"Toss it!" yells Carson Roller to his two-year-old buddy, Owen, who was guarding his favorite green football. They laughed together as they tossed around the football at Mira Loma Park. Football isn't the only thing they have in common, however. Both boys were diagnosed with hearing loss as babies.
"It was a shock to us because nobody on either side of the family has hearing loss," explained Owen's father, Matt Swanson. Matt and his wife learned of Owen's hearing loss during the newborn hearing screening at the hospital. Immediately they worked to educate themselves about all their options to give Owen the best opportunities to communicate. All three of them learned sign language and Owen also wears hearing aids. Combined - he's made great progress and can now hear and talk to mom and dad.
"You want to get the football?"
"No", he answers.
"Are you all done with your water?"
The Swanson family gives a lot of credit to one woman in particular. Cindy Roller is Carson's mother. She is also the Executive Director of Nevada Hands and Voices, which is a non-profit that helps families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Cindy implemented a program through Nevada Hands & Voices called Guide by Your Side. "If we have a family that is diagnosed with a hearing loss, I actually will then make that phone call to that family and offer them a guide." A guide is a parent who, too, has a child with hearing loss and, without bias or judgment, can direct other families to helpful resources - like a hearing aid loner bank, which Cindy helped grow. Before Carson got Cochlear Implants, he wore hearing aids which cost $3,500 each! Carson thrived though and Cindy wants that for all kids. "I want to see them all reach their highest potential and encourage them to go on. So for me, I feel honored to be doing this work for them."
It is because of her giving heart, Cindy just received national recognition. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association awarded Cindy the Family Leadership Award. Only two are given out in the country every year. It is an honor that fellow parents say Cindy deserves. "Absolutely, she was a tremendous help." Matt went on to say, "It's so great for her to be recognized for all her hard work."
You can also support the Nevada Hands and Voices non-profit at its first charity golf tournament happening this Friday, August 16th. For a $125 entry fee, you will play 18 holes at Wolf Run. You will also receive a one year subscription to Golf Digest Magazine, lunch and dinner. Registration is at noon and tee-off is at 2 p.m. To sign up, call Matt Swanson directly at (775) 225-5009.
Written by Kristen Remington