Students celebrate Deaf Fun Day

"Who is the most important person here?" Gary Olsen asked the group of more than 85 students gathered in the Carson City Community Center on Tuesday morning.

"Me," he answered. "Oh yeah, you think I've got a big ego. But turn that finger around and identify yourself because each and every one of you is the most important person here."

As he spoke, Kelly DeRiemer translated his signs into verbal speech. But most people didn't need it.

Students, teachers, parents and interpreters from Carson City and Douglas, Storey, Washoe and Lyon counties met at Mills Park to celebrate the second annual Deaf Fun Day.

Olsen, the director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy Resource Center in Carson City, organized the event.

"It allows deaf children to get together to meet new friends, meet new faces from other school districts," he said. "Maybe they can become pen pals. What an awesome opportunity."

Brandy Williams, 16, is one of only a handful of hearing impaired students at Yerington High School.

"We get to meet everybody so we can have new friends," she said.

After high school, Brandy plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, to become a doctor or a teacher.

Olsen encouraged the students to set high goals for themselves, giving them examples of deaf people who have accomplished great things.

"Never stop learning," he asked them. "Take in everything."

Students from Carson High School's deaf program performed a skit to "Stand by Me" for their peers.

Chelsea Owen-Self, 16, took part in the performance.

"I never stopped smiling," she reported afterward, with a smile still on her face.

Hearing students from West End Elementary School in Fallon accompanied their deaf classmates to show their support.

"We talked about how we're here today in a deaf world and it's a little strange," said Lori Johnson, a parent chaperone. "It's what it must be like for them to be in a hearing world."

Gabby Sharpe, 7, was happy to participate in the fun day.

"They can teach us things like sign language," she said. "We can teach the other kids."

Students played on inflatable gymnasiums, competed in a tug o' war game and visited a face-painting booth along with an array of other activities.

But Olsen said the main purpose of the day was to teach them it doesn't matter if they can hear or not.

"It's what's in between your ears that counts," he said.


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