“Confused, uncertain, unsure of exactly what this meant for his future…”
These are just a few of the emotions Lori Lang felt upon learning the news that her son Sam had moderate-severe bilateral hearing loss. But once the initial shock subsided, she mustered her resolve and looked ahead, determined to not let the boy’s diagnosis limit his future.
While researching education options, Lori came across an OVV ad in the pages of an AG Bell publication.
“I dismissed it because I assumed we couldn’t afford it,” Lori admits. “But that was before we knew about the grants and scholarships.” Then Andrea Jeffers, a family friend and OVV parent, told the Langs more about the program, and they decided to schedule a tour. Lori recounts that initial visit in vivid detail:
“When we toured OVV, [OVV Executive Director] Maria Sentelik asked, ‘What are your goals for Sam?’ and we told her, ‘To not have his future options limited by his hearing loss.’ And then Maria said, ‘We need him here right now. I want him here, and we can help make that happen.’ Maria was so passionate and so certain that OVV could change his future, and she was right.”
Sam attended OVV from 2008 to 2011. During that time, he formed lasting bonds, took part in lots of fun activities, and of course learned to listen and speak.
“His favorite teachers were Miss Meredith and Miss Nicole, and his favorite activities were those related to food but especially dessert and ice cream.” Lori says. Sam adds, “I also liked the play we did with the Dr. Seuss theme and whenever Ms. Maria tried to help me take a nap with a head or face massage.”
Sam wasn’t the only one who benefited from OVV’s extensive array of services. To this day, Lori and her husband Tyler are enormously grateful for the support they received as parents.
“We appreciated the parent meetings, being introduced to Moog literature, and being encouraged to plan for what was next,” Lori says. “The staff prepared us to be better advocates for Sam. We were also reminded to enjoy Sam and not spend every minute worrying about hearing loss and his future.”
Upon graduating from OVV, Sam mainstreamed into Crossroads Elementary and then St. Joseph School. Currently a freshman at Highlands High School, his favorite subjects are geography and geometry.
When he’s not in class, Sam pursues a wide range of hobbies including playing soccer, riding his mountain bike, and learning how to fly planes on his flight simulator computer program. He’s also infamous for cracking “dad jokes” to the amusement of his sister, Caroline, and three brothers, Jackson, Ethan, and Max.
Now that Sam has entered high school, the Langs can better appreciate the profound, almost miraculous, impact OVV has had on their family. According to Lori, the program has opened up a world of possibility for Sam, ensuring that no aspiration of his remains out of reach.
“You don’t expect to rely on total strangers to improve your child’s future astronomically,” she reflects. “Yet OVV created and supported a path for Sam that would not have been possible otherwise. They reminded us to never settle and always have the highest expectations for Sam. They have built such an amazing foundation and broadened his future in ways no one else could.”
For his part, Sam is grateful for the joy and sense of community he found at OVV. “OVV was my first school, my first teachers, my first friendships,” he says. “It was a fun place to be, and I loved every day.”