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St. Paul Holds Star-Studded Starkey Foundation Gala

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - The Twin Cities are getting the Hollywood treatment Saturday night as the red carpet is rolled out for some big-name celebrities.

It’s all part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s annual awards gala at St. Paul’s River Centre. It raises money to help give hearing aids to people in underdeveloped countries.

Some of the well-known names in attendance include President Bill Clinton, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Robin Williams.

Hearing loss affects one in 10 Americans, and 63 million children worldwide.

The gala helps raise money to give hearing aids to people in underdeveloped countries.

Starkey, which is based in Eden Prairie, donates more than 100,000 hearing aids every year.

Tonight, some of the celebrities on-hand shared why they have such a personal connection to the cause.

Spokeswoman and actress Marlee Matlin is in awe of the foundation’s work.

“To be able to have the opportunity to be able to hear, to be able to have the opportunity to get the gift of hearing, Bill and Tani (Starkey’s CEO and his wife) have worked with children tirelessly, both deaf and hard of hearing kids in developing countries to the point where, I mean, it’s amazing. It’s amazing,” said Matlin.

Actor Gary Busey became involved after his high-profile TV appearances with Donald Trump.

“I was doing a show called ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ with Marlee Matlin a few years ago, and she said ‘Gary, it’s not right for you not to be able to hear,'” he said.

Mound-native and ‘Hercules’ star Kevin Sorbo spoke of his dedication to the foundation.

“It’s a great foundation. I’ve known Bill and Tani for a long time now… its’ give and take,” he said.

Comedian Chevy Chase joked about the possible intentions of Starkey CEO Bill Austin.

“I’m a jazz pianist, so I care a great deal about hearing. And I know that Bill Austin wants to fit me with some hearing aids, so I’ve been trying to stay away from him all night,” said Chase.

Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk is a true believer in Starkey’s cause.

“I’ve seen their work, especially for people hearing for the first time in other countries, and it’s incredible,” he said.

And actor/comedian Billy Crystal lauded the foundation’s work.

“It’s phenomenal what they do. They call and say, ‘Can you do this?’ It’s the least we can do to help them spread hearing throughout the world.”

Starkey expects Saturday’s gala to raise about $7 million.

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