As the last of the money trickled in and the donation amounts were tallied up, little Quinn Blakeley (3) emerged as the highest individual fundraiser for Telethon Speech & Hearing’s (TSH) Loud Shirt Day. In under two weeks, Quinn’s family had managed to raise a staggering $11,000 for the Perth-based not-for-profit.
“We only found out about Loud Shirt Day a couple of weeks before the day,” explained Quinn’s Mum Rachael. “So we set ourselves a target of $3,000 and approached people we knew across social media.”
Highest individual fundraiser
Within a fortnight, they had broken the $10,000 barrier, becoming the highest individual fundraiser as TSH collected over $140,000.
“Quinn has this amazing hold on people,” says Rachael. “She is very charismatic and fiery and people are very taken by her – they just love her. We are very lucky to have such a strong support network around us. We will be ready to do the same again next year.”
Quinn was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, which was identified at her newborn hearing screening. She attends TSH’s Chatterbox, an early intervention program that helps children with hearing loss learn to hear and speak.
Although she has been wearing hearing aids since she was five weeks old, Quinn’s hearing loss is, unfortunately, progressive. This means that she faces an uncertain hearing future.
“We are going down the path to see whether cochlear implants will be right for her,” explains Rachael. “As Quinn’s hearing loss hasn’t been typical and we don’t have any known causes for her hearing loss, she falls into a grey area where specialists are uncertain whether she can get by with the hearing aids or needs additional support. It’s a daunting decision making a lifelong choice for Quinn.”
“We do know that the earlier the intervention the better for her.”
Thankfully Quinn is surrounded by has a very supportive community, many of whom were quick to donate to a cause – and a little person – that is close to their hearts.
Yet as important as the money is, Rachael is more interested in helping people understand more about hearing loss, particularly among children.
“I know TSH will do great things with the money, but raising awareness of children with hearing loss is vital,” she says. “It has such an ugly stigma and I’d like to see more acceptance, understanding and education for anyone with hearing loss.
“Children with hearing loss have to work so much harder to simply try and keep up with listening. Classroom environments are loud spaces, with many voices and distance listening. With all of these additional factors comes listening fatigue and then, often, behaviour challenges. Simply being aware of what’s needed, particularly in learning environments, improves outcomes for these kids.
“We viewed so many different schools before making the decision to move the girls to a TSH-supported school. I was astounded at classroom sizes, open plan classrooms, wooden floors and minimal wall furnishings to reduce the noise.”
Quinn will start pre-kindy at Newman College next year. While the extent of her hearing loss and the treatments required remain uncertain, there is no doubt that she will be in safe hands throughout her hearing loss journey.