A Chester mum and her six-year-old son are stepping up their support for the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People charity.

Both Gemma Bean and son Ethan, who live in Handbridge, have hearing loss and are determined to raise as much money as possible for a cause which they hold dear.

Both of them are currently just over halfway through their 28 Challenge for Hearing Dogs, which sees both of them walk a mile each day throughout February.

The charity’s work is especially important for Gemma, who is hoping to obtain a hearing dog which she says would be life-changing. However, due to the current Covid situation, she has yet to get on the waiting list, which she explained made it all the more crucial to support the charity, which trains dogs to alert deaf children and adults to important and life-saving sounds and help deaf people to leave loneliness behind.

Writing on the fundraising page, Gemma, 36, explained: “From an early age there were signs I was hard of hearing but I would never except it. School was hard; I missed many things the teachers said as I couldn’t hear them, but I was cool – I wanted to sit at the back of the class with my friends!

“Next was getting a job, I went for something I love most – ‘numbers’ and ‘problem solving’. I went into accountants and also completed an NVQ in business administration.

“Things were hard and I took on double the pressure as I was embarrassed to tell people I couldn’t hear. I can lip read so I got around a lot of things that way, but I stuck at it, not giving up and now being with the same employer nearly 20 years.”

Gemma’s employer was not aware she had hearing loss until recently, but bosses have been very supportive of her efforts.

Gemma Bean.

Gemma explained the struggles she faced: “Missing the office gossip and the jokes were tough making me feel isolated and looked at as being rude or non-friendly for not joining in the conversation, missing office parties and nights out as I would worry I would not hear people in certain environments.

“This was the time in my early 20s I asked the doctors for help. I was sent for hearing tests and the worst day in my life came I was given a pair of NHS hearing aids. They were big and brown and I felt awful.

“My confidence went that day I felt like an outsider, and I started to act like one to by shutting myself away. Cancelling going out with friends and not making an effort to make new friends. I was like this for years but just got on with it.

“Then the day came when I got a loan to get some private hearing aids. Yes, while everyone was getting loans for nice cars, houses and holidays, I was getting them for hearing aids.

“I was always broke and no-one knew why as I didn’t want people to know I had hearing aids. But after getting the new digital hearing aids I found them brilliant!

“The first day in the office with them I jumped out my skin as I thought a plane was going to hit the building until my colleague told me it was the printer! I started to hear things I had never heard before in my life and my confidence was slowly coming back, but hearing aids are like phones; the technology always gets better over the years. So more loans and new hearing aids.

“By this point I was a single parent. This is when the anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks! I was caring for someone else, what if I couldn’t hear him when he needed me?

Gemma Bean with son Ethan.

“I have a video baby monitor and started wearing my hearing aids to bed too. The constant anxiety and fear never goes away and I never can switch off.

“Now I am looking into the future in which my next wish will be being able to get a hearing dog to transform my life forever. Reading the stories of people when the have received one are amazing and I am counting the days until I too can write a review on the Hearing Dogs for Deaf people website saying how my life has changed forever.

“Due to the current Covid situation I haven’t even being able to get on the waiting list yet and I’m sure this list will be very long as many others like myself want to change their lives for the better. This is why Hearing Dogs for Deaf people need all the support they can get towards dogs, training etc for people like me!

“I have decided to help by doing the 28 day challenge, which myself and my six-year-old son will be walking one mile a day for 28 days. I would be most grateful for your support by sponsoring me!

“I don’t want you to feel sorry for me or act different with me, it’s still me I am normal! Just remember for me next time someone says pardon, don’t roll yours eyes as getting that look is the worst feeling ever and makes people shut themselves away. Also, wearing masks for the Covid situation: Remember some people count on lip reading which this makes it impossible!”

Gemma Bean with her son Ethan.

Gemma and Grosvenor Park Academy pupil Ethan had set a fundraising target of £1,000 for their 28 Challenge, but have already broken through that.

Reacting to the achievement, Gemma said: “I am totally overwhelmed I have passed my target of £1,000! I am very proud of myself for finally speaking out about my hearing loss and wish that many others follow me.”

