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Ten days and 500 miles
Sept. 3, 2012
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Kingston Lion rides a lawn mower from Canada to Iowa to raise funds to help children with hearing loss

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

Kingston Lion Bob Harms recently returned from a nearly 500-mile ride on a lawn mower – all in an effort to prevent hearing loss among children.

For someone who has had hearing problems since infancy, Harms wanted to find something unusual to do that would raise funds for the Lions Children Hearing Center of Minnesota.

After some brainstorming, the Steering For Better Hearing so Little Ears Can Hear fundraiser was born and Harms was off on a 10-day journey though Minnesota from the Canada border to the Iowa border.

For his journey, Toro donated a lawn mower complete with a canopy that they even “souped-up” for him so he could travel between 6 and 7 miles per hour.

Harms left Aug. 20 from the Canadian border in Roseau and endured rain, chasing dogs, and road spray from semis.

But through it all, Harms kept 2-year-old Maren in mind – a toddler who, through the Lions Children’s Hearing Center, was diagnosed and treated for hearing loss. Maren had gone undiagnosed until she was 21 months old and has become the face behind Steering for Better Hearing.

Harms first met Maren at the D-Feet Hearing Loss fundraiser in June at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Her parents were so grateful for receiving such personalized care for Maren that they offered Harms Maren’s picture and story for the fundraiser.

Harms was able to see her for a second time at a celebratory ceremony at the Toro plant in Windom Tuesday.

As a Lions Hearing Foundation board member, Harms is working to reach a goal of raising $50,000 for Lions Children’s Hearing and ENT Clinic with the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The clinic specializes in diagnosing and treating pediatric ear, nose, and throat conditions.

Lion Marlene Martinek is a volunteer working as an executive secretary for the Lions Hearing Foundation, and explained just how critical it is to detect hearing loss as soon as possible in infants.

If babies are treated by 6 months of age for hearing loss, they will progress at the same rate as their normal-hearing peers, Martinek explained.

After lobbyists urged lawmakers in the 1990s to require neonatal hearing tests, it is now mandatory that all infants born in the state be tested for hearing at birth.

For Harms, his hearing loss wasn’t as serious growing up. In fact, it wasn’t until three years ago when he noticed hearing loss was affecting his job as Kingston city clerk. Harms transcribes city council meeting minutes.

With almost complete hearing loss, Harms received a bone-anchored hearing aid (also called a BAHA) two years ago that has changed his life.

The titanium screws in his skull pick up sound waves and transmit them in the form of a vibration, Harms explained. He described it as being like a tuning fork.

Without it, “I wouldn’t be working now,” he said.

At age 66, Harms loves his job and hopes to do it as long as he can, he said.

Despite a little rain along the way, “it’s been a fun ride,” Harms said, who arrived at the Iowa border Wednesday at 12:13 p.m.

A memorable moment on the ride for Harms was when he and his crew (he also had an RV and trailer that followed him on his journey) arrived at the Minnesota/Canadian border one hour before it opened. Someone had reported them for suspicious activity at the border.

When the border patrol arrived and was informed of Harms’ adventure, the officer stayed to watch Harms begin his journey south.

Steering for Better Hearing so Little Ears Can Hear fundraiser

To support Bob Harms’ goal of raising $50,000 for the Lions Children’s Hearing Clinic, one can go online to http://www.5mhf.org/ and click on the link “Steering for Better Hearing.”

Checks can also be mailed to PDG Mike Vos, Lions Hearing Foundation Treasurer, 20472 371st Avenue, Green Isle, MN, 55338-2172. Earmark checks with “Mower Ride.”

Raffle tickets for a brand-new Toro lawn mower (MSRP $2,799) are also being sold through Harms and other District 5M members.

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