Elks and Royal Purple walk to lend deaf children an ear

Keely Dakin
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Eighty Elks and Royal Purple members, attired in purple caps and dangling tassels, walked from the E.A. Rawlinson Centre to the cenotaph on Saturday morning, raising money for deaf children.

This began the 37th annual Provincial Elks & Royal Purple Walkathon In Support of the Saskatchewan Pediatric Auditory Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC).

The centre is an early detection, assessment and rehabilitation program for deaf or hard of hearing children. It is based at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.

“It helps children that are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Patti December, chair of this year’s walkathon.

“If a child is deaf they don’t hear and process sounds the same way as a person with (full) hearing does,” December explains.

This can severely affect their spoken language and communication development, however if a child receives an implant and language training at a young age, they have a much better chance of learning to communicate effectively.

“And it can affect other parts of their whole (developmental) growth,” December added.

“Some children, even with auditory implants, can’t hear. They are profoundly deaf,” December said.

While previously an inescapable reality for some severely hard of hearing children, in recent years, a more advanced hearing implant was devised, called the Cochlear implant, which gives some of those children a previously unattainable ear to the world, December said.

The Cochlear implant is an electronic device, which is surgically implanted in the patient. It can provide enough of a sense of sound that a person may be able to hear the sounds of spoken language, although it does not restore a person’s natural hearing.

“If a child is deaf they don’t hear and process sounds the same way as a person with (full) hearing does,” December explains.

The Elks and the Royal Purple were involved in the development of the SPARK program in 1976 and have been funding it steadily, ever since.

“There was a need for this kind of program, so we pursued it.”

Every year they hold the walkathon, collecting pledges from individuals and lodges. They also hold a banquet dinner and raffles and the tickets for both go directly to SPARK.

“For the past 36 years … (we) have put almost 3 million into that program,” December said.

While the funds raised this year have not yet been tallied up, the event regularly hauls in between $30,000 and $35,000 dollars.

Every year a different lodge hosts the walkathon in their community and this year it was the Prince Albert Elks Club.

“Everybody from all the different lodges around the province came,” December said.

The walk had 80 registered pledgers dressed in full regalia, plus another 20 or so, who came out for the walk to show their support.

Leading the procession was a young bagpipe player.

The Elks and Royal Purple are fraternal organizations, with the Royal Purple originating from the Elks.

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