Growing up in Riverside, Anna Tess had a pretty normal and happy childhood. She performed well in school, excelled in athletics and maintained close friendships with her neighbors and peers.
However, there was one thing that set her apart from the rest. Tess, who was born profoundly deaf, relied on the assistance of hearing aids and a cochlear implant to navigate all aspects of everyday life.
The things most kids take for granted — hearing teammates on the soccer field, listening to the teacher in the classroom, enjoying movies and concerts — were all challenges for Tess, who was not surrounded by others with hearing loss.
But through persistence and a positive attitude, Tess overcame the challenges of her disability.
Upon graduating from Riverside-Brookfield High School, Tess decided to help others with hearing loss as a career, earning a bachelor’s degree in deaf education from Illinois State University and a master’s degree in deaf education from Vanderbilt University.
For the last four years, Tess has worked as an educator and leader at Child’s Voice, a Wood Dale-based listening and spoken-language school for kids with hearing loss.
But there was one thing that Tess was still concerned about – Chicago area kids with hearing loss from lower-income families, who do not have the financial resources like others she works with to ensure they don’t go one day without sound.
As a founding member of the associate board for the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation (FHSR), Tess knew how important it was to ensure that with today’s technologies and resources for the deaf, there was no reason why any child should have to worry about struggling in school or facing the burden of dealing with broken or lost hearing aids.
“Going without sound is not easy, especially as a kid,” Tess said. “Socially, trying to hang out with friends and play, not being able to hear can really be a detriment.”
FHSR’s mission is to support all children across the Chicago area who suffer from hearing loss. As part of the associate board, Tess helped kick start a fundraiser called Cheers and Beers for Ears to help supply children’s hearing aid banks at hospitals and doctors’ offices.
In turn, these loaner hearing aids are provided to children who do not have the immediate financial resources to cover the costs for backup hearing aids — devices with costs which often range into the thousands of dollars.
“A hearing aid could cost up to $4,000 per side, and there’s a lot of families where $8,000 is not feasible,” Tess said.
Through the fundraisers, the FHSR’s associate board has been able to provide dozens of hearing aids for loaner banks at hospitals and doctors’ offices allowing physicians to provide children with functioning hearing aids until their families are able to either save up money to pay for new hearing aids or during the weeks it may take for their child’s hearing aids to be repaired.
After the fundraiser’s first two years at the Chicago French Market inside Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center, last year Cheers and Beers for Ears moved to The Little Owl Social Pub in Brookfield — a move Tess said was to attract more than just city commuters, make the event more public and attract a strong suburban crowd.
Last year, the event raised $7,000. This year, Tess said, the group has set its fundraising goal at $10,000.
Cheers and Beers for Ears will be held from 11 a.m. to close on Saturday, Sept. 14 at The Little Owl, 3747 Grand Blvd. One hundred percent of proceeds from all Tito’s vodka drinks and arcade games will go towards the loaner pediatric hearing aids, along with a percentage of proceeds from the restaurant’s draft beers and house wines. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the event will feature live music from Dave Wzorek and Out for Hours.
Additionally, people can donate towards Cheers and Beers for Ears online by visiting bit.ly/2LcjAGZ.
Tess hopes residents in the Riverside-Brookfield area will consider stopping by the event to help towards the cause of alleviating the stresses for local children who suffer from deafness.
“Almost everybody knows somebody or has a friend of a friend with hearing loss,” she said. “This fundraiser is really helping those kids get the sound that they need so that they can still participate in their everyday lives without having a barrier.”