July 30, 2007

Winsted boy throws first pitch at Twins' game

Lucas Morang was chosen as the 2007 poster child for the Starkey Hearing Foundation

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Any true Minnesota Twins’ fan would understand some of the emotions that Lucas Morang, an 8-year-old Winsted boy, was feeling as he stood out on the Metrodome pitcher’s mound waiting to throw the first pitch at the June 12 Twins’ game.

When his parents, Joseph and Donna Morang, first told him that he was to be part of the opening Twins’ ceremony, he headed across the street from his home to Barrett Park and began practicing his pitching for the big night.

His father later joined him, and for three days, the two of them practiced getting ready for his pitching debut.

Their efforts were not in vain. Lucas’ pitch made it to home plate and into the glove of the Twins’ mascot, TC.

“It was an absolutely fun night. Lucas kept saying, ‘Mom, I am so happy,’” Donna said

Lucas was part of a group of about 1,500 children who were able to attend the Twins’ game that evening, compliments of the Lift Up America (LUA) National Foundation.

Making up the LUA group attending the Twins’ game were different charitable organizations, including the Starkey Hearing Foundation, who that same day in Eden Prairie fitted 100 hearing aids to children whose families were not able to afford them on their own.

LUA asked the Starkey Foundation to choose someone to throw out the first pitch and it chose Lucas.

Starkey Hearing Foundation selected Lucas because of his generous heart. He has been determined to raise funds so other children with hearing problems would be able to get the help they need.

“He always wants to help people,” Donna said.

Donna told how she and Lucas have raised money through different fundraisers for the Starkey Foundation.

For one of those fundraisers, Lucas wanted to set up a lemonade stand in March. Donna suggested they plan a garage sale instead.

“We did not make a lot of money, but we took the money down and gave it to Bill Austin, the founder and CEO of Starkey Foundation, and his wife, Tani.

“They were so good and made such a big deal about the money Lucas gave them,” Donna said.

In addition to asking Lucas to throw the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins’ game, the Starkey Foundation asked Lucas to be its poster child for its “So the World May Hear” awards gala at the River Centre in St. Paul June 23.

As the poster child, Lucas represented all of the kids in the world that the foundation has helped. Since the year 2000, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided 212,000 hearing aids all over the world including Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, South America, and the United States.

Lucas began using a hearing aid when he was 4 years old.

His parents had been concerned about Lucas’ hearing since he was 1 year old, but Donna was not able to convince doctors Lucas had a hearing problem for two more years because he was able to speak normally.

“His speech was very clear and he was able to say the “s” sound. You hear “s” sounds at a higher frequency, and with normal hearing loss, you lose high frequency first,” Donna said.

It was during his preschool screening, when he was 3, that he failed the hearing test given to him, and Donna was told she needed to take him to an audiologist.

After numerous doctor appointments and hearing tests, Lucas was given an auditory brain stem response test January 2003. The patient is given what amounts to a sleeping pill that wears off within 15 to 20 minutes, Donna explained.

“They hook up monitoring electrodes in the back of the head to monitor the response of the auditory nerve from a sound source in the ear,” Donna said.

Through the test they were able to learn Lucas was not able to hear at all in his left ear. His right ear had some hearing loss, too.

The Morangs later discovered that Lucas’ loss of hearing was genetic. Lucas was born with perfect hearing, but when he was about 18 months old, he started to lose it.

The genetic hearing loss only affects boys from birth to about 2 years of age. During that time it is possible for them to lose some or a lot of their hearing, according to Donna.

Lucas’ dad also suffered from the same kind of hearing loss. Joseph had hearing loss from the time he was very young and never was aware of how it began.

Not all boys are affected. For example, Lucas’ younger brother, Duncan, who is 5, is not.

“With the Destiny hearing aid, Lucas hears pretty much like the rest of us in his right ear,” Donna said.

When Lucas is at school, he has other equipment he uses that improves his hearing in that environment.

“When I am at school, they have a different kind of receiver than mine. It has a little antenna that sticks out and my teacher talks into a microphone and I hear better that way,“ Lucas said.

Once Lucas was fitted with a hearing aid and his father saw what a difference it made, he was fitted for one, too.

Within the last year, Lucas was able to get an even better hearing aid – one that allows him to have close to normal hearing.

According to Donna, Lucas is such a good salesman, he sold his dad on what is called the Destiny hearing aid, and even his grandma, Marietta Neumann of Winsted, went out and bought one on his recommendation.

It has been a very busy summer for Lucas. He plays Little League ball for Winsted’s 7-to-8-year-olds and is taking swimming lessons.

He is proud to talk about one of his best summer accomplishments – making it to the top of a very tall tree at a special camp for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

He had attempted to climb the tree before, but had only made it half-way. At the top of the tree there is a bell which he was able to ring, letting others there know he had made it by himself.

He is looking forward to attending third grade this fall at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, with its new addition.

His favorite subject is math, and he likes to read.

Even though Lucas is busy, he has managed to squeeze in a new interest this summer. He has started watching the Minnesota Twins’ ball games.

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