Interactions through sign language

Hollis Fudge (right), a co-founder of Conservatory ASL Northwest, speaking with Hike-A-Thon participants through sign language Saturday at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Photo by Afiq Hisham. 

GREAT FALLS - A sign language organization partnered with CorpsTHAT for a miles-long Hike-A-Thon fundraiser Saturday, using recreational activity to support more equal opportunities. 

Organizers and a small group hiked along the River’s Edge Trail, starting at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and going all the way to the Children’s Museum in an effort to connect local deaf communities. 

Conservatory ASL Northwest (CAN) invited anyone to join them for the 4.6 mile walk, encouraging donations towards creating increased access when it comes to jobs and outdoor opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing. 

“There’s a lot of obstacles,” said CAN Co-Founder Hollis Fudge through sign language, with fellow Co-Founder and Wife Amanda translating his gestures. 

A 2019 report from the National Deaf Center found that roughly 50% of deaf people got hired in the US, compared to 75% of those that could hear. 

CAN’s founders say this barrier to employment could be due to prejudice from a lack of exposure. “We have to do a lot of education to show that they’re missing out on having deaf people’s perspective,” said Hollis.  

For one hiking family, getting involved in sign language remains a pleasant way of connecting with others. “If we don’t bridge that gap, then there’s a whole bunch of people that we aren’t able to interact with,” said Adria Strable, who joined the event with her kids. 

“You can meet more people in life and have a better experience when you’re doing and learning [sign language] all the time,” said Adria’s daughter Courtney. 

Through education, Amanda and Hollis say they want to make more connections around the Electric City, highlighting people’s strengths and abilities in building a more vibrant community. 

”We want to see deaf people have more opportunities, to be involved in various aspects of society,” said Hollis. 

CAN group aims on raising $1,000 for CorpsTHAT. They don’t have any more Hike-A-Thons planned for now, but you can still make donations by check and mail it to CorpsTHAT at 1625 Covington St, Baltimore, Maryland 21230 or make one online on their official website. 

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