Imagine going through life not being able to hear. There would be no music, no birds singing, no waves crashing on the beach, no laughing, just silence. The world would be going on around you, but you would not be connected to it, only observing, unplugged and isolated.
Kyle Meyfohrt of Floral Park understands that, having grown up hearing impaired. If not for hearing aids his world would be very different. His ability to speak or learn would be severely hampered. The problem is that hearing aids are costly, roughly $4,000 to $6,000, are not covered by insurance and have to be replaced after a few years because children will outgrow their hearing aids. Two years ago Kyle needed new hearing aids. His mother, Debbie was reading a book about Marie Osmond and discovered that two of the nine Osmond children were hearing impaired. The Osmond family began singing to raise money for hearing aids for the two brothers.
When Justin Osmond was born to lead singer Merrill (Marie’s brother), he also inherited the hearing deficit problem. In 2010 Justin established the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund named after his grandmother to raise funds for hearing aids. Debbie contacted the organization and two years ago received a brand new pair of hearing aids for Kyle. Last year they were invited to the organization’s fundraiser in New Jersey by Justin and his wife Kristi.
Kyle had an idea, why not raise some money for the fundraiser.
“My goal was $250 and in two weeks I raised $1,015 and presented the check to the Osmonds.” This year the Meyfohrt family decided to create their own fundraiser to raise money for hearing impaired children on Long Island. Debbie decided that a Night of Musical Talent should be the theme and invited Justin and Kristi to attend.
“It made us cry when he [Kyle] handed us the check,” said Kristi. “It was very touching to see people that you have helped, to see them then be able to take that and pay it forward; there are unfortunately not that many people who do that and it was a very heartfelt and touching night, to see that effort that they had gone through to help other kids the way they had been helped.”
Justin added, “There are a lot of people who have been benefited through the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, but very few take that and pay it forward. Kyle is one of those who has been a great example, a role model, a bridge builder and a hero. He has set a great example for others to follow. Kyle and I may have a hearing loss but that hearing loss doesn’t have us. Someone gave us a chance to be able to hear and this is our way and we work together and I think we make a good team. Tonight, another special child will get a set of hearing aids thanks to Kyle.”
When the event was advertised it sold out in three weeks; 180 people attended and 50 had to be turned away at the door because there was no more room.
“I was hoping to raise money for one child for hearing aids. Instead we raised money for five children and the event took in $11,000.”
In attendance was Dr. Anne Neissenbaum who performed an emergency C-section on Debbie 17 years ago that saved Kyle’s life. Still working at Winthrop, but now in an administrative capacity, she recalled the evening, “I still remember the night and Kyle was in such dire straits when he was born. The Winthrop team really pulled through and saved his life. This is such a special and meaningful event and I am privileged to be here and be a part of this.” Winthrop hospital made a very generous donation on behalf of Kyle.
Debbie had contacted North Shore LIJ Health System months before the event and asked for their help. Chuck Jarmon, assistant VP of ENT service assisted in getting a set of hearing aids donated.
Kathy Burrous of Floral Park, who is hearing impaired, understands this all too well. Both of her sons had hearing impairment and she was facing a $12,000 bill for hearing aids. Four years ago, while walking with her nine-year-old son Andrew, they were hit by a car when it jumped a curb and killed Andrew. The benefit was in memory of Andrew, who was a friend of the Meyfohrt family.
“I was deeply honored that Debbie did this in memory of my son and I love the fact that it is kids helping kids,” said Burrous. “It just doesn’t get any better than that; my son would have loved this.”
After the buffet dinner, those in attendance were treated to nearly a dozen performances by various groups.
Taking in the event and enjoying every moment was Laura DeStefan, 9, who will be receiving her new hearing aids from the money raised at the event. “I am happy to get my new hearing aids. I can’t wait to try them on. My old ones are bothering me now. I have had them since I was in pre-K.”
Enjoying the evening, Kyle looked around the room and smiled after eating a piece of birthday cake, marking his 17th birthday. He shared the story about what it was like when he got his hearing aids at the age of 5.
“I remember when we got in the car it was raining, and I heard the rain and the windshield wipers and asked my parents what is that. Later that night my mom came in and kissed me on the head and I heard a noise and asked, ‘Do kisses make noise?’ She replied, ‘Yes Kyle, kisses make noise.’”