Kevin Frost is making a Difference, One Child at a Time
Story and Photo by Lindsay Ruck
Looking through small holes in thick black glasses and wearing sound-blocking headphones, I tried to listen and take notes. But only seeing a speck of daylight and hearing blurred noises, staying focused was a challenge. Relieving my frustration, I removed the glasses and headphones after only a minute of wearing them.
“That’s what I deal with day in and day out,” explains Kevin Frost, who brought these tools to show me what he sees and hears on a daily basis.
“I always tell people, you have five senses, so enjoy what you have. I have three senses and I’ve learned to adapt and adjust and I’ve done what most able bodied people have never done.”
Kevin was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome in March 2002. This rare genetic disorder affects hearing from an early age and eventually vision. Presently, Kevin has 15 per cent hearing (90 decibels) and eight per cent tunnel vision, which is like looking through a hole the diameter of two pencils.
Turning a negative into a positive
After the diagnosis, Kevin lost his driver’s licence and his job. Feeling like he had hit a cement wall, the father of three was forced to find a new direction in life. With some re-routing and with the help of friends, family, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind
and Nemo, his Canadian guide dog of almost eight years, the 44-year-old took what seemed like a negative and turned it into a positive.
A referee for 25 years, Kevin was approached about the possibility of speed skating.
“I have control when I’m speed skating,” says Kevin.
He also has impressive results, banking dozens of top finishes and breaking records, both locally and internationally. But it’s his work off the ice that Kevin says is his biggest accomplishment.
While vacationing in Cancun in the fall of 2008, he was introduced to Alfredo, a young boy who was born without the ability to hear.
“I realized how lucky we are in Canada,” says Kevin. “In Mexico they have a lot more to contend with. And I thought with the little time I can give, it will give them a lot of freedom.”
With the goal of raising $3,000 to purchase brand new hearing aids, Kevin returned to Canada determined to help his new friend. Mainly through word of mouth, the donations began to pour in and Kevin ended up surpassing the $3,000 mark. With the rallying of a community, Alfredo received two new hearing aids and a two-year supply of batteries. The extra money also guaranteed follow-up appointments and speech therapy.
“I’m a person with a fixed income on long-term disability,” says Kevin. ”It shows you that people with very low income can do this too. It only takes a little bit to put a smile on somebody’s face. ” And Kevin has dozens of these stories. “There are a lot of families who can get coverage and funding, so I try to choose families that don’t have any of that.”
But his efforts don’t stop at the basic necessities for deaf and blind children. Through networking, fundraising events and money from his own speed skating fund, Kevin is determined to make dreams come true for every child he meets. One of those candidates is a young girl who was losing her sight.
“She said if and when I lose my vision, I want to see the Black Eyed Peas before then. I sent some e-mails out and the first one didn’t go very well. But the second one from a promoter said, ‘I like what you’re doing, so we’ll give her two of the best seats in the house.’ I went to her school and gave her the tickets and she cried and hugged me. She said how much do I owe you? I said I want you to help somebody else. Do for someone else what I did for you. That’s all I want.”
Paying it forward
This idea of paying it forward is something Kevin has instilled in his own children as well.
”When I go to the grocery store, I donate to the Ottawa Food Bank and I say, ‘I want you guys to donate for the rest of your lives. I tell them it’s important that we give.”
As Kevin sits with Nemo by his side in front of the gym where he trains five or six days a week, he says he still has his own dreams to realize. “I’ve been trying to persuade the International Paralympic Committee to have speed skating sanctioned in the next Olympics. It would be awesome to come home with a gold medal for your country.”
But for Kevin, the medal would just be an added bonus.
“A lot of people don’t believe that disabled people can be just as capable as able-bodied. If I can be number one or in last place, as long as I’m happy doing it, then I’m doing my job.”
To learn more about Kevin’s journey, check out deafblindspeedskater.com.