BARDANE, W.Va. — Nine-year-old Landon Dunham has found a soft spot in his heart for the students of the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney.
Three years ago, Landon came up with the idea to help the students at the school after hearing some of the needs the school had from his grandmother, Jenni Tabb.
Tabb said Landon’s interest sparked after she took some multi-sensory classes in order to teach special needs students and told him about the experience.
“He wanted to. He said: ‘What can we do? So I gave him the options of what we could do. He has exceed my goals for sure. Originally our goal this year was $2,000 and right now he has raised over $3,500,” Tabb said.
In his first year, Landon donated over $425 worth of products for the school. His main donations consisted of mittens, gloves and hats. “They didn’t have any hats or gloves before,” Landon said.
Last year, Landon’s main focus was raising money to donate beach towels, pool toys and person care items, among other things. He raised over $1,200.
“The school has this beautiful pool that was built in the ’50s but they weren’t able to use it,” Tabb said.
“The didn’t have any towels or life jackets so the pool was just sitting there going unused. Now they are able to use it and have the kids swim at least once a week. It has also really helped with their physical therapy and development. The school is hoping to increase it to two days a week next year,” Tabb added.
Landon has also raised money over the years for multi-sensory and communication apps that can be purchased through iTunes.
Tabb said teachers at the school have iPads that can be used by students to learn and communicate, but they are fairly expensive, running around $250.
Tabb said Landon was able to raise enough money to help one student learn how to communicate with others.
“He (the student) came in January so they didn’t have money to use and they thought he was profoundly deaf and mentally impaired, but after he got the app, and he loves it, they found out that he isn’t as deaf as he thought and that he is much more intelligent than they thought, but he just didn’t have any way of communicating what he knew,” Tabb said.
Landon’s main focus for this year was to donate bibs to the school for the students to wear during meal times and for some to wear during the day, if needed.
“It’s to protect their clothes from getting messy while they eat. The ones the school has now are old and they only have a few so they are washing them three times a day. Having more, newer bibs will prevent them from having to do so much laundry, plus the need is really there,” Tabb said.
Landon said he initially wanted to raise money to buy the bibs but they were $15 a piece plus shipping to buy.
Luckily, the women on the Jefferson County Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS) council got word of the need and decided to help.
The council hosted Landon and Tabb at its meeting Monday afternoon where it presented Landon with 92 bibs to give to the school.
Debbie Viands, president of Jefferson County CEOS council, said the bibs are handmade by members of several local organizations.
“The council is made up of presidents of five local clubs so we recruited a lot of help,” Viands said.
Viands said they plan on donating more bibs in the future. The councils goal is 150 bibs.
“We heard about his project and we thought it was a good thing. One of our goals is to volunteer in the community where there is a need and after hearing about this we decided to help him,” Viands said.
Tabb said there are approximately 21 students from all around the state at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind, and each of the student’s parents will have the option to take home two bibs. Tabb said the rest of the bibs will be donated to the school, 50 will be used at Camp Gizmo, a camp held on school grounds, and the remaining 50 will be used during school hours.
Landon said he was really excited about the donation from the group and that he hopes to continue to help the school. “I like helping them,” he said.
Tabb said Landon has gone to visit the students at the school several times and even got the chance to swim with them. She said she is proud of Landon for stepping up and wanting to help.
Tabb also said this experience has helped Landon as well.
“He has taken the lead and done a lot of this on his own. And over the years his public speaking skills have improved tremendously,” Tabb said.
Landon joined the Jefferson County 4-H club this year, and plans to continue to use projects like these to help the school as his “self-determined project” for the club.
“Landon has really impressed us with all the projects he is working on. He seems to have a heart for giving,” Viands added.
Next year, Landon said his goal is $5,000. He wants to donate outdoor playground equipment that is disability friendly. He said he hopes to donate three swings and four to five wheelchair accessible picnic tables.
The Jefferson County CEOS informed Landon that they plan on donating one picnic table to him to give to the school in the fall.
For more information on how to help or donate, call Jenni Tabb at 304-995-4591, or to learn more about the school visit, wvsdb2.state.k12.wv.us/pages/WestVirginiaSchools-Deaf-Blind.
Staff Writer Katiann Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182 or at Twitter.com/kmarshallJN.