The Starkey Hearing Foundation recently reached a milestone, fitting more than one million people with life changing hearing aids in over 100 countries. They’re reason is simply to help people in need, and the results are truly life changing.
Over the years the Starkey Foundation has touched the lives of countless individuals and their families by giving the gift of sound. Their work allows audio communication and interaction to exist for people who had only known silence, and also allows those who had suffered hearing loss to once again hear their surroundings, and fully communicate with the world.
An on-field example of what the Starkey Foundation can do to improve the quality of life for athletes can be seen in 2013 Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman. Coleman began loosing his hearing at the age of three due to a genetic issue, though it can make things difficult, he has never allowed his hearing loss to impede on his positive outlook on life.
After a successful college career Derrick Coleman became the first legally deaf player that plays offense to be drafted by the NFL. He was introduced to the Starkey Foundation in 2012, while playing for the Vikings practice squad, and has worn Starkey hearing aids ever since.
After being cut by Minnesota, Coleman was able to make a roster spot on the 2013 Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, and was an integral part of their historic playoff run. He participated is his first mission this year when he traveled to New York to help restore hearing to a stadium full of people who also live with hearing loss.
Seattle Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman
“My family raised me to never use my hearing as an excuse. They taught me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I have to be persistent and give it everything I have to prove myself. This mentality and approach to life is what got to the NFL and later to become a Super Bowl Champion.”
Another example of the work Starkey does is supporting new foundations as they grow as part of the foundation’s initiative to build a better tomorrow. One example of this is through their contributions to organizations like the Greg Jennings Foundation.
The Greg Jennings Foundation focuses on creating a community where resources are available to meet the educational needs of young people, allowing them to reach their academic potential.
Jennings has been taking part in Starkey missions since 2012, starting with a mission in Tanzania. He was also involved in missions in the United States in both New Orleans, and Minneapolis during 2013, and named an honoree during the 2013 Starkey Awards Gala.
Examiner: “You’ve worked on multiple Starkey mission, has this foundation become something you feel you need to promote to those around you?”
Greg Jennings: “Any time you can be a part something, an organization that brings about change, and the way that the Starkey foundation brings about that change. I think that it’s important, as not only just an athlete, but as human beings to be a part of something that’s going to leave a positive lasting influence.”
Examiner: “How did you first get involved with the Starkey foundation?”
Greg Jennings: “I actually got involved through Larry Fitzgerald, he brought me to the Gala event a few years ago. I saw the videos of the mission and I went on a mission and got hooked. They have been supportive of what we do at our foundation, and I’m in support of what they do here at the Starkey foundation.”
Examiner: “What do they mean to you personally?”
Greg Jennings: “They mean a lot. What they mean to me personally is an opportunity to help someone else who’s in need of the help, to receive the help that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.”
NFL Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been a devout supporter of the Starkey Foundation and it’s work dating back to 2009. His work with the foundation spans the globe, attending 9 missions in 7 different countries including two missions here in the United States. From India and Nepal in 2010, to the Philippines and Rwanda in recent years, Fitzgerald has made promoting the gift of hearing a significant part of his life.
Fitzgerald introduced Greg Jennings to the foundation, who in turn introduced Minnesota Vikings second year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to Starkey. It was Patterson’s first time at a Starkey Gala, and all though he was still learning about the foundation, he was willing to speak briefly with Examiner.
Examiner: “Cordarrelle, how did you first hear about the Starkey foundation?”
C. Patterson: “Actually I went to Greg Jennings Foundation. Starkey, they sponsor him and his foundation. Greg tells me all the time that just by being around those guys you enjoy yourself. I talked to those guys, I came out here today to support Starkey, whatever they need me to do I’m there.
Examiner: ”I know Greg was on Honoree last year with the NFL cares program. Do you have any plains on going on any missions?”
C. Patterson: “I don’t have any plans, I’m just taking it all in right now. Sitting back and observing, and seeing what out there for me.”
Examiner: “What are your initial impressions of the Starkey Foundation?”
C. Patterson: “ I’m just now hearing about it, the hearing aids and stuff. It’s good to just hear the questions people have, and telling people your own input. Its good to be here, and to support them.”
The NFL and the Starkey foundation have a long history together, many current and retired NFL players support the foundation. Attendees included Chuck Foreman RB (1973-1980), Carl Eller DE (1964-1979), Chris Doleman DE (1985-1999), ESPN analyst and former Vikings RB Robert Smith, Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph, Robert Griffith safety (1994-2006), Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley, San Francisco 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman, and more.
In addition to the NFL, the NHL’s David Backes of the St. Louis Blues became one of the first NHL hockey players to attend a Starkey mission in 2014. Backes is the captain of his team, and plays a mixture of center and right wing and attended his first Starkey Gala in 2013.
Examiner: “You were down in the mission in Kenya, could you describe what that scenario was like?
