The Care Project

The CARE Project Documentary
Brooklyn Arts Center • 516 N. 4th St.
9/23, 6:30 p.m. • $35 adv/$40 at door

hen couples find out they’re having a baby, I’m told there’s a clash of emotions. First, there’s excitement over creating a little “mini-me”—sure to become the next boy or girl wonder, saving the world in various ways. Immediately, anxiety follows—for the hope of simply a healthy baby.

Few people anticipate their child being born without the ability to hear. While there was a time when being deaf was considered a disability or abnormality, services and technologies have grown to help children and their supportive families have happy and successful lives. Such is even more true now thanks to the help of people like audiologist Johnnie Sexton.

Born in the mid-1950s in a small community near Wilmington, Sexton grew up seeing the special needs of deaf children by observing his neighbors. They were rearing a hearing-impaired son.

“We were aware early on of the impact of deafness,” he explains, “because at that time there was no federal or state law that provided education for a deaf child in the local communities. So [the boy] left home when he started school and went to the only residential school for the deaf in NC at the time, which happened to be [near the mountains] in Morganton.”  

As an audiologist, Sexton spent many years working with children and their families. By 2008 he thought he could do more.

“I was beginning to formulate an idea to develop a program that would help address the feelings that parents experienced along the way,” he says, “feelings that often are kept bottled up and can cause a lot of stress within a home.”

 The program in mind became The CARE Project, its title letters representing “Counseling, Audiologic Rehabilitation and Education.” It has been presented all over the country and world to show the success of services given to countless individuals and families. Providing workshop opportunities for parents in Wilmington and across NC, Sexton says it’s often the first chance parents have to actually express their feelings openly about receiving the unexpected news their child is deaf.

“The CARE environment is a safe one,” he promises, “and I have seen many tears that turn into smiles by the end of just one meeting. In addition, by bringing a group of parents together, they all find comfort in each other, as well as [engage in] a sense of connectedness.”

Often parents aren’t sure of themselves when trying to comfort children or family during times of concern. Like Sandy Simpson, who recalls her young daughter Stephanie questioning her hearing loss as she got older, questions hardest to deal with include: “Why did God make my ears this way?” or “Why don’t any princesses wear hearing aids?” Simpson eventually attended a CARE Project workshop and “something clicked inside of me,” she writes in her letter to Hearing Health. “While listening to the other parents of hearing-impaired children share their feelings, I felt as if they’d taken the words right out of my mouth. It was a major ‘Aha!’ moment.”

After meeting with a few locals in the film industry in 2009, Sexton gathered with friends and colleagues in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community with the idea of filming their stories. Once he realized the film could capture the deep feelings and raw emotions from each person, his mission became to take this message as far as he could.

“The CARE Project, for me, has become the passion that drives me each and every day,” he simplifies. “Now that CARE has been embraced by a number of people and agencies, I am more inspired to keep this project alive and growing to reach as many people as we possibly can, to bring them comfort, make them feel connected, and give them hope and resources.”

The CARE Project documentary addresses the emotional aspects of the parental journey. By filming in Sexton’s home, he was able to create a comfortable environment. Sexton also directed and produced the project, which has become the foundation for the entire program designed for families, professionals and students.

The film’s premiere serves as the first fund-raiser for The CARE Project. Monies are needed for materials that can be donated to newborn nurseries in NC and across the U.S. They also need translation of resources for other languages, and the purchase of their own film equipment in order to continue documenting people’s journeys from around the world.

The Brooklyn Arts Center doors open at 6:30 p.m. on September 23rd in honor of CARE. There will be a true red-carpet arrival planned, which includes light appetizers and drinks available throughout the first hour. The film premieres at 7:30 p.m. and lasts for an hour or so, followed by a few acknowledgements and introductions onstage. Around 8:30, heavy hors d’oeuvres, desserts, cheeses, coffee, and a cash bar will be available for attendees to enjoy while mingling.

An after party continues with musical performance by Charleston’s Entropy Ensemble—a band who plays instrumental interpretations of Radiohead music. Having played Cameron Art Museum in 2010 and headlined WE Fest in May 2011, the five-piece dismantles elaborate compositions with groundbreaking musicality. Radiohead favorites, such as “House of Cards,” “Paranoid Android” and “Idioteque,” will be played among a host of other dynamic arrangements in the classical vein.

There will also be an Infused Fashion Show. Without giving away too many details, Sexton has developed the show to incorporate hearing needs into fashion. Fashionista Jessie Williams, designer and proprietor of Edge of Urge, has paired up with hair stylist Roby Powers of NSalo to design “a conceptual representation of hearing loss and the journey to resilience.”

Ticket prices are $35 in advance or $40 at the door, with few left for purchase as of press time.

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