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Vikings Help Starkey Hearing Foundation's Hometown Mission

Starkey Hearing Foundation hosted an annual "So the World May Hear" hearing mission at its headquarters and received help from its neighbors: Vikings players, alumni, cheerleaders and Viktor.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The work accomplished by the Starkey Hearing Foundation spans the globe, but the organization focused on its hometown for the holidays on Tuesday.

Starkey Hearing Foundation hosted an annual "So the World May Hear" hearing mission at its headquarters and received help from its neighbors: Vikings players, alumni, cheerleaders and Viktor.

"There's nothing better than helping your neighbors and helping your community," said Tani Austin, wife of founder Bill Austin. "We do this all year long through the Starkey Hearing Foundation program, so to do this event with the Vikings in our hometown is so special during the holidays. There's nothing better."

People of multiple ages from Minnesota and beyond received custom-fit hearing devices, allowing them to hear for the first time, or high-tech devices that were less cumbersome that ones they previously used.

Some players, like Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph, have seen Starkey Hearing Foundation change lives for several years and returned because of the power in the moments they witnessed.

Teammates Mike Wallace, Zach Line, Jerick McKinnon, T.J. Clemmings, Edmond Robinson and Blake Renaud joined the effort, along with Vikings alumni Matt Blair, Carl Eller, Chuck Foreman, Dave Osborn and Rickey Young and Minnesota Twins Manager Paul Molitor.

"It feels good to be able to come out and be a supporter of the Starkey Foundation and what they're doing," Peterson said. "They are changing lives, and to be able to see these young kids who have struggled with hearing loss or who have never heard before [helped by] the Starkey Hearing Foundation, it melts your heart, so any time I can be involved, I'm always willing to come out. They've got the biggest hearts in the world. I support them, and they support me."

Peterson said it was overwhelming when he joined Starkey Hearing Foundation on a mission in Africa a few years back.

"It was my first time seeing a kid hear for the first time," Peterson said. "I kind of had to turn around and walk away and gather myself. It really put things in perspective, how people struggle, so to be part of the Starkey Foundation 'So the World May Hear' is amazing."

During the visit, Peterson met a recipient in his 30s who flew in from the running back's home state of Texas.

"He hasn't had the opportunity to hear for his entire life," Peterson said. "Can you imagine that? That's how big it is."

Rudolph's involvement with Starkey Hearing Foundation began in 2011 when he attended the organization's annual gala with a friend. Players signed autographs and took photos with recipients, with plenty of smiles to go around.

"I think at times we get more out of it than they do," said Rudolph, adding how impressed he is by the work that Bill and Tani Austin do with Starkey Hearing Foundation.

"No one works harder than Bill and Tani," Rudolph said. "They just ask for us to come out here a couple of times a year. Every time anybody from Starkey calls, I'm going to be here because when you have leaders of an organization who work as hard as they do, it's easy to respond and come out here and lend them a helping hand."

Delta Zeta presented Starkey Hearing Foundation with a check for $500,000 that the sorority raised in the past six months.

In addition to that donation, Bill Austin said he also appreciated the support that the Vikings and Molitor's showed for recipients.

"Sometimes when you have a challenge, you feel like you're not quite as up with the other kids, and everybody comes here and it's their day, they're important," Bill Austin said. "We're all here because we can help these guys be all they can be because they're the future of our world. People helping people is the best work you can possibly do, so we get to share that work."

This past fall, Starkey Hearing Foundation held a mission at Yankee Stadium for Holocaust survivors who said it was a delight to also see younger people receive the gift of hearing. The mission was supported by the Wilf family and Yankees Manager Joe Girardi.

Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf and Owner/President Mark Wilf are children of Holocaust survivors.

"We're proud to know the Wilfs, we're proud to be part of the Vikings association and proud to see these big players come in here with big hearts," Tani Austin said.

Mark Wilf said the hearing mission for Holocaust survivors was "especially meaningful for myself and our entire family."

"All of us can learn tolerance from it, and we need to be better as a world to make sure we look out for fellow human beings," Wilf said. "This type of event, which is about peace, love, understanding, helping others, compassion and the miracles that Starkey creates are something very powerful and something I'm really proud to be part of."

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