Or­léans speed skater ‘sur­prised and touched’ by award

Orleans Star - - FRONT PAGE - By Tricia Van der Gri­ent tricia.van­der­gri­ent@transcontinental.ca

Kevin Frost had an ex­tra spe­cial start to his train­ing sea­son last week for more than one rea­son. The deaf blind speed skater from Or­léans was sur­prised with a United Way Com­mu­nity Builders award at a fundrais­ing bar­be­cue he was hold­ing to raise money for his up­com­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

The same day he also met Joanna Labonte. Her two year old son Camp­bell is deaf and blind, and she had been fol­low­ing Frost’s achieve­ments on and off the ice.

At 32, Frost was di­ag­nosed with Usher Syn­drome, a con­di­tion that causes hear­ing loss at a young age and loss of vi­sion later on.

With the di­ag­no­sis came many changes. Frost lost his driver’s li­cense and his job. Now, at age 42, Kevin has 10 per­cent of his hear­ing and 4 per­cent tun­nel vi­sion.

He says he would not let the dis­abil­ity de­fine him. He started speed skat­ing shortly af­ter his di­ag­no­sis and af­ter long hours prac­tic­ing on the track he is ranked 18th in the world in speed skat­ing and has also started row­ing as a sum­mer sport.

Now, Frost is rais­ing funds to com­pete in the 2010 Open Blind Cup in Rus­sia and the World Masters Cham­pi­onship in Cal­gary. His ul­ti­mate mis­sion is to get speed skat­ing sanc­tioned as a sport in the Par­a­lympics.

The Com­mu­nity Builders Award is given to in­di­vid­u­als who give back to the com­mu­nity and work to make Ot­tawa a bet­ter place to live.

Frost re­cently com­pleted a fundrais­ing cam­paign to help a young deaf boy he met in Mex­ico while on vacation, rais­ing more than $3,000 to give the boy hear­ing aids.

He has now started an­other fundrais­ing mis­sion to raise $6,000 for sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures and sup­plies to help three more kids with vi­sion and hear­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“I was very touched and sur­prised when I re­ceived the award,” said Frost. “The speed skat­ing is for me, it keeps up my spir­its, but it’s great that maybe it can show oth­ers that life doesn’t end when some­thing is taken away.”

Joanna Labonte’s son Camp­bell was born 13 weeks pre­ma­ture in Au­gust 2008. She and her hus­band Bert soon found out Camp­bell may have min­i­mal hear­ing, and suf­fered from a con­di­tion called Retinopa­thy of pre­ma­tu­rity (ROP), which leads to blind­ness.

“You can imag­ine that feel­ing of fear and con­fu­sion,” she says. “We did not know what to ex­pect. We won­dered, how will we be able to com­mu­ni­cate with our son?”

Labonte and Frost met in per­son for the first time at Frost’s fundrais­ing bar­be­cue and sur­prise award cer­e­mony last Thurs­day.

“I went over and in­tro­duced my­self, ex­pect­ing a hand­shake but got a huge hug in­stead,” she says. They spoke about sup­port sys­tems that ex­ist for the deaf blind com­mu­nity and Frost gave her tips about how to com­mu­ni­cate with Camp­bell.

“He said, ‘When I was lit­tle I would put my hand to a per­son’s mouth and that’s how I learned to speak.”

She got teary eyed as she ex­plained, “In­nately we al­ready did that. We would put his hand to our mouth when we spoke. It gave me con­fir­ma­tion that what we were do­ing was right.”

For Frost, it was a chance to share his knowl­edge with a fam­ily in need. “This is why I do what I do,” he says. “When I met Joanna it was such a spe­cial moment. You could see that re­lief in her eyes, that yes, life can and will go on.”

(Photo by Tricia Van der Gri­ent)

Kevin Frost with his United Way Com­mu­nity Builders Award

(Photo pro­vided)

Joanna Labonte with her son Camp­bell

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