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Sertoma Speech and Hearing Foundation reaches milestone

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NEW PORT RICHEY — After 30 years, Sertoma Speech & Hearing Foundation of Florida supporters plan to make some noise at the milestone anniversary party tonight.

Since 1983, thousands of babies, children and adults with speech and hearing needs in Pasco and surrounding counties have gotten help, according to the foundation’s executive director, Craig McCart.

The anniversary party, to take place 6-10 p.m. Saturday, will carry a 1980s theme. McCart expects some 150 guests will don attire from that decade for the event at Castriota Chevrolet, 8425 U.S. 19, near Ridge Road.

For instance, George’s Wholesale Tires is the “Thriller” main sponsor, a homage to the seminal Michael Jackson album. Other sponsors adopt motifs based on hit movies of the era, “Flashdance,” “Risky Business,” and “Eddie and the Cruisers,” or hit songs such as “Little Red Corvette” and the “Staying Alive” movie soundtrack.

Festivities will include Texas Hold’em Poker and other casino games, an auction and car show. Tickets cost $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Tickets for couples are $60. Call (727) 834-5479 or, toll free, (866) 999-2443 or go online to www.familyhearinghelp.org.

McCart has witnessed many changes in hearing aid technology over the years. He came on board in 1997 as executive director.

“It changes so fast now it’s incredible,” McCart said Tuesday. Digital and programmable now, some hearing aids are like small computers, he thinks. “They are getting smaller and smaller.”

Some hearing aids now are almost invisible, McCart said, which can help students from getting teased.

Wireless signals represent a big boon to people who wear hearing aids, McCart said. Models with the Bluetooth connectivity capability make it possible for people to hear a mobile phone directly or listen to TV, even if the TV speakers are turned off.

McCart also reflected on the origins of the foundation dedicated to “Service to Mankind.”

In 1982, the West Pasco Sertoma Club decided to establish the clinic. On May 23, 1983, the clinic opened its doors as a department of All Children’s Hospital. An old house was donated and moved to a spot near Mittye P. Locke Elementary School.

In 1995, the foundation moved into the new All Children’s satellite branch in the former bank building at Main and Bank streets in 1995.

All Children’s outgrew that location and moved in 2003 to its new building at 4443 Rowan Road, including more space for the foundation.

The foundation has provided perhaps $1 million in assistance over the years, McCart estimates. About 150 to 250 clients a year, both young and old, turn to the foundation from help,

“For the past 10 years we have concentrated our resources to help purchase hearing aids and other hearing related products and services primarily for children,” he added.

Hearing loss is the most common birth defect nationally, McCart said. Early detection and intervention is vital for an infant and youngsters to avoid a life of isolation.

Since 2004, state laws require babies to get hearing tests before leaving hospitals. Sertoma will pay for full diagnostic tests that can cost $150 to $7,500.

Sertoma volunteers are a common sight at about 50 Pasco schools where they test the hearing of all students in prekindergarten, kindergarten, first grade and sixth grade. The tests are given at 22 Head Start locations as well.

The foundation will pay a client’s expenses on a sliding scale, from 10 percent to 90 percent of the cost.

“We’re the only people in the state of Florida to help kids buying hearing aids,” McCart said Tuesday.

The foundation relies on private funding. West Pasco Sertoma Club dedicates 75 percent of the money it raises to the foundation. A Wells Fargo grant underwrites the school hearing tests. People renewing license plates can check off a box on the form to donate $1 to the foundation on top of the license plate fee.

Call (727) 834-5479 or, toll free, (866) 999-2443 to learn more. The foundation’s website is www.familyhearinghelp.org.

corth@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1068

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