MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – About 1,900 miles northeast of Hollywood, the stars will soon start landing in Minnesota.
This Sunday is the Starkey Gala in St. Paul, and Katy Perry will headline the benefit.
The benefit raises money for Starkey’s foundation and missions all over the world to fit people with hearing aids.
Year after year, celebrities, athletes and politicians gather for the benefit. Ashton Kutcher and Evander Holyfield are just a few of Starkey Gala attendees this year.
It’s a vision Tani Austin first saw in her head.
“I thought, ‘How can we be different? How can we get people’s attention?'” she said. “Because that’s what you want to do to raise money, to get people’s attention.”
Tani met Starkey’s owner, Bill Austin, 25 years ago. He’s now a billionaire and prefers to spend his time fitting people with hearing aids. So Tani Austin has expanded Starkey’s charitable side, and she went for the big names.
“President Reagan was very open about [using hearing aids] and, of course, he was in Hollywood,” Tani Austin said. “He had a lot of cowboy stars — Roy Rogers, Jean Autry.”
Through the years, the stars have kept on coming. Some, like Steve Martin, use Starkey’s services. For others, it’s just a cause that makes sense.
“It’s how so many of the entertainers, the celebrities — it’s how they deliver their art,” Tani Austin said.
She said that for years celebrities have been recruiting their peers all the way to the middle of the country .
“They tried to get me to do the fundraiser in L.A. or New York,” she said. “People go, ‘Minnesota? Just come out here. You could get more people.’ And I said, ‘No, this has always been Bill’s business home.”
It’s just another way the Starkey Foundation is making sure people listen.
“If they come to Minnesota for this fundraiser, they’re engaged, they’re 100 percent in, they participate, and it creates a different energy,” she said.
George W. Bush will be honored at this year’s gala.
Tani Austin said the foundation spends a lot on hosting these galas, but she says that helps them raise a lot.