The 28 Challenge is a fantastic way for people of all ages to help change deaf people’s lives during lockdown. Entrants simply sign up, decide what activity they would like to do, linked to the number 28, and get started. Other people are baking 28 cakes, doing 28 dog obedience tricks, doing 28 burpees a day and even walking 280 miles. You can start your 28 Challenge at any time during February so it is not too late to get involved.

There is no entry fee but participants are encouraged to set up an online fundraising page for donations and sponsorship or make a donation of £28. All entrants will receive a virtual medal and certificate – those raising £50, £100 or £200 will receive a free gift as a thank you.

It costs around £40,000 to fully train and support a hearing dog for the duration of its life and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People relies on the support of donations so every person taking part in The 28 Challenge will be helping to transform the lives of deaf people.

  • To donate to Gemma and Ethan’s 28 Challenge, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gemma-bean1 .
  • Hearing Dogs for Deaf People has a volunteer fundraising branch based in Chester, which would normally be busy planning events throughout the county at this time of year. Anyone interested in learning more about the charity or the volunteer branch can email gaynor.cavanagh@hearingdogs.org.uk

Story from the Chester Standard

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On your marks, get set, bake!

Children have been getting creative for the first ever Great Grosvenor Park Academy Bake Off.

There was no tent, but children baked their hearts out from home to wow judges ‘Paul’ and ‘Pru’, otherwise known as Head of School Richard Clark and teaching assistant Laura Conde, who leads nurture and wellbeing.

Sister and brother Carmen (Year 4) and Luis (Year 2) emerged as winners amid a field of more than 50 entries, as their ‘Hope for 2021’ lemon cake proved a big hit.

Mrs Conde said: “The response we had was great. Families provided such amazing photos and beautiful descriptions of their baked goods, and there were lots of smiles from the children which was so lovely to see!

“We were testing the bakers’ personality, creative flair and baking ability, but the main challenge was to produce something cute, rustic and with a homemade look.

“As a school we are working hard to promote the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of our children and families during this challenging time.

“The Bake Off was something families and their children could take part in together, and hopefully provided them with the opportunity to enjoy lots of quality time and fun together.”

Describing their creation, the winning duo explained: “There’s a Coronavirus and a vaccine to symbolise that we hope to beat Coronavirus in 2021.

“There are some endangered species like black rhinos, penguins and bees because we hope that we can help stop the climate change and save endangered species in 2021.

“There’s also both of us on the cake, and the school and school badge because we hope we can go back to school soon. There’s a heart and a smiley face because we hope 2021 will be a happy year.”

Grosvenor is part of the North West Academies Trust, which runs schools across Cheshire and Shropshire, including Delamere Academy near Northwich, St Martin’s Academy, Hoole, and Acresfield Primary School, Upton, which are all rated outstanding.

To view a virtual open day, visit the school’s website:  https://grosvenorparkacademy.org.uk/admissions/

Children at St Martin’s Academy are trekking to Tokyo as part of a virtual challenge designed to keep them fit and motivated.

PE teacher Shona Valentine set children the substantial task of collectively running, walking or cycling the 9490.3km from Chester to Tokyo.

The active pupils log the distances they contribute on an online form, and the miles are quickly totting up!

Miss Valentine said: “I set up the challenge to encourage families to keep moving during lockdown. Particularly with the half term coming up, I hope having something to work towards will inspire children to get involved with the team effort.

“I worked out how far we would need to travel to Tokyo, and created an online for children to easily log how far they have travelled. Each time they enter a distance it takes it off our running total.

“Staff are also able to contribute as well, so it keeps us all moving too!

“Although the children are still doing online PE lessons, I feel the cardiovascular benefits of getting out in the fresh air and going for a walk, run or cycle are by far superior to anything we can do over Zoom calls.”

St Martin’s Academy, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, is a primary school situated in Hoole, Chester. It is one of eight schools run by North West Academies Trust (NWAT) and is the most over-subscribed school in Cheshire West.

For more information about St Martin’s Academy email: admin@stmartinsacademychester.co.uk or tel: 01244 566 166.