Cover Stories

A Unique Approach

The COVID-19 crisis may have placed fundraising events in a holding pattern this spring, but it also has brought out the creative side of Central Institute for the Deaf (CID) employees, according to executive director Robin Feder. When social distancing measures made an in-person gathering impossible, staff members put their heads together and converted the school’s annual CID Out Loud! gala into six days of online activities.

The event, originally planned for May 9 at The Ritz-Carlton, now will run May 4 through 9. There will be an ongoing virtual auction with exciting prizes, a paddle raise and a raffle, along with other activities. “It’s been a challenging task putting this together, but everyone has contributed ideas and risen to the occasion,” Feder notes. “Our generous sponsors have stuck by us, and we’re planning several ways our virtual guests can support us from home.”

Feder says auction items include a St. Louis Blues party suite, a stay at a Destin vacation home, Cardinals green-seat tickets, an Idaho fly-fishing getaway, exciting golf packages, wine tastings and a family portrait session with Strauss Peyton Photography. The paddle raise will directly support scholarships for students.

What sets CID apart from other schools for the deaf is its focus on teaching children how to interact and express themselves, Feder says. The approach attracts students from all over the country. While other schools often concentrate on sign language, CID teaches verbal communication with the goal of reintegrating students into their neighborhood schools. Most attend CID programs for four or five years. And no child is ever turned away because of a family’s financial circumstances.

Feder adds that CID graduates grow up knowing how to serve others because of the caring support they have received. “Right now, we have a former student who is doing an internship with us while earning his Ph.D. in audiology,” she says. “It’s so satisfying to see our alumni go on to productive careers and apply what they have learned here. They have the tools to be successful in all kinds of fields.”

Each year, fundraising efforts make it possible for the school to offer critical help to more hearing-impaired children, including those who would not be able to receive services otherwise. “Our dedicated staff currently serves about 200 families a year,” Feder says. “Normally, we offer programs on our campus as well as parent coaching visits at home, but we are providing classes and programs remotely right now.”

CID’s youngest students under the age of 3 are served through the school’s Joanne Parrish Knight Family Center. “It’s crucial for them to receive services at that age because their brains are starting to get into learning mode,” Feder says. “When you are teaching kids the skills to communicate for the rest of their lives, every minute and every effort counts.”

Central Institute for the Deaf offers programs and services to help hearing-impaired children learn to communicate verbally and return to their neighborhood schools. This year, its spring gala has been transformed into a six-day online fundraising auction. The event’s Ultimate Sponsors are the Centene Charitable Foundation, Stifel Bank, Anabeth and John Weil, and Roeslein & Associates. For more information, visit

Cover design by Cydney Moore | Cover photo courtesy of CID

Pictured at top: CID board member and supporter Joanne Parrish Knight with students
Photo: Chris Malacarne