Great response to help Hampshire deaf student obtain cochlear device

  • Hampshire High School student Maria Niño, 15, of Aurora, who has a cochlear implant, needs the external equipment to be able to hear. Donations have been pouring in to help her get the device, which could cost up to $12,000.

      Hampshire High School student Maria Niño, 15, of Aurora, who has a cochlear implant, needs the external equipment to be able to hear. Donations have been pouring in to help her get the device, which could cost up to $12,000. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/31/2015 10:07 AM

The response has been overwhelming, said Patti Nihells, a Hampshire High School physical education teacher organizing a fundraiser for a deaf student who wants to hear again.

Donations are pouring in for Maria Niño, a 15-year-old freshman from Aurora, who has a cochlear implant in her right ear, but needs a replacement external computing device that helps her process sounds.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maria doesn't yet have medical insurance -- other than Medicaid. The device she needs could cost from $9,000 to $12,000.

"Right now, we have close to $4,000," Nihells said. "We have had a lot of $50 and $100 donations from Winfield, Mount Prospect, Mundelein, Barrington and other (towns)."

Nihells' cross-country athletes are selling glow-in-the-dark T-shirts for Maria with the front reading "In the Shire" and a "W" on the back representing the school's mascot, the Whip-Purs. T-shirts are available for $15 through atomapparelusa.com, a website started by Nihells' son, with $10 per shirt benefiting Maria.

Maria is fast learning English and American Sign Language through the Northwestern Illinois Association -- a special education cooperative serving children with special needs up to 21 years old housed at Hampshire High School this year.

Moved by the Daily Herald's Monday feature story on Maria, several suburban residents have pledged to entirely fund the device she needs. And more and more people are stepping up with new ways to help the cause, organizers say.

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"We have a gentleman that wants to do a walk-a-thon. ... He was struck by lightning 10 years ago," Nihells said. "We are going to do that Wednesday, Nov. 18, in the field house. We also have a man who is willing to cover the rest of the expense."

Another teacher, Nannette Konajeski, with the World Languages Department at the high school, is setting up a GoFundMe.com page for Maria. A Hampshire senior also is doing her own fundraiser for Maria by selling candy at all of the sporting events.

A portion of the proceeds from a Feb. 19 dodgeball tournament will go toward Maria's device. It will be held in the field house of the school at 1600 Big Timber Road. The entry fee is $15 per person, of which $10 will be donated for the cause. You can also donate to Maria's GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/yr7aee38.

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