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Miller visits holiday party for the deaf

Posted Dec 11, 2012

BEACHWOOD -- Browns offensive lineman Ryan Miller visited a holiday party for the hearing impaired of Cleveland on Tuesday morning.

BEACHWOOD -- Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Ryan Miller spent Tuesday morning interacting with children and senior citizens at the eighth annual American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Community Holiday Party held at Beachwood High School.

Miller signed with the more than 500 people who attended the event, hosted by the 80 members of Beachwood High School’s American Sign Language Club.

“It’s phenomenal,” Miller said of the experience. “They are amazing. With everybody here, you always find that there’s a smile from ear-to-ear. These people are so in tune and so wonderful. There’s just a zest and zeal for life. I really find that it’s rejuvenating. To be able to communicate with them in their language, in my language, is amazing.”

For Miller, visiting and becoming familiar with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Cleveland is an important and personal journey.

“I always had hearing issues growing up and it wasn’t until college that I got into ASL and the deaf culture,” Miller said. “I had a phenomenal deaf teacher named Willie Moers, who was an incredible athlete. He threw the hammer in the Deaflympics and I know he won gold a few times. I wanted to find out how I could get more involved and use football or where God has put me to give more of a voice to deaf culture.”

Miller took three years of sign-language classes from Moers at the University of Colorado and had previous experience with the language through research on the internet, as well as interactions with a deaf teammate during a sixth-grade basketball camp.

During his visit to the party, Miller communicated with people from all over Cleveland. People from the Wilson School for the Deaf, Beachwood Deaf Education Program, Berea and Maple Heights, as well as deaf senior citizens from the Helen S. Brown Senior Citizens Center and Christ Deaf Lutheran Church attended Tuesday’s holiday party.

For more than 30 years, Sharon Weisman, the American sign language teacher at Beachwood High School and advisor of the club, has seen the impact sign language can have on people.

She first learned sign language after teaching a swim class for deaf students at Ohio State University. From there, she went on to get a Master’s degree in deaf education and now, helps plan the annual holiday party.

“The senior citizens and the kids love to see the sports figures here,” Weisman said of Miller’s visit. “We’re so excited to see Ryan here. They were excited even before he came. Everybody was talking about the fact that he was coming. We also heard that he signs a little bit, so they were really excited. He’s been phenomenal. As a teacher, this is what you teach for, to teach students a skill, like sign language, and then, have them come and use it. There’s nothing better for a teacher.”