Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Happy Hands Education Center in Tulsa Helping Hearing-Impaired Children

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Happy Hands Education Center in Tulsa Helping Hearing-Impaired Children

Article excerpt

While Al Proo was a pastor at a church for the deaf, he discovered there were problems with literacy.

He became more involved with the deaf community and discovered an absence of programs for preschool children who were deaf or with other communicative disorders - hearing-impaired children were starting school without the ability to communicate effectively.

"The average reading level of a deaf adult has been only the third- or fourth-grade level," Proo said. "Parents of deaf children did not have anywhere to go."

So in April 1994 Proo opened the Happy Hands Education Center in Tulsa to help preschool hearing-impaired children develop communications skills. In the almost 15 years since it opened, Happy Hands has worked with 600 to 700 children, he said.

Now as Happy Hands approaches its 15th anniversary, the nonprofit agency plans to expand and is raising $12.9 million for a new 20,628- square-foot facility. Happy Hands has already raised $11.1 million, or 86 percent of the campaign goal, including $6.6 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

"That leaves us with $1.8 million to raise," Proo said.

Happy Hands currently operates from a 1,600-square-foot residential building provided by a church. Because of space limitations, enrollment is limited to 30 students and demand for services far exceeds capacity, he said. Happy Hands has had a waiting list for more than 10 years.

The early childhood development center will have enough space for 70 students at the new facility, which will be named the Donald W. Reynolds Education Center at Happy Hands.

Happy Hands is the only full-time program in the state serving children 6 weeks to 6 years old who are deaf or have other communications disorders, Proo said. …

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