Boca’s Jill Viner supports race to benefit hearing
By Skip Sheffield
BOCA RATON — It sure is good to have a friend like Jill Viner.
Viner, a Boca Raton resident since 1984, became involved in philanthropy while a student at University of Miami. She is still on the board of the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, and a major supporter of research in the fight against the disease.
Now Jill Viner is co-founder and partner with the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation, affiliated with the University of Miami Ear Institute (UMEI).
A first “Run Over Hear” 5k marathon is planned for 7 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne.
We are seated at one of Jill’s favorite Boca Raton restaurants, Max’s Grille, to talk about the remarkably fast start-up of a new program to help hearing-challenged children transition to a world of sound and speech through the use of cochlear implant technology.
“Around four years ago my friend Barton G learned his daughter would be born profoundly deaf,” she explains. “His heartache touched me, and his lack of direction distressed me. We learned that if a child can be fitted with a cochlear implant early enough, the child can not only hear but develop speech in a regular fashion.”
“The success of the operation on Barton’s daughter inspired us to set up a foundation to help other children in similar situations. Wouldn’t it be great to put this new procedure- you can’t really call it a cure- on the map?”
Barton G. Weiss is one of Miami’s foremost restaurateurs, hotelier, caterer and event-planner. It took three years of planning, research, fundraising and persuasion to get the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation Cochlear Implant Family Resource Center up and running at the University of Miami.
In its first year of operation, the foundation has helped about 100 children. This past summer it hosted a “Camp Kids Hear Now” outreach with 41 children with cochlear implants from 12 states at Camp Laure in Readfield, Maine.
“Jill has been my rock both in founding the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation and in taking it to the levels of success and effectiveness it has achieved today,” commented Barton G. from his corporate headquarters. “Without Jill’s tireless work and dedication, the Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation certainly would not be where it is. Jill was instrumental in all our galas as well as our partnership with the University of Miami, the summer’s inaugural Camp Cochlear and the establishment of the Family Resource Center.”
Unlike a hearing aid that amplifies incoming sound, a cochlear implant is a computerized device that bypasses damaged hair cells in the ear and converts sound waves into electrical energy to stimulate the auditory nerve.
The Kids Hear Now Family Resource Center not only provides medical and technical help, but counseling for parents, family and children.
“It is good for children with cochlear implants to be with others like them,” explains Viner. “Cochlear implants enable a child to develop normal hearing and speech, but sometimes regular kids question what those things are in your ear and why can’t they be taken out?”
The goal of Barton G. Kids Hear Now Foundation is to be the hearing resource not just for Miami or Florida, but the whole country and eventually Central and South America.
“We want Miami to be a destination for cochlear research and implementation,” says Viner. “We were impatient to see results, and that’s how this happened so fast. We don’t want this foundation to be dormant, or just perform research. We want it to make a difference in the lives of deaf children.
Runners for “Run Over Hear” are invited to register at www.kidshearnow.org. There is a $25 fee, which includes all related activity. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Call 305-576-3006.