Nominated by: Sally Baerman of Bridgewater Balance and Hearing
When Calen was still struggling to speak as a toddler, her parents suspected something was wrong. "Before age three, my life was a world of silence and I had not learned to speak," said Calen. "When I made sounds, they were very loud."
After several disappointing visits to specialists and procedures that yielded little answers, Calen's parents finally had an epiphany while on vacation with their daughter. As they desperately called for three-year-old Calen to come back to them while she happily ran down the beach, her parents quickly realized that Calen wasn't ignoring their calls to stop—she simply couldn't hear them. Upon their return home, Calen was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted for her first pair of hearing devices.
Determined to give their young daughter every opportunity for success, Calen's parents quickly enrolled her in an intensive speech therapy program in Knoxville, TN. There, Calen was able to learn how to properly communicate for the first time in her life. After flourishing in her classes, Calen and her parents set their sights on kindergarten—a level some of Calen's doctors were unsure she'd ever reach. With the support of her parents, Calen performed so well in elementary school that she soon qualified to attend a private school where she could continue her education and prepare for college.
As a sophomore, Calen gave a chapel talk to her entire high school student body and faculty about her experience with hearing loss and how it affects every aspect of one's life. "My speech really impacted the school's understanding of people who have to live with hearing loss, and I was told it was inspirational," said Calen.
Calen is a HearStrong Champion because she refused to succumb to her hearing loss or let it define her. From the age of three, she has persevered and soared past the limited expectations others had for her future-both academically and personally.
"My parents were told that music would never be in my future because I wouldn't be able to distinguish between the tones," said Calen. "(But,) I have played the piano for nine years! With my hearing aids, I'm now beginning to play advanced pieces of piano music."
Today, Calen stands as a proud advocate for those with hearing loss and continues to motivate others by example. "I would gladly inspire others to overcome their hearing loss by the use of (hearing) aids in order to improve their quality (of life) as they have mine," said Calen.
Currently, Calen is excitedly preparing to head off to college. Her ultimate goal is to teach English, literature and poetry to the deaf and hard of hearing.
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