Seeing The Roar Of The Crowd At Reds Game Benefiting The Deaf Community
Rain stopped the Reds-Phillies game at a scoreless tie in the middle of the 9th but that didn’t dampen the night for the crowd from St. Rita’s School for the Deaf (the Reds won the next day, 1-0).
He was an inspiration to everyone who just needs to be given a chance – a chance to be treated like everyone. And he is credited with inventing the hand signal system coaches use to this day.
The Hearing Speech and Deaf Center fans were at the game to sign the national anthem, throw out the first pitch and receive a check representing $14,500 raised for the event from sponsors and 600 tickets sold. The game attracted 200 fans from the deaf community, said Laurie Burman, President and CEO of the center, which provides services to 6,000 clients each year.
“The ability to communicate is the one uniquely human attribute that we all possess and our desire to connect through communication is very strong,” Burman said. “Without it, whether by speaking, signing, listening, hearing, people can become terribly isolated.”
The center, for 88 years, has been working to help those with communication obstacles, Burman said. The center came to my attention last fall when Burman gave a presentation to Social Venture Partners Cincinnati’s investment committee. We were impressed with the proposal and its work, but another nonprofit was awarded the funding.
At the time, I was taking American Sign Language classes.
I don’t have personal experience with close friends or family who are deaf. I did have a few deaf teammates on our softball team when I got my master’s at The Rochester Institute of Technology, home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. I could say “hello,” “good play,” “bye.” But I didn’t feel the need to learn since they seemed to be doing fine without my help. Perhaps I should have tried harder to join their community and make new friends.
I haven’t thought much about it for years.
Then I met Maria.
I volunteered as a tutor last summer at Chase Elementary School, working with other Wordplay Cincy tutors with 70 students attending the Fifth Quarter program. The kids were engaging and excited to work on writing and art projects. Our hearts went out to little Maria, who sat alone most of the summer. She did have an aide working with her, but across the room from us, where the Wordplay team interacted with noisy, often rambunctious groups of students her age. She didn’t – could not – tell us, but I suspect she really wanted to be at our tables. None of us could communicate with her until a group of Give Back Cincinnati volunteers came to help one day and one of them could sign. Maria lit up, smiling and happy to be at the table working on a project with the other kids.
At that moment, I said, “Never again.” And spent the summer studying ASL. It’s difficult to retain if not used, but at the game I was at least able to say hello, a few words, smile and join the “cheers.”
As the crowd thinned, the St. Rita’s group in left field remained loyal, visibly the largest cluster there. They were on their feet often, cheering silently but with gusto, – hands up, fists rolling thumbs and pinkies waving in the “mahalo” gesture.
It was a wonderful feeling, spending time with new friends, being part of a community of fellow Reds fans and “seeing the roar of the crowd” in the second deck at Great American Ballpark.by