WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Wichita fifth grader with hearing disabilities is getting a back-to-school gift that she’s been dreaming of for months thanks to the help of generous strangers and a Sedgwick County deputy.
Ten-year-old Julie Hopwood wears a hearing aid every day and has for many years.
But, her purple and turquoise device is on its last leg. Julie said the volume is extremely low, and it feels like someone is constantly turning her hearing aid down.
Julie sits at the front of her classroom so that she can hear what her teacher is saying. Also sitting is two silent reminders on her desk to help her remember to pair her hearing devices when she comes in the classroom each morning.
“As a parent, you’re wanting to make sure that your child is successful in the classroom and also social pressures,” said Jessica Hopwood, mother.
Those pressures have been something Julie has conquered her entire life.
Julie was born with Eustachian Tube Dysfunction that lead to many ear infections and eventually surgeries and hearing loss.
The hearing aid Julie wears today is four years old.
“It’s really like a cool robot you put in your ear,” said Julie.
One way she is able to hear her teacher in class is with an FM technology. She pairs her hearing aid with the FM device and her teacher wears it during the day, passing it to other students as they speak and answer questions in class.
“Before I had the FM, it would be really hard to hear the instructions that were told because sometimes I couldn’t hear them,” said Julie.
But, the device is only rented through the school and can’t be taken home for Julie, another struggle.
So, her family took to social media hoping they could find help for getting a new hearing aid because insurance does not cover the cost of hearing aid devices.
“A hearing aid has been a huge help for her,” said Jessica. “I can tell you before we had one, she would constantly said, ‘hey, what did you say?’ She would repeat back things incorrectly.”
Sedgwick County Deputy Garry Tate jumped in to help. He called everyone he knew to join in on the effort and even planned a self defense fundraiser in honor of Julie. The deputy is a sixth degree black belt in Karate, trains other law enforcement officers and is a D.A.R.E. teacher.
Because of Deputy Tate’s help and the generosity of others, the money needed for a new hearing aid was donated in just a few hours.
Tate said his brother has hearing disabilities so he understands the struggles Julie faces every day.
“If a child isn’t able to listen or focus or be able to put themselves wholeheartedly, it can be a distraction,” said Tate. “I want to say it’s shocking, but it’s not. I know everybody that donated. I know the hearts that they have.”
A heart-warming back-to-school surprise for everyone.
But, an even bigger surprise came after all the money was raised; people kept giving.
Julie and her family said they have now teamed up with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at Ascension Via Christi and the extra funds raised through social media and the fundraiser will benefit the hearing aid program for kids just like Julie.
“I didn’t know that this would happen so quick,” said Julie. “I’m really happy. I don’t deserve this.”
But, Deputy Tate, the Hopwood Family and countless others know that Julie is more than deserving.
Deputy Tate said he wishes that Julie receives everything she needs to excel inside and outside of the classroom.
Other extra money raised will go toward purchasing an FM technology for Julie to use to participate in sports and camps, as well as pay off medical bills from past surgeries.
The self defense class taught by Deputy Garry Tate will be on Saturday (Sept. 21) from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Circle Greenwich Elementary School.
Julie said she plans to choose a glittery rainbow ear molding with a purple device for her new hearing aid. She is expected to receive the new device in a few weeks.