Matt Peffly has been a part of the Ohio Valley Voices family for nearly twenty years. As the parent of an OVV alumni, he understands firsthand the profound impact its services have on children and families. And as an OVV volunteer, committee member, and former board member, he shares his passion for the program to anyone who will listen.
The Pefflys first learned of Ohio Valley Voices in 2003 upon discovering that their daughter Jasmine had hearing loss, a startling revelation that left Matt and his wife Sandra reeling and looking for answers. Matt admits that he knew nothing about cochlear implants at the time nor was he aware of OVV.
Jasmine entered Ohio Valley Voices that same year and immediately took to the program. For Jasmine, OVV offered not only a rigorous education program but also a welcoming space in which to have fun, build character, and form lasting bonds.
“Jazzie started in 2003 as an eighteen-month-old and left after kindergarten in 2008,” Matt says. “She loved attending OVV. She didn’t realize it at the time, but she learned so much, which was all done through play. It was intense, yes, but it never felt like work. It was always fun. Plus, she met her best friend Sophie there. They remain close to this day.”
Looking back, Matt and Sandra are especially grateful for the Parent Group that helped guide them through all the unexpected challenges of raising a child with hearing loss.
“OVV’s Parent Group was a great support system,” he reflects. “It allowed us parents to be at the school often and see the progress up close. Having a designated place for parents to gather before and after school was nice, too, since we were able to discuss our fears, concerns, and successes with each other.”
Matt’s favorite OVV memory is when Jazzie spoke at the Annual Gala fundraiser. The event marked an unforgettable milestone on her journey from silence to speech. “She spoke so confidently and eloquently, and I loved seeing the impact it had on the crowd as people came up to talk to her afterwards,” Matt reminisces.
Since Jasmine’s graduation, Matt and Sandra have continued to support OVV through volunteer work and financial contributions. “Because OVV changes the lives of kids like Jazzie, we wanted to be involved to make sure every child gets that chance,” Matt says. “Both Sandra and I have volunteered at numerous OVV functions. After Jazzie transitioned to first grade at Milford School District, I joined the board of trustees.”
More recently, Matt has volunteered as OVV’s maintenance man, a position that allows him to make use of his handiness while tangibly contributing to the day-to-day operations of the program. He spends his free time reading, hiking, walking his dog, and staying in touch with his five children who are scattered across the globe—Cera, Alex, Laura, Tahlia, and of course Jazzie, who is currently an undergrad at Kings College London.
With fatherly pride, Matt describes Jasmine’s myriad successes before and during her time overseas: “Kings College London is what we would call an Ivy League school here in America. As a member of the Junior board of the London Wildlife Foundation, Jasmine gives talks to members of English Parliament. This is just the latest example of the public speaking she has done. For several years, she has done public speaking on behalf of OVV to local Rotary Club chapters, prospective students, and their parents. She is also a peer counselor, where she helps other students that are having problems at university.”
Matt is quick to underscore OVV’s role in giving Jasmine the communication skills necessary to connect with others and attain educational and professional success:
“What everyone whose child goes through this can appreciate is not just the depth but also the vastness of the impact. If we had gone the sign language route, I am not sure how many people in our family would have invested the time to learn it. Now Jazzie is able to communicate with everyone. Her options for schooling would also have been much more limited. Unless she went to a signing school, the vast majority of the teacher and students would never have truly known Jazzie. But OVV opened a path that, with a lot of work on Jazzie’s part, enabled her to attend King’s College London.”
To Matt, it’s clear that Ohio Valley Voices does more than improve the lives of children with hearing loss. By giving children the gift of speech, it produces a ripple effect that transforms whole communities. Without OVV, he muses, “so many people would never have known Jazzie and been changed as a result. So, while some people see a single child going to OVV, I see thousands of lives impacted.”