An Eagle Scout’s Mission


This month, I am concluding my term as a Scholastic Kid Reporter. One of the highlights of my experience has been covering the annual “So the World May Hear Awards Gala” in St. Paul, Minnesota. This fundraising event showcases the accomplishments of the Starkey Hearing Foundation and its goal of delivering more than 2 million free hearing aids to people in need around the world.  

At each gala, the people I interviewed told me how life-changing it was for them to participate in a hearing mission. I wanted to find out how it felt to be part of an effort to provide free hearing aids to people who would otherwise not be able to afford them.

Last fall, I worked with Starkey on a service project, which also helped me fulfill a personal goal of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.  


Ryan assembles the tubes used to create an ear mold, which helps keep the hearing aid in place.


One needs to fulfill several requirements in order to become an Eagle Scout. In addition to completing 21 merit badges, a Scout must lead a service project in his community. The project I selected was hand-assembly of the tubing used in ear molds. A mold is the piece that helps keep a hearing aid in position in the ear.

Over the course of several months, I led seven work sessions in schools, churches, and offices to assemble these pieces. With the help of 150 volunteers, we were able to assemble nearly 24,000 pieces to be provided for free to people served during Starkey mission trips around the world.


Ryan helps fit a boy with a hearing aid during a mission trip to Mexico. 


In April 2019, I traveled to Mexico to participate in hearing missions in Matamoros and Reynosa. I received training in how to match the right power hearing aid to each patient and make sure it fit correctly. Between the two cities, we were able to help more than 700 individuals receive free hearing aids.

Everyone from toddlers to seniors came to the events to receive their hearing aids. I was able to witness moms hear their children’s voices for the first time, and elderly patients weep as sound entered their ears again after many years of struggle. 


A woman is overcome with emotion upon being fitted with a hearing aid after years of struggle.



Bill Austin and his wife, Tani Austin, led the group in Mexico. Bill founded the charitable organization in 1984, several years after starting a successful hearing aid business called Starkey Hearing Technologies. Tani is the company’s chief philanthropy officer.

“We’re one human family and if we reflect the caring between people, then everything gets better every day,” Bill said. “We always stand firm on the values of . . . respecting each person and doing our very best for each one we serve.”

Tani explained that the work of the foundation provides people with a hand up, not a handout. “It’s not just about giving someone a hearing aid,” she said. “It’s about showing them you care.”




Photos courtesy of the author