A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Our Convention

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is a vital touchpoint for many people with hearing loss, providing not only national support, but face-to-face connections through a nationwide network of chapters and state associations. People often realize after attending a meeting or event, “I am not alone!” This feeling of connection can be life-changing for anyone who may have experienced denial or exclusion due to their invisible disability. Annual in-person HLAA Conventions offer live support, collaboration and inspiration, bringing together hundreds of members from all over the U.S. to one city for three days of events. The following story from our Director of Development Marilyn DiGiacobbe is a testament to the HLAA power of connection—a hallmark for this 44-year-old organization that advocates, educates and empowers the 48 million people with hearing loss in the U.S.

Picture of the six individuals stopping in Tennessee

Did you hear about our development team’s wild 24-hour road trip to the HLAA 2023 Convention in June? When faced with the possibility of missing the convention, our determined group sprang into action to make it work. The first roadblock was severe weather, which canceled our flights. After waiting for hours at the Philadelphia airport, as helpful ticket agents tried to rebook us, we learned that, unfortunately, no alternative would get us to New Orleans in time.

We were crushed, as none of us wanted to miss this highlight of the year! But it didn’t take long for our can-do spirit to kick in and we pivoted to create a Plan B.

Group shot of the gang stopping for dinner
Beth Ann, Richard, Marilyn, Ronnie, Gay and Scott taking a much-needed break from the road.

The plan: three volunteers, two staff members, one husband and 24 hours on the road from Philly to New Orleans! My optimistic colleague Ronnie Adler, HLAA’s Walk4Hearing senior manager, sparked the idea, then the quick sense—and minivan—of Beth Ann Rejonis, Walk Day co-chair of Pennsylvania’s Walk4Hearing, made it happen. Within 90 minutes, we picked up the van, grabbed sandwiches for the road, and arranged for family to collect our luggage at New Orleans airport and deliver it to our hotel. I still can’t figure how our luggage got a flight but not us!

We laughed, talked endlessly and worked while on the road. We ate more fast food than we’d care to admit and shared our adventure with everyone we met along the way. I gained an even greater appreciation for the dedication of our staff and volunteers, as well as the truck drivers we joined at a rest stop to catch a few hours’ sleep. My husband would have driven all night if I didn’t force him to stop, and once Ronnie had the wheel, she wouldn’t give it up.

Our group rest stop photo and #PhillyStrong hashtag even went viral on HLAA’s Facebook page.

Map showing the 18 hour tripThe Philly Strong group arriving at the hotel in New OrleansThankfully, we arrived safe and sound in New Orleans at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, just in time for the convention start! And we all agreed that we would happily make that drive all over again.

We hope you were able to join us in New Orleans, as it was worth the extra effort getting there. Workshops, social events, the Exhibit Hall and inspiring presentations gave us much-needed in-person rejuvenation. Start planning now for next year’s convention, June 26-29, 2024, at the beautiful resort setting of Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix!

In the meantime, we invite you to consider ways you might get more involved in HLAA’s nationwide community of support. Joining a local chapter can help you feel connected, encouraged and understood. Often, the next step is volunteering and taking on leadership roles with a chapter and the Walk4Hearing, to be of service to other people with hearing loss.

By getting involved in this movement HLAA has created, you will not only help yourself, but also set an example for others. HLAA is built on community spirit and empowerment. Your participation demonstrates that people aren’t alone with this invisible disability, and helps spread important hearing health messages to the growing number of people now at risk of hearing loss.

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Marilyn DiGiacobbe

by Marilyn DiGiacobbe, Director of Development, Hearing Loss Association of America

If you or someone you know has a hearing loss, visit hearingloss.org for resources and to find a local chapter, or a Walk4Hearing near you.

For questions, contact HLAA at inquiries@hearingloss.org.

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