This text is from a Family Testimonial made at Listen and Talk’s 9th Annual Benefit and Auction on February 21, 2015 by Listen and Talk parents, Jodi and Mark Kawabata.

Shelby Wakumi Kawabata made her grand appearance on 2009. She was full of life and both of us could swear that she had a smile on her face when she arrived.  Soon after her triumphant entrance, it was discovered that she was even more special than we realized. She was diagnosed with having bilateral microtia, atresia, a formal way of saying her ears did not fully develop and would have significant hearing loss. On one side she had an ear that looked smaller with no opening, and on the other a small curled up ear. (Which, while biased, we thought was quite adorable.) It was from that day the adventure began.

Shelby was your typical child with typical newborn issues, things like not understanding how her continually waking up at odd hours hampered the regular (and enjoyable) sleeping schedule of her mom and dad. Or as she got older, how the delicate palette of a 5 year old meant that if you thought you found a food she actually enjoyed and made or bought a lot of it, it would only mean she would no longer find that food appealing in the future. But other than her hearing loss and showing a high level of skilled sarcasm for her age, Shelby’s first 5 years might have appeared to be quite “normal.”

As a parent, it is traumatic when your child has any type of health issues. Common colds, bumps and bruises are to be expected. But when your daughter has hearing loss and will need numerous surgeries, the level of concern is different. Our family and friends showered us with support that we will always be grateful for. If it was that support that helped us emotionally get back on our feet, then it was Listen and Talk that helped us start moving in the right direction.

From the early days when Mona Oster provided Early Intervention Services at our home to Shelby’s first day in the Blended Classrooms, Listen and Talk has given what can only be descried as “love” for Shelby’s well-being. Listen and Talk not only provided a sense of community for Shelby, but also resources that we would never have known even existed. While enrolled in the preschool and pre-K classrooms at Listen and Talk, we could see Shelby’s development explode in so many exciting ways. It has been said that when God shuts a door, He opens a window. With Listen and Talk, He not only opened a window but relocated us to an expensive mansion and told us we were free to go anywhere we want. All the staff at Listen and Talk have given us so much. Childhood is precious and goes so quickly.  We are very fortunate that Listen and Talk could be such a big part of Shelby’s. Thank you.