North Huntingdon teen's Scout project reaches out to hearing impaired

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

North Huntingdon resident Mark Downey hopes his Eagle Scout project has a lasting impact.

Instead of a labor-based project, Downey, 13, plans to raise money to buy bedside smoke detectors for the hearing impaired.

“We could do something, like painting a wall, or we could do something more,” Mark said. “It's something a lot of people may need, but don't have.”

This summer, he plans to distribute at least 56 smoke detectors through the Circleville Volunteer Fire Department to patients from Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, local schools for the deaf and children in Department of Early Intervention in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.

Mark, who is hearing impaired, wears a surgically implanted cochlear implant in his right ear and a hearing aid in his left ear. He first began wearing a hearing aid when he was 3 years old. Then, about three years ago, a hockey accident further damaged Mark's hearing, according to his mother, RoseAnn Downey.

The smoke detectors, which also work as an alarm clock, alert people with impaired hearing with a siren, flashing light and a vibrating attachment, which is placed under a pillow or mattress, Mark said.

“Whenever it senses smoke, it starts shaking the bed and sets off the siren,” Mark said.

Mark keeps one of the units beside his bed.

Each smoke detector costs $112.50, Mark said.

Mark began raising money by selling Easter flowers, and plans to continue collecting donations in hopes of giving out more detectors, he said. So far, he's raised about $3,000.

Bill Sombo, assistant chief at Circleville Volunteer Fire Department, 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 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

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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