Elks donation helps local girl hear

October 30, 2023, 2:00 pm
Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Johnston family of Rocanville received $4,000 recently from the Moosomin Elks to help pay for hearing equipment for daughter Emily. In the photo are Dave Towler of the Elks, Jessie-Leigh Johnston, son Gabriel and daughter Hazel. Missing are Jessie-Leigh’s husband Mike and daughter Emily.

When Ron Potter, Exalted Ruler of the Moosomin Elks Lodge No. 340 heard about Emily Johnston’s hearing issue, he knew the club could help.

“It makes you feel really good when you can help a local family,” Potter said. “It just makes your heart feel good.”

Recently, the Elks donated $4,000 to the Johnston family so young Emily can access a device that allows her to hear. The communication needs of children is a cause the Elks are passionate about—even dedicating the month of May to speech and hearing—and donations like the one for the Johnston family fill the gap that healthcare plans sometimes miss.

Money raised through local donations, taking the form of ticket sales, raffles or hat pools, allows the Elks to do their work. Indeed, service clubs are the heart of a community affecting the greatest local change.

For Emily, that means the ability to hear her parents voices clearly. She has a cognitive hearing disability affecting her middle and inner ear, requiring something to help magnify sound in the inner ear canal.

“She’s been able to start a trial period with a device and we’re working through that and working with audiologists on getting the right fit for her now,” said Jessie-Leigh Johnston, Emily’s mother.

The Elks donation will make a big difference for the family as the device Emily needs is quite expensive.

“We were able to get another donation from a different group in town which was able to get us a down payment to get them ordered,” Jessie-Leigh explained. “So this now will pay for the entirety of it and that allows us five years for her to have this device.”

Jessie-Leigh heard about the work the Elks do to help children with speech and hearing difficulties and decided to contact Potter, explaining the circumstances. When Potter was able to confirm the news about the donation, Jessie-Leigh was overwhelmed with joy.

“We basically want to just thank the Elks because this is something—to us it’s really wonderful that we can find local means to help and be able to keep things local and help the people that are here,” she said. “I know that a lot of people struggle and have a hard time knowing that we have these local means, so I’m really thankful for that and really appreciative that we are being able to receive this, so thank you very much.”

“It makes a big difference,” Jessie-Leigh continued. “We’re getting to work with the school now and this is her first year now, we never knew that she had a hearing loss until this, of course. So this is her first year having them in school and we’ve noticed a big change.”

Indeed, the Elks donation is a fine example of how grassroots initiative can realize a great change in the local spectrum.

“Honestly, I don’t know how we would have done it without this,” Jessie-Leigh said. “We’ve had trials in a few different health circumstances over our years and sometimes it feels as though you can only ask for so much.”

She also spoke of the apprehension people in her family’s situation have when it comes to reaching out for help.

“It’s kind of intimidating to reach out and ask and a little bit hard to be the one asking for help, so doing it locally made it seem a little less terrifying and knowing that the Elks were around and that other people have been able to know that you’re here—because I wouldn’t have found them any other way,” Jessie-Leigh explained.

At the national level, a dedicated Elks & Royal Purple Fund for Children provides children with access to funds for speech therapy and providing hearing aids, for example. Potter explained that this national fund can be accessed in cases where the need becomes greater.

“It’s a very expensive proposition for a child to hear,” he said.

Potter also says that the Elks have been quite effective in lobbying the government regarding newborn screening for hearing loss, ensuring that babies can hear right from Day One.

In Saskatchewan, there is a Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Program available in hospitals that regularly deliver babies - with Moosomin on that list. The screening itself is painless, safe, simple and quick, but only available to babies born in hospitals.

As with all service clubs, the Elks are always looking for new members to join their fold and continue doing good work in the community. If you would like to become a member, contact Ron Potter at (306) 434-7762.