A Look Back at Giving with Starkey Hearing Foundation in 2015

In 1973, Starkey Hearing Technologies Founder and CEO William F. Austin started the “Starkey Fund” with a policy to help patients who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. In 1984, he took that commitment to caring for others a step further, and Starkey Hearing Foundation was born. The Foundation gives more than 200,000 hearing devices annually to children and adults in need in the United States and around the world, striving to connect people through better hearing. 

This year, Starkey Hearing Foundation completed more than 73 hearing missions. As we come to the end of 2015, we wanted to take a moment and highlight all the incredible work and memories of this year by sharing some of the 2015 missions and experiences from Starkey employees who had the chance to participate. 

In 2015, Starkey Hearing Foundation hearing missions were held in the United States, Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.  

Favorite Hearing Mission Moments of 2015

Cabo San Lucas and Los Mochis, Mexico ~ First Mission of 2015

Held at the most southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, this mission held two gifts:  better hearing and hope. In September 2014, the area had been hit hard by Hurricane Odile, so the team worked hard to bring the joy of sound to hundreds including an impromptu concert by rock legend Sammy Hagar. 

Phoenix ~Super Bowl Mission 

This year’s Super Bowl weekend held more than just an exciting game. Joined by Foundation friends Marlee Matlin, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Daymond John among others, Starkey Hearing Foundation was able to provide 75 people with the gift of hearing. And for 15-year-old Larry Cain who had struggled with hearing loss since birth, the day was even more memorable when he was fit with hearing aids by not only Bill Austin but also his idol, Arizona Cardinals’ wide receive Larry Fitzgerald.

Delhi and Jaipur, India ~ A Month of Giving

Together with Starkey India, this hearing mission lasted almost a month and showed the strength of the AfterCare program. Neha was a longtime patient of Bill Austin’s, having received AfterCare services and seen Bill a total of five times. When the Foundation caught up with her in February, she was joined by her husband, Achin, who also suffered from hearing loss. In true Valentine’s spirit, the Foundation fit Achin, creating a new bond between husband and wife. 

Nouakchott, Mauritania ~ Inaugural Mission

For the first time ever, the Foundation team traveled to Mauritania in Northern Africa. This hearing mission was extremely special for the Foundation when Dr. Mohamed Bouria of The Bin Bayyah Foundation unveiled a Starkey Hearing Foundation office in the Bin Bayyah Foundation’s building — one totally dedicated to host AfterCare needs and to support continuing hearing healthcare in Mauritania. 

Soroti, Uganda ~ Mother’s Day

The Foundation travels often to Uganda, but this year was incredibly special as the team united mothers and children together through the gift of hearing for Mother’s Day. Additionally, Bill Austin and the Foundation were honored with a certificate of appreciation from Connect People with Disability.

New York City ~Helping Holocaust Survivors

In late September, the Foundation worked with the New York Yankees and Minnesota Vikings to host one of it’s most memorable hearing missions yet. In addition to helping children and adults from around the New York City area, the Foundation fit 15 Holocaust survivors. The story was incredible and can be viewed here

Brazzaville, Congo ~ A Helping Hand

On this hearing mission, the team was joined by Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and other Foundation friends, but it was one little 9-year-old girl who stole our hearts. During the first day of fittings, the little girl walked her younger brother alone from their home to the hearing mission site and made sure her brother got the gift of hearing. She shows that no matter where you are or how young you are, you can always make a difference in the world around you.

As part of this year’s look back, we caught up with some of our Starkey employees to get a few words on what it was like   to participate in a Starkey Hearing Foundation hearing mission. 

Here is what they said:

Jim Knutsen, Chifeng, China August 2015

 “I was overwhelmed with the response of these people. I have never watched the perceptions of people change so quickly and completely. Caring for people is powerful!”

Allison Brown, Mozambique June 2015

“The people of Mozambique were so friendly and appreciative, but the most incredible experience was when I fit a 7-year-old boy named Marcel. Marcel lost his hearing at a very young age after being treated for malaria. His mom looked on as Marcel was fit with his hearing aids. When Marcel realized he could hear, his smile was huge. I asked the translator to have his mom speak and when she did, Marcel stopped, stared up at his mom with his jaw wide open in surprise, and let out the most precious giggle I had ever heard! I will never forget how all of the people were so excited and proud to get their hearing aids.”

Mary Wagner, Honduras June 2015

For me, the mission experience was amazing – working with the mission team and seeing first-hand how hard everyone works was inspiring. The patient fitting experience was hands-down the best experience of my life – to see, feel and share the gift of hearing with people young and old was truly an incredible experience – the many tears, smiles and hugs that were shared with complete strangers is something I will never forget.”

Juan Pablo Trejos, Panama August 2015

Since I have worked for Starkey, I have completely immersed myself in the areas of business development, sales, marketing, etc., but being on a mission has allowed me to see the human side of our industry. Just seeing the satisfaction of parents, children, and the underprivileged elderly with their immense gratitude to receive a hearing aid, makes me realize that all the work that we do through the Foundation, along with our careers at Starkey is definitely worth it.”

Mike Poppen, Madagascar May 2015

“I’m not even sure where to begin and end. I think of all the people we gave the gift of hearing to. It was amazing to see the reactions of so many on a personal level.  I was amazed at the level of perfection that the whole Starkey Hearing Foundation group did on a daily basis. What a team put together by Bill and Tani. A mission like this changes your whole way of thinking about what you do or don’t have in your life.”

Molly Pittelkow, Chifeng, China August 2015

To say it was life changing sounds cliché, but it really did give me a different perspective. To see that level of poverty was an awakening to a lot of things I have and take for granted. In the first world, we focus so much on the accumulation of “things” but to see someone hear for the first time in years or even the first time ever, really reminds you about what’s truly important: connections, interactions, community, and family. Giving people a means of making those everyday connections that we take for granted felt like a gift to me even more than a gift to them. 

Kate Simek, El Salvador June 2015

Maria came to my chair on our second day in El Salvador with her daughter. She showed no emotion and through her daughter and our translator, Dani, I learned that Maria had not been able to hear for years. I looked Maria in the eyes, grabbed her hand and told her daughter we would do whatever it would take to bring her hearing back. At first, we got no response, but after moving up a power level, Maria’s eyes fluttered. I said “Hola” and she said “Hola” quietly back. I tried a few more “ba’s” and words – she heard them all, nodding her head in delight with every sound. I looked up and her daughter was crying. Maria grabbed my face and then began to franticly speak. I asked Dani to translate and Dani began to cry. “Maria is telling you that you are her angel. She walks to church every day and is now thanking God for her angel”. By then, we were all crying and I let Maria know that she was indeed my angel too. We spent a few extra minutes together – and of course documenting our new connection with photos and selfies! I am so thankful to have had this experience – what I do every day became real at that very moment. And life was never the same. I will carry Maria in my heart forever. 

John Sheehan, Dominican Republic in February and to Madagascar and Mozambique in May.

The experiences  gave me a different perspective on both my life and the world around me. As an employee, I realize that each person within Starkey Hearing Technologies is part of something bigger, and we all have our own roles to play that makes the company and Foundation what it is today.

By Sarah Bricker