North of the Border Games for the Deaf to unite competitors at Cabaniss Field
By Alissa Inman
April 20, 2012
CORPUS CHRISTI — Cabaniss Field will bustle on Saturday with activities including flag football, volleyball, dodgeball and foot races. To the casual observer the games will look exactly like they would any other day or venue, except that players and officials will communicate with gestures rather than shouts and whistles.
All of the 300 to 400 competitors at the event, the North of the Border Games for the Deaf, have hearing loss. They hail from Corpus Christi, Brownsville, San Antonio, and communities between and beyond, competing on teams aligned with their closest city. While the competition is real, it’s more friendly than cutthroat, said Sean Hill, the 2012 Games’ volunteer organizer.
“It involves unity,” Hill said through an interpreter. “We all support each other because we experience some of the same frustrations with communication and with people not realizing that we can do anything anyone else can do.”
Participants from kindergartners through senior citizens can compete in events ranging from a 50-yard dash and team sports to nonphysical competition such as cards and table games.
The only requirement is that a competitor have hearing loss. Despite this requirement, the Games are not about exclusion, said Genelle Timperlake, who will compete in women’s flag football, coed dodgeball, coed kickball, and an “amazing race” event.
“Being deaf in the hearing majority can be lonely,” Timperlake said in an email. “(North of the Border Games for the Deaf) are … a way for us to reinforce our culture and identity as deaf individuals and build relationships with other deaf peers while engaging in healthy activity.”
The Games are not only a day out for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They are a rare large public event for a community that although numerous, often becomes quietly isolated.
An estimated 87,000 people in South Texas have hearing loss, as well as one in nine of all people, according to Mari Rivera, program director at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center.
The Games also help bring together people who support this community, including interpreters, friends and family. Many of the 40 to 60 volunteers are student interpreters and members of American Sign Language classes and clubs.
The day ends with a skit contest and evening social, with competitors swapping stories over food and drinks.
“People look forward to this all year,” Hill said. “My main goal this year is just that everyone has fun and has a positive experience.”