Beyond the Game: "Jacob's Ride" raising money for cochlear implants

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- For generations baseball has brought fathers and sons together. And this year, Jacob Landis is connecting with his father in a unique way.

On April 3rd, Landis left his Annapolis, Maryland home on his bicycle, headed for Washington, D.C. to take in a Washington Nationals game.

This summer, he plans to ride his bike to all 30 Major League ball parks!

"I kind of like checking out each ball park. They're all so different," Landis said.

Stop #14 of 30 was in Milwaukee at Miller Park while the Dodgers were in town.

"I'm kind of looking forward to seeing Zach Greinke pitch for the Dodgers, just because he's a good pitcher. I've never seen him pitch before," Landis said.

When Landis arrived at Miller Park, there were a number of people greeting him, including Erik Pintar of Wauwatosa. But the meeting meant more to them than taking pictures while on the field, or enjoying the sights and sounds of batting practice close up.

"I was born with 80 to 90 decibel hearing loss. I wore hearing aides my whole life," Pintar said.

Both Landis and Pintar used to wear hearing aides. However, they didn't work well enough for either of them to hear.

Now, they both have cochlear implants, enabling them to hear the crack of the bat, among other things.

"I've been so blessed to have a cochlear implant. Just every day conversation, things like most people take for granted, being able to talk in a noisy room or being able to go out to a restaurant with friends. Things like that are only really possible for me because of the cochlear implant," Pintar said.

Nine-year-old Dylan Boehler has also gone from hearing aides to cochlear implants and was also able to meet Landis for the first time at the Brewers game.

"It was the first time I've ever seen him and I thought that was really cool," Boehler said.

"It's huge, huge what he's doing," Dylan's mother, Amy said.

Landis is riding across the country and back -- 10,500 miles in all, raising money to make cochlear implants affordable for those who qualify for them but cannot afford them.

"We want to get up to a million dollars," Landis said.

"We're trying to help him get there. Cochlear implant surgeries are expensive," Boehler said.

"I wanted to raise money for him so he could help other people more," Dylan Boehler said.

"It made me proud because he did it on his own. He went door-to-door. He went to school. He went to everybody he knows. And he made phone calls to family out of state," Boehler said.

Dylan's effort raised $650.23.

"It makes people feel like they're part of the ride too," Landis said.

"Some families can have funding sources that are readily available and willing to provide this type of device to their children. Other families don't have that," Amy Lalios said.

Lalios is a verbal therapist at the Center for Communication Hearing and Deafness. Landis visited the day after the game to meet children with hearing loss and their parents.

"I don't know of anyone else that's riding a bike across the country and having the ability to interact with personally with a lot of young people and just individuals across the country. I think it's an amazing thing and it's very inspiring," Boehler said.

"One of the biggest reasons I'm doing this ride, I'm making my father proud of me you know. It's becoming a big part of it," Landis said.

In the fourth grade, Landis was struggling in school.

"I would just take my hearing aides out and hide them in my desk. The teacher wasn't really trained to notice that type of thing," Landis said.

Landis' father stepped in, and fought for him and his ability to learn.

"He was furious with the Board of Education for allowing that to happen. Legally he couldn't get me out of the school system. But then we got the cochlear implant and I went to a different school district," Landis said.

Landis left Milwaukee on a gray, cool day, but he is bringing warmth to the hearts of those he's riding for each stadium and mile along the way.

"I still have a long way to go," Landis said.

CLICK HERE for additional information on "Jacob's Ride." 

CLICK HERE for additional information on the Wisconsin Center for Communication, Hearing and Deafness.