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May 16, 2005

"Survivor: Palau" Winner Tom Westman Credits Daughter as Hero

From: Alexander Graham Bel - May 16, 2005

For Immediate Release

Jessica Ripper
Senior Director of Marketing and Communications
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing
Phone: (202) 337-5220 ext. 123 Fax: (202) 337-8314
Email: Website:

Survivor: Palau Winner Tom Westman Credits Daughter as Hero

Daughter's Hearing Loss Made Him Resourceful

Washington, DC, May 16, 2005 – Tom Westman, a New York City firefighter and father of a child who is deaf, finally triumphed over the last of his 20 competitors to win $1 million on "Survivor: Palau" last night. An audience favorite, Westman demonstrated resourcefulness and stamina to outwit, outplay and outlast his final three opponents. He credits his success on the show to lessons he learned from his experience with his daughter, Meghan, who lost her hearing to meningitis at 18 months old.

When Westman and his wife, Bernadette, found out that their daughter was deaf, they turned to the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) because they knew they wanted her to have the same opportunities as other children. The Westmans enrolled Meghan in the local early intervention program, which offered speech therapy to help her learn to listen and talk. When Meghan was two, she received a cochlear implant. Now eight years old, Meghan is thriving in a third-grade classroom full of hearing children.

"As the father of a child who is deaf, nothing is too hard," said Westman. "When Meghan lost her hearing, we turned to support networks like the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to help us through. I took the same approach on Survivor. Meghan taught me that you need to be tough and resourceful."

Ninety-two percent of children with hearing loss have parents who are hearing. Statistics show that approximately 70 percent of parents who are given all their options choose spoken language programs for their children who are deaf or hard of hearing. To help educate parents about their options, AG Bell offers a free six-month parent membership and a Parent Information and Advocacy Training Program that prepares parents to work with their local school system on securing appropriate educational placements and support for their children.

"AG Bell's goal is to connect every parent whose child is deaf or hard of hearing to professionals and other parents who understand their questions and concerns," said K. Todd Houston, Ph.D., Executive Director/CEO of AG Bell. "With today's technology and early intervention programs, families can help their children develop language skills comparable to their hearing peers."

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) is a lifelong resource, support network, and advocate for listening, learning, talking, and living independently


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with hearing loss. Through publications, outreach, training, scholarships, and financial aid, AG Bell promotes the use of spoken language and hearing technology.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, with chapters located in the United States and Canada and a network of international affiliates, AG Bell's global presence provides its members and the public with the support they need—close to home.  With over a century of service, AG Bell supports its mission: Advocating Independence through Listening and Talking!   For more information, contact AG Bell at (202) 337- 5220 or visit the AG Bell website at