There is one day a year when you’re guaranteed to see a splash of bright colour and noise building in a community rallying together for a cause.
Launched in 2002, Loud Shirt Day is an annual fundraising event held in October of every year to raise awareness and funds for children with hearing loss. It was born out of an international collaboration between the member organisations of First Voice across three countries – Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. First Voice is a group of world-leading centres that specialise in providing listening and spoken language services to children with hearing loss.
The premise of Loud Shirt Day is to wear your loudest and brightest shirt, but the reason isn’t strictly an excuse to don Hawaiian prints or embrace ‘70s tie-dye. It’s an opportunity to make some noise and show your support to children who are deaf or hearing impaired so that they can live life to their full potential.
Small town with a big heart
The outback town of Aramac, home to just nearly 300 people, has seen a bright history of loud shirts and jumping on board for what’s called the ‘Loudest Town’ competition.
Introduced by Hear and Say as part of their Loud Shirt Day celebrations in 2019, the competition challenges small Queensland towns to don their wackiest shirt and raise the most money. The prize is a framed ‘loud’ shirt signed by Hear and Say Vice Patron and NRL legend, Wally Lewis.
Not just a fundraising initiative, the Loudest Town competition is also an opportunity to bring communities together behind a common cause and to celebrate young people with hearing loss and their achievements.
A cause close to their hearts
Led by locals Kerryn and Sam Geltch, Aramac have banded together and taken part in the Loudest Town competition for several years, taking home the coveted title in 2022 after raising an impressive $29,147 (they’ve now raised a total of $70,000 so far for Loud Shirt Day).
Kerryn and Sam’s daughter, ten-year-old Emily, was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in her left ear and moderate-to-severe hearing loss in her right ear at birth. Given there was no family history of hearing loss, the diagnosis was a surprise for Emily’s parents.
“For two new parents from the bush to travel 1,200km away from our home and family to seek answers was very daunting,” said Kerryn.
“I can still remember those first couple of months so clearly – it was a whirlwind of appointments with many different specialists and so much information to absorb.”
After being fitted with hearing aids, Emily underwent her first cochlear implant surgery when she was one year old. When her hearing aid in her right ear was no longer enough, she received her second cochlear implant in 2021.
Thanks to the RETAIN program, a rewarding initiative between QCoal Foundation and Hear and Say, Emily attended specialised speech therapy sessions via telehealth appointments and travelled to the Townsville and Brisbane centres for audiology services.
“Living in a rural area has certainly been a huge challenge with the distance we need to travel, and the cost involved with that. The feeling of isolation, especially in the early years was very hard, however, we got through the other side by sticking together,” said Kerryn.
“It’s been a long road, but we are so proud of how far Emily has come and we are confident she has an amazing future ahead of her.
“Her speech and language blows us away every day. Her reading and writing is immaculate and she loves to learn.”