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November 20, 2004

Company that makes devices for the deaf subsidizes athletes

From: Salt Lake Tribune - Salt Lake City,UT,USA - Nov 20, 2004

Deaflympics: Gifts boost hopes of young people who want to compete in Melbourne, Australia

By Mike Gorrell
The Salt Lake Tribune

For soccer player Nicole Banks-Gough, the prospect of representing the United States in January's Deaflympics in Melbourne, Australia, improved this week.

Banks-Gough learned she will receive a $500 donation from Sorenson Media, a Taylorsville-based company whose business largely involves providing telecommunications equipment for the deaf. Sorenson Media will give similar subsidies to 14 other deaf athletes, including four more from Utah, and donate $6,000 to the USA Deaf Sports Federation and $1,000 to USA Deaf Basketball.

"This is something really good to do," said Dave Johnson, the company's vice president of sales. He knows a thing or two about the difficulty of fund-raising from his days as a leader of the bid and organizing committees for the Salt Lake City Olympics.

"This event doesn't attract the kind of corporate sponsors the Olympics attracts. These athletes really do have specific needs. Some are in school or don't have the employment opportunities that hearing people would have," he added. "I hope that, with heightened awareness from our allocation, more companies . . . will help ensure [the United States] can have complete teams."

Each member of the U.S. squad must raise about $4,500 to attend the 20th Summer Deaflympics, which run Jan. 5-16 in Melbourne and are expected to involve 3,000 athletes from 80 countries (the competition originated in 1924 in Paris as the International Silent Games).

The 16th Winter Deaflympics will take place in Park City in 2007.

A $4,500 expense is beyond the means of Banks-Gough, 26, of West Jordan, a teacher's aide at Upland Terrace Elementary School in Granite School District.

"Raising the money has been very difficult," she said in a telephone interview that employed Sorenson Media's videophone and an interpreter who could translate verbal communications into sign language and vice versa. "We've been trying to get the word out to company sponsors, friends and family. This definitely will help immensely."

Added Andrea Anderson, 27, a basketball player from Saratoga Springs who also got $500: "Since high school I wanted to be on the Deaflympic team. With Sorenson's aid, it will help me achieve my goal."

A former player on the Utah State University club team and later the intercollegiate team at Gallaudet University, a Washington, D.C. school largely for the hearing impaired, Anderson will be joined on the U.S. Deaflympic women's hoop team by Shari Kelsch of Salt Lake City.

Two other Utahns receiving donations from Sorenson Media are beach volleyball players Tamijo Foronda and Sarah Parker, both of Saratoga Springs.

Banks-Gough, who lost her hearing to spinal meningitis when she was 18 months old, never felt handicapped in playing soccer since childhood on teams in which everyone else could hear. "I'm so visual, that has compensated," she said.

While she has always treasured the idea of playing soccer in the Deaflympics, she knows the trip to Australia will have broader meaning for her life. "When I went to Europe before for an international soccer tournament, I got to network with people from different countries, try to communicate."

And when Banks-Gough returns, she intends to complete her bachelor's degree and to go into education - "a deaf teacher in a deaf classroom," she said, adding, "and I also want to be a soccer coach."

© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.