by CHRIS GILMORE

A Queensland-based not-for-profit organisation that supports children with hearing loss is urging people to help give the gift of sound by donning their wackiest shirt. 

Hear and Say’s 15th annual Loud Shirt Day will be held on Friday, October 22, to raise funds and awareness of the cause.

Buderim mum Kate Wilds, whose daughter Sophie was born with hearing loss in both ears, says the  organisation has been a tremendous support for her family.

“Hear and Say have been great for us,” she says. “It is not only a speech therapy centre but also a community. They have been there to listen and help whenever needed. The family playgroup is a great opportunity to spend time with families all in similar new normals. We’ve formed great new friendships as parents with other families that understand our day-to-day. It’s also beneficial for the kids to play with and see other children just like them.” 

Sophie’s hearing loss was detected during the newborn hearing screening test and at just two-and-a-half months she was fitted with purple and pink hearing aids. Now aged three, she is learning to hear and speak just like any other child her age.

“Sophie was born with a genetic condition called Treacher Collins syndrome,” says Kate, 36. “We were unaware of any medical issues during pregnancy so it was a huge shock when she was born. 

“In Sophie’s first year of life she had spent around six to seven months in and out of hospital. Long-term, she has a couple more surgeries coming up in the near future. She will always need hearing devices and will struggle when sick with a cold or respiratory illness. 

“As a family, we’ve had to adjust to our new normal of communicating. Sophie tells us now if she can’t hear us speaking and notices the difference between having her hearing aids in or out. 

“Sophie is thriving and has such a strong and determined personality – it won’t hold her back in the least.” 

Kate says Sophie’s older brother, five-year-old Connor, is also a big help. 

“Connor is a great big brother to Sophie and is very caring and loving,” she says. “He is also a big help in letting me know when her hearing aids aren’t in.” 

Kate and Sophie are among those helping promote Loud Shirt Day this year. Sophie’s fundraising campaign has already reached the first goal of $1000 thanks to the support of family and friends, and now they hope to raise another $1000 before October 22. 

“The daycare our children attend has jumped onboard and we’re running a week-long loud shirt event to help reach our fundraising target,” Kate says. “I’m really overwhelmed by the amazing response from our community and how people are supporting us and this event.”

Hear and Say acting CEO Bridget Murray is excited to be uniting the community for the cause. 

“We are thrilled to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Loud Shirt Day and are encouraging businesses and individuals in our community to go big and bright so Hear and Say can continue to provide our world-leading services now and into the future,” she says. “As a not-for-profit, we rely on the generosity of Queenslanders to help us ensure children with hearing loss are afforded access to our world-class hearing technology and spoken language therapy. 

“By ditching your daily wear for a loud shirt and raising funds, together we can can open worlds and profoundly impact the lives of those living with hearing loss in our community.” 

Kate says the support Sophie and her family have received has made a huge impact.

“We would like to recognise and thank our whole community for their support over the past three years,” she says. “It really does take a village to raise children.”

For more information or to register an event visit hearandsay.com.au/loudshirtday and check out #loudshirtday, @loudshirtday and @hearandsay on social media.