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For week ended December 05, 1999 Posted 18 Dec 1999

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Hark! Pleasant Grove angels giving up Christmas for Riley

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Hark! Pleasant Grove angels giving up Christmas for Riley
Deseret News 1Dec99 D1
By Sharon Haddock: Deseret News staff writer

PLEASANT GROVE, UTAH -- A little girl in SCERA Park Elementary School has emptied her shoebox of pennies and dimes for a very special Christmas present for Riley Burwell, a seven-year-old boy in her class. Several families in the small neighborhood of Pleasant Grove, Utah are joining her efforts and foregoing Christmas gifts this year to give Riley a gift of a lifetime.

Riley Burwell was born with nerve damage inside the cochlea leaving him deaf. He says a few words and it is difficult to understand when he speaks. His family and young friends have learned to speak to Riley through sign language. He often signs to his mother, "Stop signing, Mom! I want to talk!"

Tami and Rick Buirwell feel fortunate that their son is a good candidate for the needed surgery. "This will certainly be mine and my husband's Christmas present," said Tami. "He needs to hear." "That's part of the reason why I know we need to do this," said Tami. "He's told me several times that he wants to talk."

Time is growing short for Riley to learn and develop his communication skills. The procedure will require the surgeon to put a computerized hearing device behind Riley's ear in the bone. The implant will send an electrical signal to the cochlear, bypassing the damaged nerve endings through electrodes placed inside the cochlea. The signal will then be carried to the brain through Riley's undamaged nerve fibers.

The surgery and follow-up therapy is estimated at $45,000. A fund has been set up through First Security Bank and at Western Community Bank in Pleasant Grove. An auction is planned for December ll, at the David O. McKay Special Events Center on the UVSC campus. KISN Radio's "KISN Cares for Kids" has donated $5,000. Clough Shelton, a physician, is donating his fee, and the University of Utah Medical Center is discounting its costs.

Members of the Pleasant Grove Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 9th Ward have donated their Christmases for Riley. "When I heard about that," said Tami Burwell, "I ran over so fast, hugged them so hard!" The Burwell family estimates that $l5,000 has been raised so far by people volunteering their time and money. The family is overwhelmed by the public support.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information