2023 Award Recipients
Honoring HLAA’s Finest!
HLAA congratulates our 2023 Award Recipients, who were recognized on Friday, June 30, 2023 at the Awards Ceremony and Reception at the HLAA 2023 Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, sponsored by CapTel Captioned Telephone. Please consider your nominations for next year’s 2024 Awards; nominations will open in the fall of 2023.
Rocky Stone Humanitarian Award
Established in 1990 by the HLAA Board of Trustees (now the Board of Directors), this award honors an outgoing or past trustee for his or her contributions toward furthering the objectives of the philosophy envisioned by founder Howard E. “Rocky” Stone.
Don Doherty, North Carolina
Don Doherty concluded three terms on the HLAA Board of Directors in June 2023 and was a role model as a past Board chair. Most recently, he led the Board-wide effort to codify its policies in a Board Policy Manual, strengthening its governance practices and ensuring the future of HLAA.
A retired Marine, Don spearheaded the HLAA Veterans Across America Virtual Chapter, creating a much-needed resource for vets with hearing loss. His vision and energy with veterans brought a new element to HLAA outreach. As a dedicated volunteer, he was the Virginia State Chapter Coordinator and a force in the Virginia Beach Chapter, serving as its president. During his nine years on the HLAA Board, Don has exemplified the highest standards of commitment and integrity in faithfully supporting and furthering the mission and aims of HLAA.
Community Access Award
This award is presented to HLAA Chapters, State Organizations, or an individual who has created awareness about hearing loss and promoted communication access.
Peggy Bell, Florida, and Wynne Whyman, Colorado
As dedicated core members of the Get in The Hearing Loop Committee, Peggy Bell and Wynne Whyman helped develop the Hearing Loop Accessibility feature on the Google Maps program and created tools to promote it. Over several years, they have built supportive, ongoing relationships with key players at Google, as well as with induction loop installers and manufacturers. In addition, Wynne developed a database of looped venues—perhaps the largest such database in the world.
Community Service Award
This award is presented to HLAA Chapters, State Organizations, or an individual who has undertaken significant outreach projects or efforts that serve the community by creating awareness about hearing loss and the communication obstacles that it can create.
Toni Iacolucci, New York
Since Toni Iacolucci received the Spirit of HLAA award back in 2011, her service to HLAA and people with hearing loss has only increased. Shortly after losing her hearing suddenly in 2006, Toni joined the HLAA New York City (NYC) Chapter. She has served on their board for most of the past 15 years and been active in many of their advocacy efforts. Toni co-authored the Guide for Effective Communication in Health Care, recently completed a webinar with the Department of Justice on health care access and frequently presents on this topic around the United States.
She is currently working with another NYC Chapter board member to reinstate hearing screening in NYC public schools. Toni has served as Co-Chair and Walk Team Coordinator for the New York City Walk4Hearing and remains an enthusiastic volunteer and participant. She has also served on the HLAA Board of Directors and is now a member of HLAA’s Communication Access in Health Care Committee.
New Jersey State Association
HLAA New Jersey State Association has awarded scholarships to high school seniors with hearing loss for 14 years, to help students realize college goals they may have not been able to achieve otherwise. In 2022, the association renewed its efforts by reaching out to every high school in New Jersey, inviting deaf and hard of hearing seniors to apply—resulting in their biggest scholarship award program to date, totaling over $14,100. Beyond financial support, these scholarships raise awareness for HLAA and the lifelong support we provide for living well with hearing loss. Recipients continue to give back and stay involved.
For example, 2023 Outstanding Young Adult Award winner Rachel Lieberman (pictured) is now the New Jersey State Association vice president, having been involved with HLAA since her scholarship award in 2017. Another recipient served as a board member while pursuing a master’s degree in medicine. A third recipient completed his degree at Gallaudet University in Political Science, joined the police academy and may be on track to complete his goal of being the first deaf president of the United States.
Get in the Hearing Loop Award
This award recognizes individuals who have created awareness about the benefits of loop technology to a broad audience and/or been successful in getting loop technology installed in local communities.
