Spokane HOPE to host annual Hoedown


Courtesy of The Spokesman-Review

Aedan Scott (left) high-fives his teacher Amy Hardie. Hardie was captured in this photo making her daily check of Scott's hearing aid.

By Erik Rötness, A&F Editor

The Spokane Hearing Oral Program of Excellence wants to make a difference in the lives of children with hearing impairments by providing them with early intervention auditory language therapy. The nonprofit organization’s annual Hoedown for HOPE will take place at the Spokane Convention Center on Oct. 6 to raise funds for HOPE’s certified teachers of the deaf.

The Hoedown is in its seventh year and is HOPE’s biggest fundraiser. Over 400 people are set to attend the event which includes a dinner, auction, raffles, live music and of course, dancing.

HOPE’s Executive Director and EWU alumna, Danette Driscoll, says that the organization is the only available resource for parents in the Spokane area who face the challenges of raising a child with a hearing impairment.

“We are teachers of the deaf,” Driscoll said. “We teach children to make meaning of the sounds that are getting to their brains with the assistive technology they’re using, such as cochlear implants, hearing aids and bone-anchored hearing aids.”

If a child doesn’t have assistive technologies, HOPE can’t work with them yet. They will help families coordinate with an audiologist to receive assistive technologies for their child first.

HOPE does not teach children with hearing impairments sign language. Their focus is on enabling children to fully participate in the hearing world.  

Last year’s Hoedown raised over $120,000 in profit to fund HOPE’s certified teachers of the deaf. This year’s goal is to raise $150,000 in profit.

The Hoedown’s keynote speaker is Nolan Gardner, an “American Ninja Warrior” contestant who is profoundly deaf. Gardner attended a preschool similar to the Spokane HOPE School, allowing him to participate in mainstream public education.  

Live music at the event will be performed by “The Sharecroppers.” The Spokane-local country band will perform while attendees swing dance. Free swing-dancing lessons will be given at the Hoedown.

Founding member of HOPE and EWU alumna Jennifer Wheaton said that she is glad she can count on student volunteers, including those in undergraduate and graduate programs at EWU, to help run the event.

“They are the face of our event to the public because they are the ones wearing the red bandanas and the red bar aprons, the cowboy hats and boots. They’re the ones selling raffle tickets and taking people to the photo booth. Their help can really make or break an event.”  

Wheaton, now a volunteer at HOPE after serving for seven years as the speech-language pathologist in the classroom, said the organization has strong ties with EWU.

“When we opened in 2004 we were housed in the university setting in the communication disorders program,” Wheaton said. “For 14 years we were housed in EWU’s clinic. We were able to give students practicum experience working with children with hearing loss. I wish we still had that.”

The program left EWU after being priced out according to Wheaton.

Now independent, HOPE is no longer able to offer the same hands-on experience to students compared to its university days. However, Wheaton thinks that the organization still has something to give them with events like the Hoedown.

“I think for them to come and participate in the Hoedown isn’t necessarily adding to their base of knowledge or their education in speech, hearing and communication disorders, but it is showing them the importance of this program,” Wheaton said. “That there’s this really small group of students whose lives depend on us in order for them to live in the hearing world and have future success.”

While tickets are sold out and volunteer spots are packed for the Hoedown, Wheaton said she is always willing to take in volunteers and find something for them to do.

HOPE does offer volunteer positions in its preschool and toddler programs working with children to build their language capacity. Volunteers need to have experience working with children and must pass a background check.•