Deaf community shares tales at Godfrey picnic

GODFREY: Kids splashing in a pool.

The crack of a baseball bat.

The singing of crickets.

The putter of a lawn mower.

Many of us take these common sounds of summer for granted. But attendees of a Saturday picnic at Glazebrook Park in Godfrey wanted to draw attention to those who can’t experience sound or who have severe hearing deficiencies that greatly impact their daily lives.

“Deaf people are just like other people,” said Libby Oxenham of Swansea, who is deaf. “We go to events. We like to do things for fun. We are just like everyday people.”

Saturday’s Deaf Picnic featured games, events and food to allow deaf people to meet, communicate, have fun and raise money so the Deaf Women of Chicago organization can host the 2023 Deaf Women United National Conference.

“We know that it’s important for deaf women to get together at the 2023 conference. So these are all deaf people here supporting the event,” said Oxenham, an event sponsor who works for Living Independently Now Center, or LINC Inc. “We are here to get to see each other again, raise money, and just have fun outside.” 

Event organizer Angela Botz of Godfrey, who is deaf, said people came from as far away as Chicago, Bloomington, Quincy and Jacksonville to attend Saturday’s Deaf Picnic.

“Some of the people here did not know about the Deaf Women of Chicago organization, so that’s one of the things we want to share,” Botz said. “It’s really important to have people come together and learn more about our organization.”

Botz noted that both deaf and hearing people attended Saturday’s picnic and that gave everyone an opportunity to interact.

“It’s all about us getting together and being inclusive; no one is to be left out,” Botz said. “We all need to come together and learn about each other, respect each other. It’s about making friends.”

More than 600,000 in the United States are classified as deaf, according to a study performed by Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, an institution that educates the deaf and hard of hearing. Deafness is officially defined as a hearing loss so severe that there is little or no functional hearing.

Deaf people communicate via sign language, either in person or through video calls. Many can also lip read when communicating with hearing individuals, or they can use electronic devices such as cell phones that can turn speech into text. 

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