David Abell, Connecticut
For the past 20 years, David Abell has been finding opportunities for hearing loop installations. He was instrumental in getting hearing loops installed in in every chamber, visitor’s gallery and meeting room of the Rhode Island Statehouse. When David moved into a retirement community in 2021, he took it upon himself to interview every resident using a hearing aid and spent time educating them about the benefits of telecoils and hearing loops. He wrote newsletter articles, organized presentations and eventually convinced the management at the retirement community to install a loop. Besides reaching out to fellow hearing aid users, David has worked to educate librarians, lawmakers, ministers, audiologists and hearing instrument specialists.
Ann Thomas, California, and Cheri Perazzoli, Washington
Cheri Perazzoli is chair, and Ann Thomas is a key member, of the Get in the Hearing Loop (GITHL) Committee. While they both serve in many roles for HLAA, their passion is the GITHL Program. This committee has worked extensively to help advocates successfully install hearing loops in their communities around the country. Their vast experience led Cheri and Ann to publish a comprehensive Get in the Hearing Loop Toolkit.
This toolkit offers a step-by-step guide with advice on how to approach a venue, request a loop, provide the information venues need, overcome objections, make sure the equipment works and help promote the loops. Success stories, testimonials, photos, checklists and much more are included. GITHL resources are free to everyone and available for download from the HLAA website.
This award is given to an individual for their outstanding achievement and/or contribution to the establishment, advancement and continued success of HLAA.
Dan Brooks, New York
Dan Brooks, current president of the HLAA Rochester Chapter and immediate past president of the New York State Association, has contributed to the establishment and success of HLAA in New York. With his leadership, Dan expanded the reach of HLAA and ensured that we are a trusted resource in the state. As president of the chapter, he helped establish innovative programs, such as expanding the technology demo center to become virtual during the pandemic, developing a support group for working adults and organizing a network to help foster parents of children with hearing loss. Dan also initiated a free hearing test program in partnership with the Rochester Hearing & Speech Center, the Monroe County Department of Public Health and Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield.
While president of the State Association, he focused on underserved areas, encouraged volunteers to form new chapters and helped establish a state advocacy committee to push legislative efforts, including the establishment of a state commission for the Deaf, Deaf/Blind and People with Hearing Loss.
Outstanding Young Adult Award
This award recognizes HLAA members 18-30 years of age who have contributed significant time and effort to advancing the HLAA mission.
Rachel Lieberman, New Jersey
Rachel Lieberman was born with profound hearing loss and has always worn hearing aids. In 2017, she was awarded a scholarship from the HLAA New Jersey State Association and promised to give back and be active with the organization. True to her word, she has since participated enthusiastically, serving as a presenter for chapter events, participating in the New Jersey Walk4Hearing each year and continually seeking additional resources to live better with hearing loss. In 2022, Rachel was elected as the New Jersey State Association vice president.
Sophie Shapiro, Pennsylvania
Sophie Shapiro was diagnosed at three years old with moderate to severe hearing loss. Nervous about sharing her hearing loss with her schoolmates and not wanting to seem weird or different, Sophie chose not to wear hearing aids. Even when her hearing continued declining, she resisted wearing hearing aids. In 2021, Sophie was invited by her ASL tutor to attend a Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing meeting where, for the first time, she met people wearing hearing aids and cochlear implants who spoke openly about their hearing loss. Sophie began to see others like her who were able to talk freely about hearing help in this setting.
Now a high school junior, Sophie has served on the Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing committee for the past two years. It was through involvement with the Walk4Hearing community that she finally made the decision to try wearing a hearing aid, 12 years after her initial diagnosis. Sophie has spoken about her hearing loss at school assemblies and has recruited students to join her sign language club, which became the largest and most popular student club in its first year. She even started a TikTok channel to share her views on hearing aids and encourage others to wear them. Sophie has embraced spreading the message about hearing loss.
