Former President Bill Clinton hasn't arrived yet, but organizers say the Friday night fund-raising dinner where he will speak is shaping up to be a success.
The Lexington Hearing and Speech Center anticipates ticket sales and pledges made at the event will raise more than $300,000 as a kickoff to the fund-raising campaign to replace the North Ashland Avenue school.
The dinner at the R.J. Corman aircraft hangar in Nicholasville — a site that has been used in the past for proms and banquets — is nearly sold out, said Lori Shepherd, executive director of the hearing and speech center. Ticket sales end Thursday.
"We are just about at capacity," Shepherd said Wednesday morning. "We can move some things around and sit some more folks in. And I've got to tell you, even as late as today, that's what we're doing because the phone is still ringing."
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Clinton has personal experience with hearing loss. He was fitted for a hearing aid in 1997 after realizing that rallies and concerts had taken a toll on his hearing.
In recent days, the former president has appeared around the country in support of Democratic candidates facing opposition in the mid-term elections, but Shepherd said Clinton is not making any political appearances in this visit.
Kassie DePaiva, a Kentucky native and actress who appears on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, will emcee the dinner in Nicholasville. Her son was born deaf, and DePaiva has raised money and awareness for organizations including The League for the Hard of Hearing and the Deafness Research Foundation.
Wednesday was the first day of classes for about 70 preschool and kindergarten children who attend the Lexington Hearing and Speech Center, which offers day care, preschool and kindergarten programs for hearing- and speech-impaired children. It also offers audiological and speech-language pathology services. In all, the center serves 800 to 1,000 children each year, Shepherd said, and the Clinton visit has brought more attention to its programs.
"We look for opportunities to share what we do and share our mission," Shepherd said, "and this has given us a huge stage to do it on."