JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Bentley Woodard has an infectious smile and personality to match. At two-and-a-half-years-old, you'd be hard pressed to know that her world was once silent. But, just below a pair of brightly colored bows, you can just catch a glimpse of her cochlear implants. The devices have changed her world.
"As a parent of a child who was born with hearing loss, we met with several audiologists, therapists, and wonderful physicians," Lindsey Woodard, Bentley's mother, said. "But until I had a conversation with a parent of a child with hearing loss, I never felt like anyone truly understood emotionally what we were dealing with."
Woodard is instrumental in getting a support group called, "Arkansas Hands and Voices," started in Region 8. The group operates in other parts of Arkansas.
"That's why I decided to try to become a part of this organization was to get that parent-to-parent help, support and resources that are out there," Woodard said.
Hands and Voices is a nationwide support group, dedicated to supporting families and their children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Woodard has worked to organize the first Arkansas Hands and Voices event in Region on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 10:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. inside the Speech and Hearing Clinic at the Reynolds Building on the Arkansas State University campus.
"Winter Wonderland" features activities and crafts from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. There will be pictures with Anna and Elsa from Disney's "Frozen." Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. During that time, a special presentation will be made to honor Kim and Chris Fowler, generous benefactors to the Hands and Voices group in Northeast Arkansas.
"Chris actually wears a cochlear implant and he felt that connection," Woodard said. "We are so grateful for that."
Storybook time with Anna and Elsa will follow from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.and more crafts will follow from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Participants must RSVP by January 24 to info@ARhandsandvoices.org or text/call 501-932-7700.
ASL interpreters will be provided throughout the event. Spanish interpreters are available upon request. The event is free to deaf and hard of hearing children of all ages and their families.
Woodard is hoping parents with hearing impaired children will have a chance to become familiar with Arkansas Hands and Voices during "Winter Wonderland."
"I always felt like these parents, they know the crazy worries that I have had," Woodard said. "They know the things that scare me. And just having that connection I feel is so key and that's why I'm excited about this event. I feel that we can network. We can meet other parents."
Woodard points to her daughter, Bentley, who attends the Memphis Oral School.
"She can meet other kids and find out what they're going through exactly like she is," Woodard said.
Bentley beams back at her mother. Bentley smiles and her mom hugs her tight.
Bentley's grandparents are Randy and Cindy Woodard, Ronny and Barbara Brown, and Jeff and Miriam Moore.
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