David Beck: “ It’s life changing to see the work that’s done to help a child or person to hear for the first time in a while, if not ever, it’s profound. It’s something that you’ll never forget. We had an amazing time I don’t think its our last mission.
The people of Kenya were so happy, so receptive; you need to really be humbled by some of the living conditions that the Kenyan’s are in. Also, the great spirits that they have as a community. For us to help the people out like that is was just a really great experience.”
Examiner: “What would you say the Starkey foundation represents to you personally?”
David Beck: “It’s an inspiration what Bill and Tani have done. They didn’t just think of how they could change the world, but they’re going out there and they’re doing it. They’ve gotten their hands dirty, they’re in the mix and they really helping to bring change.
Everywhere they go, I think is found to be better when they leave. It’s something that we try to emulate in our philanthropic efforts. It’s been an amazing time getting to know them, and being involved in the foundation, and it’s obviously going to continue for many years.”
Major League Baseball also has ties to Starkey. After helping on his first mission this year in Minneapolis, MLB Hall of Famer Paul Molitor has decided to travel with the foundation to the mission in the Dominican Republic. Hall of Fame hitter and special assistant to Executive Director of MLB Players Association Dave Winfield attended his second Starkey Gala and was all smiles on the red carpet.
Timberwolves/Lynx Owner Glen Taylor and his family have been huge supporters of Starkey’s work. Their role is not limited to just assisting with funding, but truly getting involved, and being a part in missions in 6 different countries since 2005.
Other NBA representatives in attendance were Caron Butler of the LA Clippers, who attended the China mission in 2012 with the NBA Cares initiative. Former Chicago Bulls point guard Ron Harper who went with Starkey to India in 2013. WNBA San Antonio Stars Head Coach Avery Johnson who played point guard for the NBA Spurs made his first trip to a Starkey Gala this year.
Dikembe Mutombo made his second appearance at Starkey. Mutombo founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation after a stellar NBA career. Mutombo’s Foundation focuses on improving the primary health and overall quality of life for people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was on-site at the Starkey mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year and is a big supporter of the work Starkey does.
Current member of the Minnesota Timberwolves Ronny Turiaf attended his first Starkey Gala this year and was accompanied by the Founder/CEO of Be Own Sports Aly Samabaly who was attending his second Gala.
Examiner: “How did you first get started with the Starkey foundation exactly?”
Aly Samabaly: “It was through a friend, I was born in Africa and lost my parents when I was really young. I lived in France, than came to United States to Akron, Ohio. Played with Lebron James for about three years, won state championship together.
Then I went to college, and through college I wanted to start something that can really engage young kids around the world. So I started a company called Be Own Sports. I met Bill Austin through that and saw him doing stuff all over the world.
Be Own Sports, basically what we do is we go around the world refurbishing basketball courts, soccer fields for kids just to play. But they can’t play in it, if they don’t go to school. They have to go to school. We want to raise the level of education.
Ronny (Turiaf) is my friend from when I was in France. I invite him here to Starkey; it’s his first year here. It’s kinda hard not to connect with Starkey.”
Examiner: “How significant are Bill and Tanana in that program building the sports facilities?”
Aly Samabaly: “We are really trying to engage them, get them to join our program. We haven’t made it officially yet, and we are really working hard. So far it’s been just me putting my own money into it. I am looking for sponsors to get the name of the company out there. I am inviting people really to know that through athletics is such a big love, through sports around the world, and kids really want to play the sports.
I want to use sports to really encourage them to go to school and get an education. In order to do that we need to get people like Bill and Tani, and places like the Starkey Foundation to help support us finically so we can refurbishes more courts, and refurbish more class rooms for kids to be able to get an education.”
Examiner: “What does the Starkey foundation represent to you?”
Aly Samabaly: “It actually changed my life, the reason why…my first Gala was last year. I have been working on my company for seven years with nobody, no money, for seven years going to Africa doing basketball camps, soccer camps, knocking on doors.
Last year I came here to the Starkey Gala with my wife. My father-in-law Carl Eller, he invited us here, and when I got here what I saw…the love that I saw inside the event, everybody coming together for the purpose of helping other people, it blew my mind. From that event last year I kicked it in gear with my foundation. The Starkey Foundation really changed my life.”
Examiner: “You’re here with your friend Aly Samabaly, how did the two of you become involved in the Starkey foundation?”
Ronny Turiaf: “Through the project we’re working on in Africa rebuilding sports facilities and encouraging education for youth called Be Own Sports. I think the work they do is invaluable for the people down there. To gave them the chance that they can have a hope that they can have a better living, a better tomorrow.”
Examiner: “What does the Starkey Foundation signify to you personally?”
Ronny Turiaf: “Starkey signifies to me…Opportunity. Opportunity to do something, opportunity to give back, opportunity to help somebody go through adversity, and the opportunity to do something positive. That’s how I look at it.”