Photo by Matt Stensland
The Tritz family, of Oak Creek, from left, Sorrel, Emilee, Tanner and Chris, are hoping to raise funds for Tanner, who has cerebral palsy, to purchase a device that will allow him to communicate better. Not pictured is Tanner’s brother, Peyton.
If you go
What: An auction and comedy show to raise money for Tanner Tritz
When: Saturday; the auction begins at 3 p.m., the comedy show with nationally touring comedian Taylor Mason starts at 7 p.m.
Where: Soroco High School gym
Cost: Reserved seats are $15; general admission seats are $10. Call Marcia Gregory at 846-6428.
Other: Donations also can be made to the Tanner Tritz Fund, care of Gregory, at P.O. Box 701 in Oak Creek, or at First National Bank of the Rockies. To see a sample of Mason’s act, visit www.taylormason.com.
Steamboat Springs For the first time in his life, Tanner Tritz has a real voice.
Born with cerebral palsy and plagued by seizures, Tanner, 11, has been unable to communicate clearly until recently, when his family learned about a device that acts as a voice box. But the trial period for the device ends at the end of the month, and his parents face the possibility of losing this line of communication with their son.
The DynaVox box, a touch-screen device that Tanner uses to tell people what he wants and needs, costs $7,000. Even with both parents working, the additional cost — on top of Tanner’s routine medical care — poses a significant fundraising challenge to Tanner’s family. Recognizing an opportunity to help, Tritz family friend Marcia Gregory has stepped in and organized a fundraiser for Tanner that will include an auction of donated goods and a comedy show with nationally touring comedian Taylor Mason. The event is Saturday at Soroco High School.
Tanner’s mother, Sorrel Tritz, said her son’s physical limitations are something the family has learned to deal with. Tanner is in a wheelchair most of the time, and he has had dozens of surgeries, starting when he was 8 weeks old. He has had surgery on his spinal cord, pins placed in his hips, surgeries to lengthen his hamstring and Achilles tendons, and he visits the hospital every three months for bone-strengthening medications by IV.
Even with all of those challenges, his parents said Tanner’s difficulty communicating stands out.
“This is probably one of the hardest things we have dealt with since he was born,” Tanner’s dad, Chris Tritz, said. “He’s got a lot in there to tell you.”
Sorrel said as Tanner has matured, he’s started trying to talk more and more, but he often finds himself frustrated by his own limitations.
“He’s started to get frustrated and hit himself,” she said. “As a mom, seeing him do that is heart-wrenching. To see him get so frustrated to the point that he’s hurting himself.”
Tanner has started to create his own sign language and has a limited vocabulary, and his parents often have to guess what he wants.
“We know he’s got a lot in there to tell us. He gets very animated, and he has a lot of baby babbling, and he babbles and his arms go, but he just can’t express it,” Sorrel Tritz said.
She said family members who are around him every day have learned some of the phrases Tanner uses, but the voice box would allow everyone to understand him more.
“It’s like opening up a new world with it,” she said about the communication device.
Tanner has been using the loaner device for about a month, and Sorrel said she’s worried about Tanner when they take it away.
“At school, I was at his assessment and just watching when they put it away … he got really frustrated,” she said.
The auction, to be held at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Soroco High School gym, will include a variety of donated items such as a saddle, clothing, certificates for services such as teeth whitening, and condo accommodations in Steamboat Springs, Gregory said. Comedian Taylor Mason will follow with a show at 7 p.m. Gregory said there are 1,000 seats available, and they hope to fill them all.
Tickets are $15 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission. For a sample of Mason’s ventriloquist and comedy routine, visit www.taylormason.com.