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Todd Churchill postpones backyard rink project to lobby for better education for deaf and hard of hearing children

Kimberly Churchill with her sons Carter (centre) and Hunter.
Kimberly Churchill with her sons Carter (centre) and Hunter.

Athletics and education generally go hand in hand.

Students attending schools around the world participate in sports both in and out of their school settings.

Those students generally gain support from their family and friends, an all-inclusive support that helps them be stronger.

But sometimes those two have to be separated.

Such is the case for the Churchill family, who announced in recent days they are postponing operation of the Reason for the Rink project this winter as they advocate for better education for their son and others like him across the province.

“My son, Carter, was born profoundly deaf and also was diagnosed with cerebral palsy,” Todd Churchill said Monday.

“He started school last year. As we got into the school year we found he wasn’t getting the support he needed. What we found was that deaf children are not supported well in the school system. It is tough for them, considering they only get 1 ½ hours of instruction from a teacher every seven days (in American sign language). That is just not acceptable for us.”

Churchill considers Carter’s year in kindergarten a write-off, and even though he says Grade 1 has been better, with an increase in his hours of proper instruction, there is still a long way to go to improve the situation for everyone.

Churchill says he has no issues with the in-classroom teachers. He said Carter’s teacher is a very good teacher, but doesn’t have American sign language (ASL). He says this is not the right fit for Carter.

“These teachers are being put in an impossible situation, a situation they can’t fulfil,” he said.

“It’s not just his school, but in all schools for all deaf and hard of hearing children,” he added.

To carry out the rink project and fight for his son’s rights as a student, there were just not enough hours in the day, so Churchill made the decision to focus on equity rights for deaf and hard of hearing students.

He hopes that once he gets Carter’s education situation back on track, he can return to the rink and in turn get back to raising funds for the four programs he believes in, as they help his child and so many others.

 

Human rights complaint

After a year of leaning on the school and the Eastern School District and not getting the results he felt were in Carter’s best interest, Churchill filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

“Education is a right for us as Canadians and the irony of it is we lobby other countries for those rights, but we can’t get education here” he said.

“This past July, (the) Human Rights (Commission) asked us to put forth a proposal, and one of the things we hoped to accomplish from this is to get a full-time teacher to handle Carter’s curriculum,” he said.

There are more than 300 students in Newfoundland and Labrador who are deaf or hard of hearing who could benefit from the changes Churchill is seeking.

In an effort to reach all of those families, and exact a change, he has started a province-wide petition that he said Lorraine Michael would present in the House of Assembly.
In addition, he started a Facebook page called Equity for Education of the Deaf in Newfoundland and Labrador that allows the families to pool their resources and speak as a group.

“We are hoping to get more traction from this to gain support for our cause.”



Carter’s story

The Churchills — Kimberly, sons Hunter and Carter, and Todd — live in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s.

Carter was born on Feb. 8, 2011 and spent four weeks in the NICU at the Janeway due to numerous complications at birth.

He eventually overcame the complications he was diagnosed with and was released from the Janeway.

In May 2011, he was diagnosed as deaf. To combat this issue, he was given cochlear implants in December 2011.

He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in January 2012.

To support Carter, the Churchills have become active in various fundraising efforts by local charities and non-profit organizations they are associated with.

Their Reason for the Rink project, which saw the Churchills build an impressive rink in their backyard, was completed in support of organizations such as Easter Seals NL, the Mazol Shriners, Therapeutic Riding Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. and the Cerebral Palsy Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The 95’ x 46’ outdoor ice hockey rink in their backyard is about 50 per cent of the size of an NHL rink, complete with boards, ads, lines, nets, lighting, in-ice logos and other features.

The Churchills support a variety of charities and even painted the logos of those on the ice surface. In addition, they engaged companies and organizations to fund board ads to promote themselves and encourage additional donations to the charities.

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