formed to inform members and others in the hearing loss community about HHH happenings through a quarterly newsletter.  Workshops included an interactive program led by mentor, Attorney Marc Anthony Gallucci who presented hypotheticals illustrating how to self-advocate under the Americans with Disabilities Act.   Speakers included Dr. Patricia Chute, Professor and former cochlear implant director at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, who spoke about how to get into and stay in college.  Inspirational speakers included Josh Swiller – a Yale graduate who wrote the book, The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa.  Finally, Angus McCusker inspired our Chapter members when he shared his life experiences as a cross country ski racer in the Deaflympics.  Socials included the first annual holiday party with a DJ, games and dancing.