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N. Huntingdon Scout seeks to help hearing impaired

Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Mark Downey, 13, of North Huntingdon Township shows the Lifetone HL 150. This device serves the hearing impaired as an alarm clock and smoke detector.

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Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A North Huntingdon Township teenager seeks to help the hearing impaired while working toward the Boy Scout's highest honor.

Potential Eagle Scout Mark Downey, 13, has begun raising money to buy bedside smoke detectors that also serve as alarm clocks.

The Irwin-based Boy Scout Troop 295 member acquired more than $3,600 from selling approximately 500 Easter flowers last month. The money will be used to purchase Lifetone HL 150 models at $112.50 each.

The devices alert the hearing impaired with flashing light, siren and a vibrating attachment that can be placed under a pillow or mattress.

Mark said he plans to distribute between 48-56 smoke detectors through the Circleville Volunteer Fire Department to patients from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, local schools for the deaf, and children in Westmoreland County.

He said any extra alarms will go to the hearing impaired in Allegheny County.

Mark, a Norwin Middle School eighth-grader, said the Eagle Scout project is designed to help children like himself instead of doing a more labor-based effort.

“I thought something nicer was something that I should do instead of doing something like go to a church and paint a wall,” he said.

Mark's mother RoseAnn Downey said her son was diagnosed with hearing problems at age 3. She said he suffered a hockey injury years ago that further impacted his hearing.

He uses a hearing aid and an implant that helps produces electric sounds. Mark underwent surgery in 2011 that allowed him to hear from his right ear for the first time.

“I'm very proud of you for doing this,” RoseAnn Downey told Mark. “You're saving lives, (which is) the most important part.”

“It just feels kind of not real in a way,” Mark said. “It feels like people are treating it better than I ever would expect.”

Bill Sombo, assistant chief at Circleville VFD, said the bedside smoke detector could be a life-saving device for someone with impaired hearing.

“Anyone who is hearing impaired isn't going to be able to hear a smoke alarm when it goes off, especially when they're sleeping,” Sombo said. “This will give them the notice they need, and is going to be a great device for anyone with a hearing impairment.”

For more information on the smoke detectors, or to make a donation, contact the Downey family at

Tribune-Review News Service contributed to this story. Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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