Annual fundraiser to raise money for children with speech and hearing disorders

When Jonathan Hysell was born early at 25 weeks, his mother, Connie, knew there would be challenges along the way. When he was three years old, she realized he wasn’t able to communicate or consume food and drink without some help.

Now, just a year later, four-year-old Jonathan has made amazing progress working with the speech therapists at the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center. His mother said she hopes to one day hear her son say the words, "I love you, mommy."

"When Jonathan was born, he was officially diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cerebral palsy and eventually, a receptive-expressive language disorder secondary to extreme prematurity. With these challenges, we really did not know what to expect with his development. Since coming to Marshall, his speech and language have skyrocketed," Connie Hysell said. "I love watching him learn in speech therapy, and then taking those strategies home and working to improve his vocalization. None of this would be possible without the financial support of the Scottish Rite Foundation."

Jonathan is one of many children who have been helped over the years through the Scottish Rite Childhood Speech and Language Program at Marshall University. Jonathan and four other children will be honored at the 12th annual Scottish Rite dinner Saturday evening. Since 2002, the Scottish Rite program has provided comprehensive services to children with communication disorders without regard to a family’s ability to pay.

Ken Bannon, president of the Huntington Scottish Rite Foundation, said the organization has raised over half of a million dollars since its existence and has given much of that to Marshall University.

"For 12 years, we’ve been hosting this fundraising dinner and other events to raise money for children with speech and language problems," Bannon said. "Every year, we hear more stories about how our fundraising efforts are helping these families and their children lead productive, communicative lives. We will continue to support Marshall and change lives for the better."

The 12th annual Scottish Rite Spring Dinner will be held at 6 p.m., Saturday, April 6, at the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall on the university’s Huntington campus. Master of ceremonies for the evening will be John Bowen, also known as "Big John," who serves as morning show host at 93.7 The Dawg. A silent auction and a live auction will take place with items including a 55-inch smart TV, a weeklong stay at Hilton Head Island and an autographed basketball signed by the entire Marshall University men’s basketball team.

All proceeds from the dinner will directly benefit the Scottish Rite Child Speech-Language Program through the Speech and Hearing Center, which serves as a training site for students in the Department of Communication Disorders at Marshall University. Tickets are still available and can be purchased through the Marshall University Department of Communication Disorders by calling 304-696-3640.


Photos: (Above) Jonathan Hysell, 4, was born at 25 weeks and later diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cerebral palsy, and eventually, a receptive-expressive language disorder secondary to extreme prematurity. For the past year, his family has benefited from the financial support provided through the Huntington Scottish Rite Foundation and the services he receives at the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center. (Below) Jonathan Hysell works with communication disorders graduate student Caroline Ecklels on speech and language skills during his twice weekly therapy sessions at the Marshall University Speech and Hearing Center.