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Grateful aunt gives back to Clarke School in Northampton

— When her niece, Erica Sorrenti, suffered hearing loss as an infant, Kimberly Battinelli feared it would be very difficult for her to attend a mainstream school.

Then, Erica’s family discovered the Clarke School For Speech and Hearing in Northampton, a school that specializes in working with and educating children with hearing problems like Erica’s.

Born in 2007, Erica began attending Clarke when she was only three months old, and remained there until she was 3 years old. Battinelli said the work Clarke teachers did with her over those years was crucial in getting her into mainstream schools.

Now, Battinelli, who lives in Holbrook, and is an employee at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, is giving back. She recently selected the Clarke School to receive a $500 grant through the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation’s Community Spirit 9/11 program.

“The work they did for her helped get her into mainstream schools. Now she’s one of the most talkative kids you’ll ever meet,” said Battinelli.

Jane Lennox, the school’s chief development officer, said, “We’re deeply grateful to anyone who makes a donation. ... Quite frankly, we wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the generosity of those donors.” She said Battinelli’s donation will be used to fund the school’s general operations, as per the donor’s request.

The Clarke School helps deaf or hearing-impaired students learn the skills necessary to be successful. In response to the growing need among children for the services that it offers, the school has opened additional campuses in Boston, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and New York City over the last two decades.

Created in 2002 to honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, the Community Spirit 9/11 grant program allows each of Harvard Pilgrim’s employees to choose a nonprofit organization to receive a donation from the foundation each year. To date, it has resulted in the distribution of nearly $3 million in grants.

“It’s a really interesting program that I don’t think a lot of other organizations have. It’s really taken off the past few years,” said Lily Lynch, a spokeswoman for The Harvard Pilgrim Foundation.

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