Spirit of HLAA Award
This award is presented to individuals who give unceasingly and act selflessly to help others with hearing loss in the name of HLAA.
Glenda Philio, Washington
Glenda Philio was a dental hygienist when she first heard about hearing loss support groups from a patient. She had been told that she would ultimately become completely deaf from her Meniere’s disease, but at the time she wasn’t concerned. Eventually, her hearing loss did become a problem. Glenda had trouble hearing her patients and desperately wanted to hear the service at her daughter’s upcoming wedding. Remembering the support groups, she attended her first HLAA meeting and found the help she needed. She joined immediately, began volunteering and two years later was asked to lead the Renton Support Group of the HLAA Washington Chapter.
Glenda has continued to lead this support group because she feels that HLAA helped her so much and wants to share the sense of connection with others who have hearing loss. Glenda also took on the role of secretary for the Washington State Association, helps organize their Hearing Other People’s Experiences meetings and can be found at all health fairs in the state providing information about HLAA.
Mike Miles, Pennsylvania
An outstanding volunteer and member of HLAA since 2012, Mike Miles has implemented local programs and provided leadership in multiple ways. Active with the HLAA Chester County Chapter since 2017, he serves as both Outreach Special Events Coordinator and Education and Scholarship Coordinator. Mike is also the HLAA Pennsylvania State Coordinator, serves on the Advisory Council for the HLAA Pennsylvania State Office and is treasurer for the Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing.
Mike is dedicated and generous; no task is too big or too small for him. For example, when COVID hit, he stepped up immediately to keep people connected by moderating online support gatherings. A huge sports fan, he has helped secure amazing donations of sports memorabilia for the Pennsylvania Walk raffle. This year alone, Mike served as Registration Chair for the HLAA Pennsylvania Lunch and Learn event, chaired a special one-day regional conference hosted by several Pennsylvania chapters and always makes time for individuals seeking support.
Walk4Hearing Spirit Award
This award honors an individual(s) who have inspired and brought people together as part of the Walk4Hearing.
Beth Ann Rejonis and Mitch Bilker, Pennsylvania
Beth Ann Rejonis (pictured) has been involved with Walk4Hearing since its start in 2006 and currently serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Walk4Hearing. Since 2012, she and Walk co-chair Mitch Bilker have worked side by side to strengthen and grow the Walk and its engagement into one of the largest and most successful Walks. Last year, they had 67 teams—the most of any location—and over the years, have raised more than $1.8 million.
Beth Ann oversees a dynamic group of volunteers and has put in place an online system to make it easy for volunteers to sign up and know their roles and time commitment. When the pandemic hit in 2020, she took the Walk’s raffle online, making it available to more people than ever. A dancer by profession, she’s known for leading warmups, getting walkers energized and fired up to walk. Mitch (not present for photo) is responsible for registration, making it easy for teams and walkers to register on Walk Day, and is the go-to guy for anything technical. In addition to his work with the Walk, he volunteers for the HLAA Pennsylvania State Office.
Walk4Hearing Inspiration Award
This award honors an individual whose dedication, leadership and outstanding contributions led to the success of a Walk4Hearing.
Ron Tallman, Arizona
At the HLAA 2016 Convention in St. Louis, Ron Tallman, along with a group of supportive members, asked Walk4Hearing Senior Manager Ronnie Adler for 30 minutes of her time. Ron proceeded to make a detailed presentation on why HLAA should have a walk in Arizona. With a plan that included a potential walk-day site, prospective alliances and sponsors and networking options, Ron thought of everything. It was clear he put in a tremendous effort to make this pitch and help bring the Walk4Hearing to Arizona.
Since then, the Arizona Walk4Hearing has raised over $328,000. Going into its eighth year, the Walk and our HLAA community continue to benefit from Ron’s leadership and dedication. Ron values volunteers, always being sure to acknowledge each person’s contributions. He meets personally with every sponsor and engages with alliances to become part of the Walk. Ron is passionate about the Walk and continues to grow HLAA’s community of support.
