SOMERSET, NEW JERSEY – The 2021 Oticon Focus on People Awards celebrated 12 remarkable individuals whose courage and commitment are helping to change perceptions of what it means to have a hearing loss at a special awards ceremony, held on February 24.
The event honored winners in the Student, Advocacy, Adult, and Practitioner categories. A record 15,296 votes were cast by people from across the US to help determine the 2021 first, second and third place winners.
The national awards program, now in its 23rd year, has brought well deserved recognition to more than 300 extraordinary people who demonstrate that hearing loss does not limit a person’s ability to live a full, productive and even inspiring life.
“The 2021 Oticon Focus on People Award winners have each found a unique way to make the world a better place — for others with hearing loss and for all of us. This national program allows us to recognize their achievements and create awareness that is helping to change attitudes and open doors of opportunity for all people with hearing loss.”–Nancy Palmere, Director of Consumer Marketing and Public Relations for Oticon, Inc.
The 2021 First Place Winners are:
STUDENT – Lauren King, Chester, VA
As a young girl, Lauren overheard a skating coach remark that a girl with hearing loss could never make it to the US national competitions. She was determined to show she could do that and so much more. She competed in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Association (USFSA) National Solo Dance Series Championships and in 2017, placed fourth in the country. Now a college sophomore, Lauren is a dedicated volunteer for the Hearing Loss Association of America and a mentor for incoming students at her college.
ADULT – Destiny Lopez, Waterbury, CT
A multimedia storyteller and creative strategist whose hearing loss was diagnosed in elementary school, Destiny is passionate about creating accessible and inclusive media that amplifies the voices of marginalized communities. Through her award-winning research, advocacy and involvement in communities like the NYU Center for Disability Studies, she continues to spark conversations on inaccessibility and encourage allies to join the fight for a more inclusive society.
ADVOCACY – Sarah Klegman, Sherman Oaks, CA
With openness, authenticity, and humor, Sarah shares her journey with hearing aids as a storyteller, public speaker, and writer. Through giving talks at festivals and sharing her writing in international publications, she joyfully fights hearing aid stigma while inspiring people to accept and even celebrate their own hearing journey. In all she does, Sarah strives to help others feel confident with their hearing aids – a cause that is “deeply close to her heart – and ears!”
PRACTITIONER – Ricardo Gauthier, AuD, Punta Gorda, FL
More than 20 years in the field of audiology, with 13 years in private practice, have not diminished Dr. Gauthier’s passion for “seeing every patient as an individual who deserves the best care possible.” That commitment to quality care is at the core of his efforts to bring much needed hearing healthcare to children on the island of Haiti. Through the nonprofit Hope for Hearing Haiti, he joins with other volunteer audiologists and speech language pathologists to provide free audiological care for approximately 300-400 deaf and hard-of-hearing children each year.
In addition to a $1000 prize, first place winners received a $1000 donation from Oticon, Inc. to give to the non-profit organization of their choice. First place winners in the Adult, Student and Advocacy categories also received a pair of BrainHearing™ technology Oticon hearing aids.
There are eight Second and Third Place Winners in the program’s four categories:
- 2nd Place – Demii Wright, Madison, WI
- 3rd Place – Hunter Martin, Illiopolis, IL
- 2nd Place – Trip Neil, Dallas, TX
- 3rd Place – Thomas Withrow, Austin, TX
- 2nd Place – Meryl Evans, Plano, TX
- 3rd Place – Paul Wichansky, Freehold, NJ
- 2nd Place – Kamal Elliot, AuD, Lancaster, PA
- 3rd Place – Phallon Doss, AuD, Schertz, TX
Learn more about the Oticon Focus on People Awards program at www.Oticon.com/FOP.