Twins help Starkey Hearing Foundation with donations

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Calvin Simmons will never forget the day his daughter received a new hearing aid from the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

"She jumped in the air," Simmons said. "And then she said, 'Daddy, I can hear!'"

That moment came a month and a half ago at the Starkey Clinic in Eden Prairie. On Tuesday, Simmons and 8-year-old Cayzjah were in attendance when the company gave away state-of-the-art hearing aids to almost 100 people in need.

The event was made possible by the Twins' All-Star legacy giving program that has donated more than $8 million to local and national causes with the help of MLB and several other organizations.

"We're providing the gift of hearing to children and adults who are in desperate need of hearing help," said executive director Brady Forseth. "These are families who are scraping money together to put food on the table and pay bills, and they can't afford hearing aids. We're giving them the very latest state-of-the-art digital technology."

The foundation puts on roughly 12 of these "missions" every year, and it has a special connection to baseball. Founder Bill Austin was a good friend of former Angels owner Gene Autry, who introduced him to several retired big leaguers in need of help.

Players such as Paul Molitor, Pedro Martinez and Sammy Sosa have volunteered on international missions, and the list of famous names in attendance on Tuesday was long: Dave Winfield, Scott Erickson, Jack Morris, Lou Brock, Reggie Sanders and more stopped by to offer support alongside Forseth, who emphasized the importance of the donations.

"It's that father that's trying to keep his job," Forseth said. "It's that husband that's trying to reconnect with his family. It's that child who's trying to develop in school. Children with hearing impairment have delayed development in their learning, language, speech and cognitive skills. So it really gives them a leg up."

One of those kids was little Cayzjah.

Simmons' daughter was born with a rare liver condition that affected her bile ducts. After a liver transplant when she was just nine months old, she received morphine, which set off several allergic reactions.

When Cayzjah was prescribed an antibiotic to help with the side effects, the drug burned out the nerves in her ears and created substantial hearing loss.

It wasn't until Simmons -- founder of National Athletic Pastoral Care, a local organization that provides athletes with personal faith support -- went on a mission trip with Starkey to Uganda four years ago that he realized the company might be the answer to his daughter's hearing problems.

"It never dawned on me," Simmons said. "When you're somewhere to serve, you don't think about yourself."

This summer, Cayzjah finally got the replacement she needed, and her world opened up.

"She's communicating more at home," Simmons said. "Teachers are seeing a big difference. She's more confident and able to look people in face and talk back. Overall, she can hear a lot better, and I know the appearance of not having the big hearing aid on the back of her neck makes her feel better as a little pretty girl."

Tuesday's underprivileged patients were provided by all sorts of organizations: Local school systems, Boys & Girls Clubs and Special Olympics were just a sampling of the channels through which Starkey recruited for the event.

"I've seen lots of tears," Forseth said. "I've seen husbands and wives reconnect today for the first time. I saw a little boy hear his mom say 'I love you' for the first time. It was awesome."

Alex M. Smith is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @asmiff. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.