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Gretchen Schlosser, Forum Communications, Published August 27 2012

Minnesota man driving lawnmower across state to raise funds for children with hearing loss

WILLMAR, Minn. – Bob Harms is crossing the state at a maximum speed of 7 mph to raise funds for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Harms began the journey across the state Aug. 20 on a Toro lawnmower and expects to finish Wednesday at the border with Iowa. He was welcomed Sunday by members of several area Lions clubs to the Rolf and Carol Peterson home on Henderson Lake near Spicer.

Today he’s heading south on U.S. Highway 71 to Redwood Falls. On Tuesday, he plans to visit the Toro plant in Windom.

Harms has suffered from hearing problems since infancy and has a surgically implanted bone-anchored hearing aid. He’s also the executive secretary of the Lions International District that includes Minnesota, northwestern Ontario and Manitoba and works from his home in Kingston.

The funds raised by the ride will go to the Minnesota Lions Children’s Hearing Center at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, and for research to improve the lives of children with hearing loss.

“Hearing is directly connected to speech,” Harms explained. “If hearing loss isn’t detected early, a child’s speech is affected.”

At the hearing center, Harms says, children see all of the doctors and specialists they need to help with their hearing issues in one day, streamlining the process and helping their little ears to hear what’s happening in the world around them.

The idea for the 485-mile ride came from a Lions convention earlier this year. Harms was trying to come up with an unusual fundraising idea. He knew a Lions member who had a connection at Toro and simply sent an email asking if the company would support him.

The response was the use of the Timecutter zero-turn-radius mower for the ride, which is fitted with a canopy, GPS locator and a trailer, but that was not all.

The company not only donated the use of the mower but is also offering a brand-new mower, not the one that Harms is riding, that will be raffled off, with all of the proceeds going to the hearing center.

“Toro has been absolutely fantastic in supporting this program,” Harms said.


Gretchen Schlosser writes for the West Central Tribune


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