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Community comes together for Bemidji's inaugural D-Feet Hearing Loss walk

Community members and Lions from around the region came together at Diamond Point Park on Saturday morning to raise money and awareness for hearing loss.

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Bemidji Lion Wayne Tieman leads participants along the walking route during a D-Feet Hearing Loss walk on Saturday, June 4, 2022, near Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — On the sunny morning of Saturday, June 4, community members and Lions from around the region came together at Diamond Point Park to raise money and awareness for hearing loss.

The Minnesota Lions Hearing Foundation's D-Feet Hearing Loss walk, which is also held annually in Chaska at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, made its Bemidji debut on Saturday and drew more than 80 registrants.

Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince kicked off the event by presenting a few hearing loss statistics to attendees to stress the importance of the event.

“About 40 million U.S. adults ages 20 to 69 have noise-induced hearing loss," Prince said. "That’s a pretty startling number if you think about how many people struggle with it.”

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Bemidji Mayor Jorge Prince speaks during a Lions D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Prince also emphasized the issue of hearing loss in children.

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“Three out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss," Prince said. "And 15% of school-age children have some degree of hearing loss, so it’s a pretty serious issue."

He noted his appreciation for the event, as Prince has personal ties to the cause.

“When I throw statistics out there, the reason is because people don’t always realize how many people deal with hearing loss, especially the young,” Prince said. “My wife and I know that full well because both of our sons have severe hearing loss and have had to overcome the obstacles and the barriers that come with people who have hearing issues in a hearing world.”

Hoisting a large American flag, Bemidji Lion Wayne Tieman led participants on the walking route, trekking along the shoreline of Lake Bemidji from Diamond Point Park to Paul Bunyan Park and back.

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Participants walk through Diamond Point Park during a Lions D-Feet Hearing Loss walk on Saturday, June 4, 2022, in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

As walkers returned, the Lions were prepared to welcome them back with an assortment of crafts, games, live music and a picnic-style meal.

“We’re home!” Tieman exclaimed as he and the other participants returned from the walk. “Where are those hot dogs?”

A focus on research

At the center of the dancing, laughter and hot dog-eating, was the purpose of the event — raising awareness and money for hearing loss initiatives.

Michele Plagman, Minnesota Lions Hearing Foundation trustee and board chair for district 5M9, said money raised at the event will, in part, go toward the Lions Children’s Hearing and Ears, Nose and Throat Clinic in Minneapolis.

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“What we do as the hearing foundation is we help raise money for research and we help raise money for the Lions Children's Clinic," Plagman said. "Families can go with their children to get their hearing tested and get help with hearing loss."

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Michele Plagman, Minnesota Lions Hearing Foundation trustee and board chair, left, speaks during a D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The cost to register for the walk was $25 per person or $35 to receive an event T-shirt. In addition to helping support the children's clinic, the money will go toward different programs within the Lions Hearing Foundation.

"Most of the money raised is going toward research and development, and presentations for people to know more about hearing loss," Plagman said. "Some of the research goes to very exciting new developments."

Funding research and awareness for hearing loss, Plagman expressed, is an integral part of the Lions’ purpose. Besides the D-Feet walk, the Lions Hearing Foundation is currently working on several hearing loss initiatives.

“We’re promoting the Lions affordable hearing aid project, and this is for people with a certain level of income to get funds for hearing aids,” Plagman said. “There are a lot of people who have hearing loss but don’t have any money to get hearing aids.”

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Susan Winner, Lions district 5M10 governor, lines up her putt during a golf game at a D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Along with the affordable hearing aid project, the Lions also have research projects in the works.

“One of the research projects is on Tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears — it’s a real problem because it can be so overwhelming that people have problems in their daily lives,” Plagman said. “That’s another thing that our research is going toward.”

With a passion for the cause and a little help from the weather, the consensus was that Bemidji's inaugural walk had a good turnout, and the Lions hope that future years will bring out even more participants.

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“It’s a pretty good (registration) number for a first-time event on the north end here,” said Lion Jerry Amiot, 5M11 trustee. “Boy, did we luck out on the day — it’s probably one of the nicest days we’ve had this spring.”

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Band members perform a song during a Minnesota Lions Hearing Foundation D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Attendees work on a wooden car-coloring craft during a D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Lion Susie Balstad dances with the Lions mascot during a D-Feet Hearing Loss event on Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Diamond Point Park in Bemidji.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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