St Paul, Minn—On June 23, Jay Leno of NBC’s The Tonight Show hosted the 2007 “So the World May Hear Awards Gala” for the second consecutive year, along with Master of Ceremonies Norm Crosby, on behalf of Starkey Hearing Foundation’s William (Bill) and Tani Austin. The event, held at the St. Paul RiverCentre, brings attention to the dire need for worldwide hearing care, particularly for children, and also recognizes outstanding contributions in philanthropic and humanitarian achievement. This year’s gala raised $4.5 million for the foundation through its ticket sales, silent auction, and the main auction in which attendees and corporate sponsors bid to accompany the foundation team on worldwide hearing care missions.
- Bill and Tani Austin and the Starkey Hearing Foundation honored actress Goldie Hawn (center) for her Goldie Hawn Bright Light Foundation.
This year’s award presentations honored Federated Insurance CEO and philanthropist Al Annexstad and wife Cathy, former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, actress Goldie Hawn, and Baseball Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda. Additionally, speeches were presented by golf-legend Arnold Palmer, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Starkey Laboratories founder Bill Austin, and company President Jerry Ruzicka.
The Starkey Foundation Gala is the annual fundraiser that provides money for the foundation’s worldwide hearing care missions. Since 2000, the foundation has dispensed over 212,000 hearing aids to children and others in need of hearing help. This year’s initiatives include new missions in Africa, India, Mexico, and Turkey.
The star-studded event featured musical performances by Jim Belushi & the Sacred Hearts, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Kenny Loggins, Jaime Thietten, and Keaton Simons. Among the many highlights, the night included Belushi enlisting the aid of CareCredit’s Paul Findly in a song-and-dance number, Frey singing more than a half-dozen Eagles’ classics, including Take It Easy and Take It to the Limit, and Loggins bringing the crowd to its feet with Footloose. Other celebrities attending the event included Buzz Aldrin, Scott Carpenter, Robert Culp, Lou Ferrigno, Peter Marshall, Marlee Matlin, Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Sinatra, Kevin Sorbo, Robert Wagner, Paul Williams, and many others.
- Tani Austin (center) shares a moment with Hawn and actress Jane Seymour.
Arnold Palmer introduced Bill Austin with a moving speech about how Austin had personally convinced him to try hearing aids—devices that he credits with improving his quality of life and his golf game. As he did last year, Leno provided an uproarious stand-up comedy routine, and on several occasions interrupted the charity auction with his own “celebrity auction” in which he would raffle saucers signed by celebrities in the audience whom he would poke gentle fun at in order to boost the auction value of the items. During one of these segments, he playfully obtained the signature of Mickey Rooney, and claimed that, at 86 years old, Rooney “could drop dead at any moment”—making the saucer “worth a fortune.”
- Kenny Loggins performed several of his hits, including Footloose.
Al and Cathy Annexstad were honored for their work in establishing the Annexstad Family Foundation that provides college scholarships to deserving young adults who have been served by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Actress Goldie Hawn was honored for her Goldie Hawn Bright Light Foundation. Established in 2003, her foundation creates and facilitates programs that explore and teach how the brain works, and it seeks to unite scientists and educators with the goal of enhancing children’s attention skills, as well as social and emotional learning. C. Everett Koop was honored for his steadfast work in informing the public on health care issues, including hearing care. Legendary Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was honored for his work as spokesperson for the American Heart Association and as a member of the board of directors for the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
The Starkey Foundation Gala has grown from its relatively humble origins in the 1990s to become one of the largest annual charity events held in the Midwest, drawing more than $4 million in contributions for foundation initiatives for four consecutive years. Past musical guests have included Elton John, John Mellencamp, Tricia Yearwood, Michael Bolton, and Dionne Warwick.
“For the seventh year in a row we had tremendous support from our friends all over the world who helped us raise an amazing $4.5 million to further our mission of promoting hearing health awareness and helping the world to hear,” said Bill Austin. “I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who was a part of this year’s gala and who, through their generosity of time and money, helped make the world a better place for so many children.”
For more information, visit www.sotheworldmayhear.org.