Chapter and State Awards
This award is given to any HLAA Chapter or State Organization that has been successful in rebuilding.
New York State Association
The HLAA New York State Association was originally formed in 1995. However, by 2015 the association became dormant and was close to being disbanded. Instead, Dan Brooks of Rochester led an effort to revive it, gaining support from long-time HLAA New York members. A new board of directors was formed, including at least two members from each of the six current state chapters. The pandemic presented many challenges, but the renewed state association was able to accomplish some major milestones by creating a new website and an email list of over 600 users. The state association became an early adopter of Zoom and hybrid meetings, sharing these technologies with chapters. A Professional Advisors Committee (PAC) was created, and the state association led the effort to establish a New York State Commission for the Deaf, Deaf/Blind and Hard of Hearing, passed unanimously by the New York State Senate and Assembly.
They have championed educational outreach about over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids with a series of informational articles available in print and online. In 2022, an HLAA New York State conference—the first since 2007—was held in September in Glens Falls, NY, attended by more than 100 people in person and virtually. (Pictured: Kassey Granger, President, New York State Association, and Dan Brooks, Past President.)
Social Media Award
This award is presented to an HLAA Chapter or State Organization for utilizing social media to build community awareness of the HLAA mission and benefits offered by the chapter or state organization.
Joanne Dyer, Washington
Joanne Dyer writes, edits and moderates all social media for the HLAA Washington State Association, including their excellent bimonthly online digital newsletter. This organization’s social presence exemplifies everything we could hope for in getting the word out about HLAA.
Their materials are all professional, appropriately HLAA branded, informative about both local and national issues, graphically pleasing, welcoming and engaging. Included are updates and photographs of HLAA state and national activities, including the association’s monthly HOPE support group online meeting. HLAA Washington State Association’s social media is top-notch and worthy of recognition with an HLAA Social Media Award.
Chapter/State Website Award
This award is presented to an HLAA Chapter or State Organization for excellence in website design in promoting the HLAA mission and benefits of the chapter or state organization.
California State Association
HLAA California State Association launched a new, modern professional website in 2022. The original website had been created in 2011, so revising and updating this website was a huge undertaking that took several years. It is a team effort led by webmaster Heather Lehr to keep the website updated and maintained. (Pictured: Tim Browning, Liz Lesan and Christine Duarte, California State Association Board members; Lehr not present.)
The new website is attractive, easy to navigate, current and elevates the public image of HLAA on the web. It displays the HLAA logo, links to the HLAA website, including an RSS feed, and advertises the Walk4Hearing with links to information about the three Walk4Hearing events in California and the national HLAA Walk4Hearing website.
Users can find up-to-date information about the 11 statewide chapters, as well as support materials for California chapter leaders, along with links to area agencies and resources and extensive information about accessibility and advocacy. This is a first-class website and worthy of the HLAA State Website Award.
Washington State Association
In 2022, the HLAA Washington State Association created an excellent new website that is worthy of national recognition. Beyond being welcoming, inclusive, and easily accessible, the site is chock full of information and support for both the practical and emotional aspects of managing hearing loss. Additionally, the focus on Washington State Association resources, advocacy efforts and ways to get involved—including an online volunteer form—makes the new HLAA Washington State Association website an incredible asset for the home state hearing loss community. (Pictured: Cheri Perazzoli, Washington State Association President)
Since the website’s launch, content remains current and relevant. The latest research, technology solutions, advocacy opportunities and other stories (both state and national) are often covered on the homepage, in the HLAA Washington State Association blog or via the biweekly e-News. The website includes support for family, friends and people with hearing loss who may not be ready for hearing aids.
The website also excels in its visual design. From the first image and message you see on the homepage—photos of HLAA Washington members within the shape of Washington State—the site welcomes users and makes them feel supported. Photos include people of different ages and ethnicities showing inclusivity within the hearing loss community. The website is easy to navigate and read, is accessible to people with low vision and reflects HLAA branding. It also clearly communicates HLAA Washington State Association’s focus on the hearing loss community.