Bob Harms of Kingston doesn't have to worry about getting a speeding ticket as he makes his way from the Canadian border to Iowa - he's topping out at about 7 mph.
That's because Harms is driving a Toro riding lawn mower, as he navigates the 485-mile trip at 50 miles per day to raise money for the Lions Children's Hearing Center at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.
Photo by Steve Browne
Bob Harms rode his Toro mower into Redwood Falls on Monday night as part of his Canada-to-Iowa sojourn to raise money for education, clinical treatment and research into congenital hearing loss.
On Monday night he stopped in Redwood Falls, and on Tuesday he continued on to Windom for a meeting at the Toro plant.
"I came up with the idea for doing this coming back from a Lions convention in Mahnomen," said Harms, who has had hearing problems his whole life. "My wife and I were talking about how to raise money, and I mentioned this lawn mower ride, and she didn't say anything so I figured it was OK. I talked it over with some friends and decided to do it, and she said, 'Are you crazy?' but I did it anyway."
Harms is raising money through sponsorships, club donations, corporate donations and a lot of people who want to help out with the problem of congenital hearing loss.
Marlene Martinek manages public relations for the ride on behalf of the Lions Children's Hearing Foundation.
"LCHF was founded in 1973 to raise money for research, clinical care, and equipment," Martinek said. "In the late 1990s we were lobbying for mandatory natal hearing testing, which passed in 1999. At that time the LCHF paid for 111 hospitals to be trained how to test babies."
According to Martinek, there is a very narrow window of about six months for babies born with hearing loss. If detected soon after birth, children can undergo speech therapy so they will speak in a manner indistinguishable from hearing children. And depending on the specific condition, they can be fitted with hearing aids or cochlear implants with financial aid from the LCHF if needed.
In 2005 the Lions Children's Hearing Center was opened at the University of Minnesota. Hearing-impaired children and their families can see up to six specialists in one place in one day.
The poster girl for the ride is a 2-year-old girl whose parents only want her identified as "Maren." She is from the Marshall area and her grandparents are Lions who found out by chance about the LCHC and now want other parents of hearing-impaired children to know there is help available.
"They wanted to spread the knowledge and increase awareness that this exists," Martinek said, "so other parents don't have to wait 21 months to find out."
Toro donated Harms' mower as well as a brand-new mower that will be raffled off to benefit the hearing center.