Jesse Taylor looks like any other kid in the crowd at Amsterdam Greenhouse’s Nature Day, except he’s got an owl perched on a thick leather glove. And if you look closely you can see a hearing aid in his ear.
It’s not your grandfather’s flesh-coloured hearing aid, but a black one with a couple of bright stripes across it, like a teen’s shoes. It’s not trying to hide.
People who suffer vision or hearing loss can fall into isolation and depression. So, as they highlight the many resources available for people with these disabilities, the Lions Club wants to shine a light on a young man who has gone completely the opposite way.
Taylor is a 14-year-old from Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary who gets involved, despite his hearing loss.
Jesse, who is not completely deaf, received his hearing aids on his fourth birthday – at about the same time as his grandfather was getting them.
His mother Michelle was worried, but said it has not been an issue.
“Nothing has ever stopped him.”
Through technology, she has been able to hear the way her son does, and was surprised.
“He needs to work really hard to hear what’s going on,” she said.
He takes advantage of the closed-captioning features on television, and an FM system at school has his teachers speak their lectures into a microphone that transmits directly to his hearing aids.
The availability of those kinds of technology is what the Lions hope to share through their Saturday event.
Jesse plays both electric and acoustic guitar – his father Marty is a sound engineer, so they’re a musical family.
And last year he earned a scuba diving certificate, although his mom is worried about his eardrums in a high-pressure underwater environment.
“He can’t afford to lose any more hearing,” she said.
But this is a kid who keeps turtles and gecko lizards at home, and who has volunteered for four years with Raptors Ridge Birds of Prey. He loves nature, and the marine environment was like a carnival.
“For him to be able to explore the world was big,” said Michelle.
His ear specialist sided with Jesse, deciding the risk in scuba diving was not too great.
Jesse and Michelle got their scuba tickets together, and last year they went diving in Hawaii.
“Watching him see his first shark swim by … it was, ‘This is why we’re here.’”
Jesse is also a martial artist, on the verge of getting his black belt in Taekwondo.
And after putting in his time mucking out cages and feeding birds, he is now able to take the owls and other birds at Raptors Ridge out for flights.
He also joins Kim and Karen Kamstra of Raptors Ridge as they take their birds of prey to public events and demonstrations, and on Saturday he was at Amsterdam Greenhouse in Pitt Meadows, with Chico the bard owl perched on his arm
“He loves animals, and he loves being involved,” said Karen.
The Maple Ridge Lions Club is running its fifth annual Vision/Hearing Resources Open House this Saturday from 1-4 p.m.
“The event will be a service, to supply those with vision and hearing loss with products, services and supports available in the community,” said organizer and Lions Club member Brian Hetherington. “It’s things that can help them in their day-to-day life.”
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and other national groups join local organizations in a trade fair setting. More than 20 organizations will take part.
The Fraser Valley Regional Library will promote it’s 6,000 audio books that can be home delivered, B.C. Blind Sports will promote an active lifestyle, and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Community Services will offer a variety of programs and services. There will be on-site hearing assessments available.
Hetherington said he has two raffle baskets this year – one with hearing loss products and another for vision loss.