Words and photo by Dave Barry
When five-year-old Lucas O’Keeffe was a toddler, the sound of the bells and organ at church made him scream.
Born with a moderate hearing loss, Lucas found it difficult to concentrate on anything, as background noise was much more obtrusive to him than to other children.
As soon as his hearing impairment was identified, his family were on the case.
He started wearing hearing aids and was eventually given a radio aid. Two tiny pieces of kit attached to his hearing aids enabled him to hear everything clearly.
His mum or teacher, for example, would wear a necklace-transmitter which sends everything they say into Lucas’s ears, clear as a bell.
“Before he got the radio aid, he used to stand right next to the TV, a few inches away”, says his nan, Irene Long. “But with the aid he could watch it the same way as everyone else”.
Pauline Hainsworth, a warden at Irene’s church, said: “It made a huge difference to his life and education. He was able to hear teachers in the classroom, the TV, traffic, etc. Without this aid, he cannot hear these things, which we all take for granted”.
However, the radio aid - an expensive bit of equipment - wasn’t given to Lucas; it was loaned for six months.
“Unfortunately, it had to be returned and was loaned to another child”, Pauline says.
A chance conversation between Pauline and Irene in the church turned things around.
The church is St Colomba in Dean Road, Scarborough, where Lucas’s parents were married and where Lucas and his brother Samuel were baptised. The church has a charity of the month and the congregation decided to try and buy a radio aid for Lucas.
“They cost £1,800, which is not a lot, in monetary terms, when it comes to improving a young boy’s life for the better”, as Pauline explains.
So far the church has raised £400 with events like a soup-and-sandwich lunch on Sunday 29 April.
But the fundraising ball really got rolling when Ourco got wind of it. The charity shop in Northway, which raises money for local causes, chipped in with £1,000.
Needless to say, Pauline was full of praise for Ourco. Her thank-you letter reads: “On behalf of Lucas, his lovely mum, his siblings and grandparents, Rev Jane Bell and everyone at St Columba Church, we would like to thank you all very, very much for the hugely generous cheque for £1,000 towards this appeal to make Lucas’s education and his life so much better.
“Thank-you is not really enough” Pauline wrote. “What you do to help Scarborough people is unreal and you all have hearts of gold. We are telling everyone to take their belongings to you if they are sending to a charity shop”.
A cheque was presented by Ourco trustee Andrew Baron to Lucas, his mum Caroline and Irene.
* Ourco has made similar donations to several other worthy causes recently. They include £1,000 to Scarborough Sash, £795 to Scarborough Haven, £1,000 to Woodlands Academy, £200 to 37th Scarborough Cubs and £500 to Gallows Close Community Centre.