On Saturday 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 Cermonies 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 health 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 their worldwide hearing missions.

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, including approximately 80,000 in the United States (through the Foundation and Hear Now), 73,000 in Mexico and Central America, 18,000 in South America, 16,000 in Asia, 16,000 in Europe and the Middle East, and 10,000 in Africa. This year’s gala event sponsored new missions in Africa, India, Mexico, and Turkey.

The star-studded event featured musical performances by Jim Belushi & the Sacred Hearts, rock legend Glenn Frey of the Eagles, country icon Kenny Loggins, Jaime Thietten, and Keaton Simons. Among the many highlights, the night included a song by Belushi who enlisted the aid of CareCredit’s Paul Findly in a song-and-dance number, Frey sang more than a half-dozen Eagles’ classics, including Take It Easy and Take It to the Limit, and Loggins brought the crowd to its feet with Footloose. Other celebrities attending the event included Buzz Aldrin, Peter Alexander, Scott Carpenter, Norm Crosby, Robert Culp, Lou Ferrigno, Peter Marshall, Marlee Matlin, Sam Moore, Leslie Nielsen, Arnold Palmer, Mickey Rooney, Jane Seymour, Barbara Sinatra, Kevin Sorbo, Robert Wagner, Paul Williams and many others.

Arnold Palmer introduced Bill Austin with a moving speech about how Austin had personally persisted and finally convinced him to try hearing aids—devices that he credits with vastly improving his quality of life. 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 coffee cup 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 moment”—making the saucer “worth a fortune.” The saucers, including one signed by astronaut Buzz Aldrin and another by soul legend Sam Moore, sold for as much as $10,000. Several of the key hearing care missions drew contributions of $250,000 or more.

Al and Cathy Annexstad were honored for their work in establishing a private foundation that provides college scholarships to deserving young adults who have been served by the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Al Annexstad is the CEO of Federated Insurance Companies, and the Annexstad Family Foundation is dedicated to sending deserving young people to college.

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. Hawn spoke about the potential partnership of her foundation with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. She expressed how, upon meeting Bill and Tani Austin and learning about their mission, she was struck with how perfectly the two organizations were aligned to inspire better learning and retention processes.

C. Everett Koop was honored for his steadfast work in informing the public on health care issues, including hearing care. Koop, who served as US Surgeon General during the Reagan administration, is the author of more than 230 articles and books, and is the founding editor of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

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.  It regularly attracts coverage from the major media outlets and is the subject of Twin Cities’ television and radio talkshow hosts for weeks following the event.  Musical guests in the past 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.