A Kingsport-based nonprofit, Waiting to Hear was founded by Shannon Ball after his daughter, Sarah, lost her hearing when she was 2 ½ years old. The organization provides monetary support to ETSU’s Language Enrichment Summer Camp, free parent resource libraries at local speech and hearing centers and free pediatric hearing aids to children in need.
“We do several fundraisers throughout the year, but this one is by far our biggest event,” Ball said. “It’s kind of become our signature event over the years.”
What to expect
The event will be held Aug. 10 from 7-9 p.m. at Creation Kingdom Zoo, located at 1642 Snowflake Road in Gate City. Tickets are $15 for ages 2 and older and will be available at the door on the night of the event; admission is free for children younger than 2.
Because the zoo normally closes at 5 each day, Ball said the event gives guests a rare opportunity to see the zoo animals in the evening, when they are typically more active.
“The nocturnal ones are starting to wake up,” Ball said, “and it gives folks a special chance to kind of see them when they’re out and about. … They actually put lights throughout the zoo, so it’s a great way to see the animals.”
One of the hallmarks of the event is the large assembly of costumed characters. More than 25 superheroes, princesses and other popular characters will be stationed throughout the zoo to greet children and take photos with them, Ball said.
Another popular aspect of the event takes place at the end of the night, when a Disney princess character will lead the guests in a sing-along.
“Every year it’s usually a different Disney princess,” Ball said. “So 15 minutes before the end of the event, everyone gathers down at the picnic shelter at the entrance to the zoo, and one of the Disney princesses comes out and leads them in a sing-along of whichever song that princess typically does in the movie. The kids absolutely love that part, and some of the adults, too.”
Funds raised by the event will go toward a couple of Waiting to Hear’s programs, Ball said. The first is a new program called Camp H.E.A.R. (Hearing Empowerment and Adventure Retreat), which gives children with hearing problems a chance to enjoy a traditional summer camp experience with their families.
“We have a lot of speech therapists and audiologists that come, but the really neat thing about it is the entire family comes to camp for a weekend,” Ball said. “They get their own cabin … and while the kids are off doing things like horseback riding and archery and fishing, the parents get to attend some free seminars that we set up. They’re all optional seminars, but they talk about things like how to work with the school system or how to teach your child to be a self-advocate.”
Hear Me Roar will also support Waiting to Hear’s free hearing aid program, which provides a free set of hearing aids to children who are either uninsured or underinsured.
For more information, visit www.WaitingToHear.org.