06-30-2006

The Tonight Show host Jay Leno, who headlined The Starkey Hearing Foundation’s annual “So the World May Hear” Awards Gala on June 17, added an entertaining item to the live auction he was hosting. While on stage, he called Alan Kalter—known as the “voice” of The Late Show with David Letterman—onto the stage to pose for a photo, which he then auctioned off twice for $7,000 apiece. Leno, hilariously improvising throughout the charity auction portion of the event, at one point bounded into the crowd and had Willie Mays sign a saucer, then proceeded to auction it off for $40,000. He also autographed his own shirt and sold it for $4,000.

For the second year in a row, the evening raised more than $4 million for The Starkey Hearing Foundation, which travels the world donating hearing aids to underprivileged children.
The star-studded Gala, which included performances by Dionne Warwick, Kathy Sledge, Freda Payne, and Carl Carlton, concluded with a Father’s Day tribute by John Mellencamp. Mellencamp’s father is hearing impaired and, thanks to the younger Mellencamp, wears Starkey hearing aids.

“The quality of my life has improved dramatically during the past 12 months that I’ve been using my Starkey hearing aids,” says Richard Mellencamp. “Thanks to my son John telling me about the work of [Starkey founder] Bill Austin, things have really changed for the better.”    

Additional celebrities in attendance included Dan Clark (Chicken Soup for the Soul), Norm Crosby, Lou Ferrigno, Peter Graves, Ali Landry, Gary Mule Deer, Marie Osmond, Ellary Porterfield (Hidden Palms), Ed Sanders, Eduardo Xol (Extreme Home Makeover), and many others.

In addition to the many performances of the night, six exemplary individuals were also honored throughout the evening for their humanitarian contributions. Honorees included racing legends Richard Petty, Johnny Rutherford, Sir Jackie Stewart, and Al Unser, Sr; baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays; and Twin Cities businessman, philanthropist, and Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

Since 2000, The Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided more than 150,000 hearing aids to those in need around the world, donating more than 20,000 each year. For more information, visit www.sotheworldmayhear.org.