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World Leaders, Celebrities Gather for Star-Studded Gala

Last night, world leaders and celebrities came to St. Paul to support and celebrate the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s 14th annual So the World May Hear Awards Gala. VIPs and celebrities in attendance included former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; musicians Rob Thomas, John Legend, Sammy Hagar and Jessica Sanchez; actors Forest Whitaker, Shannon Elizabeth, Verne Troyer, and Lou Ferrigno; and athletes Larry Fitzgerald, Derrick Coleman, Greg Jennings, Adrian Peterson and Dikembe Mutombo, among others.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a picture with Starkey Hearing Found ...

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a picture with Starkey Hearing Foundation founders Bill and Tani Austin at the Starkey Hearing Foundation's "So the World May Hear" Awards Gala on Sunday, July 20, 2014 in St. Paul, Minn. The foundation is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and gives away more than 100,000 hearing aids in the U.S. and around the world annually. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for Starkey Hearing Foundation/AP Images)

The So the World May Hear Awards Gala honors men and women whose contributions have helped make the world a better place, celebrating Starkey Hearing Foundation founder Bill Austin’s motto, “Alone we can’t do much. Together we can change the world.” The event is also Starkey Hearing Foundation’s largest annual fundraiser, and this year’s gala raised a record-setting $8.7 million to support the Foundation’s charitable work around the world. As a member of President Clinton’s Global Initiative, the Foundation has pledged to fit and give one million hearing aids this decade.

“The gift of hearing opens up a whole new world of opportunity. It connects individuals to each other and empowers them to reach their full potential,” said Austin. “The question you should always ask is, ‘Who can I reflect caring to today?’ Because that simple kindness, that act of lifting someone up, gets reflected forward to others.”

Highlights of the evening included speeches from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; an emotional reflection from Super Bowl champion Derrick Coleman, the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL; a soulful performance from Jessica Sanchez and acoustic performances by GRAMMY Award winners Rob Thomas and John Legend; and a grand finale with fellow GRAMMY Award winner Sammy Hagar.

2014 presenters included: former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, Larry Fitzgerald, Derrick Coleman, Senator Norm Coleman, Dikembe Mutombo and Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe.

Sec. Clinton spoke to the strong relationship the Clinton family has with Starkey Hearing Foundation. “It’s been three years since Starkey committed to donating one million hearing aids this decade through the Clinton Global Initiative. The foundation is well ahead of schedule, and I want all of us to join together in this effort,” said Clinton. “Starkey creates opportunities for communication and connection in a world that sorely needs it. This work is an act of love. An act of devotion and caring and concern.”

Super Bowl champion Derrick Coleman of the Seattle Seahawks spoke to his personal experience with hearing loss. Said Coleman, “My family raised me to never use my hearing loss as an excuse. They taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. This mentality and approach to life is what got me to the NFL and to later become a Super Bowl Champion.” Coleman added, “Over the past 50 years, Bill Austin has revolutionized the hearing industry with life-changing products to help someone like me live my dreams.”

2014 honorees included Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation); Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker (The Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative); Sandi Young (humanitarian); Prince Seeiso (Sentebale); and Bassam Aramin, Mazen Faraj, Abraham Elhanan and Ayelet Harel (The Parents Circle-Families Forum). Honorees were recognized for their positive contributions to the world, and each spoke about their causes.

Forest Whitaker was recognized for his work with the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative. He recalled his first Starkey Hearing Foundation mission in Uganda and spoke to his passion for giving back and improving the lives of others. “I’ve seen the reaction of someone who has heard for the first time, and it’s overpowering,” said Whitaker. “Starkey is doing amazing work, bringing hearing to people who don’t have the opportunity to be included in the universal sound that all of us are.” Whitaker believes in the power of education to promote peace, and is dedicated to teaching and healing the young victims of Uganda’s civil war through his work with Hope North.

The Foundation is already looking forward to next year’s gala, set for July 26, 2015. For additional information about Starkey Hearing Foundation’s awards galas, visit http://www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org/galas. More information about the Foundation’s work can be found on Starkey Hearing Foundation’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

About Starkey Hearing Foundation

Starkey Hearing Foundation uses hearing as a vehicle to reflect caring and change lives around the world. Disabling hearing loss affects more than 360 million people, including 32 million children, worldwide, yet many do not have access to the hearing devices that can help them. Starkey Hearing Foundation fits and gives more than 100,000 hearing aids annually, and as a member of President Clinton’s Global Initiative, it has pledged to fit one million hearing aids this decade. In addition to giving the gift of hearing through worldwide hearing missions, Starkey Hearing Foundation promotes hearing health awareness and education through the Listen Carefully campaign and provides hearing instruments to low-income Americans through the Hear Now program. For more information on Starkey Hearing Foundation, visit www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org.

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