The CARE Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing hope to families who have children and/or adults with hearing challenges. CARE is also a tool for teaching professionals and pre-professionals about the importance of active listening with their clients/patients and providing emotional support.
CARE is also a tool for teaching professionals and pre-professionals about the importance of active listening with their clients/patients and validating their emotional state.
CARE is a multidimensional tool that addresses the grief associated with hearing loss for individuals, families, communities, professionals and pre-professionals.
Growing Towards Acceptance
Undeniably, life’s journey is full of challenges. Arriving with those hurdles are different emotions, dependent upon circumstances. An individual facing the challenge of hearing loss needs to be able to rely on a strong support system within the family and community. The CARE Project has a number of components designed to bring families and professionals together for sharing and processing emotions, with the ultimate goal being acceptance and advocating for the best life possible.
Jasmine Simmons, Au.D., CCC-A is from Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Simmons received her Doctorate of Audiology from Central Michigan University. She is a member of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Co-Founder of Black Audiologist United.
Dr. Simmons’s passion for audiology stems from both personal and clinical experiences. She was born with a bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss and received her first cochlear implant at age two. She demonstrates empathy and patience when working with her patients by reflecting on her personal experiences. One of her ambitions is to give back to the community. For the past nine years, she has been a camp counselor for teens with hearing loss. Dr. Simmons currently works for a non-profit clinic that treats the underserved population in Jacksonville, Florida.
Jorge Ceja has been involved with The CARE Project (specifically with the Hispanic Family Retreats) since 2016. Jorge, a California native, brings a background of psychology and several years of experience working with both children and adults with special needs. Most recently Jorge has been involved with the Special Olympics and volunteering time with the local food kitchens. Jorge has expanded his experience to working in the tech sales industry as a people manager working to discover and train new talent and help them maximize their potential.
Patti Freemyer Martin, Ph.D., CCC-A, has been a “Champion for Children” at Arkansas Children’s Hospital for over thirty years. Throughout her career, she has provided leadership and programmatic direction for multiple services including Audiology, Speech Pathology, Primary Care Services and Otolaryngology. Dr. Martin’s areas of interest include early hearing detection, diagnosis and intervention within a family-centered framework. She continues to seek innovative ways to support families of children who are Deaf/hard of hearing and evaluate strategies that define, promote and measure child and family outcomes.
Dr. Martin is currently the Arkansas-site Primary Investigator for FASTRAK, an NIH-NIDCD funded project of Boystown National Research Hospital, evaluating tools to assess the impact of mild hearing loss. Additionally, she is involved in Arkansas Children’s efforts to address the impact of social determinants of health on families. Bringing families and professionals together in a non-clinical setting is one of her passions! Her “too-fun-to-be-work” favorites include development of AIM HI, a camp for mainstreamed middle/high school students that has existed for 20+ years and leading previous Family Weekend events for parents of newly identified children in Arkansas. She is a frequent collaborator with The Care Project and Dr. Johnnie Sexton, having served as Co-Director of an Oberkotter Foundation grant (2016-19) to provide emotional support and empowerment for families in retreat settings across the country.
Dr. Martin served on the Joint Commission on Infant Hearing (JCIH) during development and publication of the 2017 Supplement on Early Intervention and the 2019 Position Statement. Her involvement as a Technical Assistance Consultant for over two decades with the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) helped to ensure early expansion of best practices for universal newborn hearing screening across the United States. She previously chaired the Arkansas Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Advisory Board and served as a founding member of Arkansas Hands & Voices.
Dr. Martin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and a Master of Science in Audiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/University of Arkansas-Little Rock. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville in Public Policy with an emphasis on children with special healthcare needs.
Dr. JJ Whicker is a pediatric audiologist, clinical researcher, and co-owner at Little Heroes Pediatric Hearing Clinic. As a clinician, JJ works with children who are cochlear implanted and completes diagnostic testing for infants who refer on their newborn hearing screen. Dr. Whicker also runs the Central Auditory Processing Disorders program. As a researcher, JJ is interested in understanding the unique challenges posed to parents of children who are Deaf or Hard-of-hearing (DHH) with other disabilities, and how those challenges shift parents’ priority for their children’s hearing-related needs. He is also interested in understanding the challenges faced by adolescents who are DHH as they prepare to transition to post-secondary opportunities.
Jessica Peterson's journey with hearing loss began nearly a decade ago, coinciding with the birth of her eldest son. Both of her sons, aged 9 and 6, are Deaf and have been equipped with bi-lateral implants. Since their births, Jessica has fervently dedicated her free time to sharing their collective journey, connecting with other families whose children are Deaf or HOH (Hard of Hearing), and volunteering at every opportunity. She holds the distinction of serving on the NC EDHI Board, leading as the Local Chair for the NC Walk4Hearing, and has both participated in and volunteered at a myriad of Care Project Events.
Jessica's mission is twofold: to fervently advocate for the Deaf/HOH community and to combat the stigmas often associated with deafness. Known for her positivity, persistence, collaborative spirit, and creativity, she cherishes the connections made with countless families over the years. The daily inspiration she draws from her sons propels her to continually strive for more, aiming always to better the world around her.
Outside of her advocacy work, Jessica finds joy in engaging in TKD with her sons, expanding her knowledge in ASL (American Sign Language), traveling the world, indulging in good reads, and attending shows at DPAC.
Xris Kessler hails from Greensboro, NC. His upbringing took him across the nation, a result of his father's service in the Navy. Educated at the Art Academy University of San Francisco, Xris has been the driving creative force behind The CARE Project components. An accomplished painter and sculptor, he manages a vast array of roles, from videography and film editing to music, packaging, and art design for The CARE Project productions.
Over the years, Xris has unveiled numerous art collections, with standout series on “Grey Gardens” and Bald Head Island. However, in recent times, he has channeled his energies into his film venture, Xrisncosey, LLC. This enterprise primarily focuses on lecture-style learning experience videos. His exemplary work has attracted clients like the Oberkotter Foundation in Philadelphia and the NC Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program, an institution pivotal for newborn hearing screenings and early interventions.
Marcia Fort, Au.D., CCC-A, currently resides in Raleigh, NC, but is originally from Kentucky and is a UK Wildcats basketball fan for life (even while living in ACC country). She loves history, playing tennis, reading good mystery novels, and spending time with family and friends.
Dr. Fort is the Genetics and Newborn Screening Manager in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child and Family Well-Being. Dr. Fort has worked with the NC Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program since 2002 and currently serves as the NC EHDI Coordinator. She has over 30 years of experience as a pediatric audiologist having worked in hospital, private practice, otolaryngology office and public school settings.
Professionally, her greatest joy comes from seeing deaf and hard of hearing children reach for the stars and be all they can be. She has been a long-term advocate of The CARE Project, seeing the tremendous benefit parents/families of DHH children receive from sharing their journeys with each other. The connections made between families and children through CARE Project events are inspirational.
Dr. Fort has served on the Board of Directors for the Directors of Speech and Hearing Programs in State Health and Welfare Agencies (DSHPHSWA), currently serving as Past-President. She has served as a mentor to other state EHDI Coordinators, represented DSHPSHWA on the Audiology Quality Consortium and EHDI Federal Partner groups, and served on numerous state and national EHDI data committees.
Dr. Fort holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Disorders from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Science in Audiology from Vanderbilt University. She received her Doctorate of Audiology from Central Michigan University.