Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HLAA Affiliates on the Move with Walk4Hearing and Expos

HLAA Chapters and State Associations are on the move in a big way this fall. 

Fabulous HLAA Walk4Hearing Kickoffs and Walks4Hearing are taking place in cities around the country right now. The Walk4Hearing is HLAA's signature fundraising and awareness event that benefits both Chapters and the national organization. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Walk4Hearing is the largest walk for hearing loss awareness in the country. Every spring and fall thousands of walkers - children and their families, young adults, young at heart, and everyone in between - form teams and walk in their communities to increase public awareness about hearing loss, help eradicate the stigma associated with it and raise funds for programs and services. HLAA depends on generous volunteers to raise funds, generate enthusiasm and awareness at each of the Walk4Hearing sites.

Many of our Chapters and State Associations are also discovering the power of  hearing health expos. In the past couple of weeks I've enjoyed reading about the California State Association October 8th Hearing Loss Tech Expo 2016.  The  HLAA Rochester NY Chapter is holding its "Day of Hearing" October 7, 2016. HLAA chapters in Florida held a series of Expo's this past Spring using names such as "Hearing Health Expo" and Hearing Technology Expo" for their events. This list is by no means exhaustive.  Other Chapters and State Associations not mentioned here are staging exciting events, as well.

What's really important is that these chapters and state associations are using community-wide events to go where the people with hearing loss are.  They realize how difficult it is to get people with hearing loss to come to their first HLAA meeting. They reach out to those people in a fun, exciting, and non-threatening way. coming to an HLAA meeting then becomes a natural next step for these people.

Successful hearing expos do not happen by themselves.  They involve lots of operational planning and strategic  partnerships between HLAA volunteers and community hearing healthcare professionals, hearing assistive technology vendors, hearing instrument specialists, exhibitors, sponsors, and community media outlets.

Workshops that educate and inform the public are a big draw. Workshops that address living better with hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance draw people in and provide hooks for media coverage. 

The media community events editors are always looking for events to publicize in their community calendars.  Media health editors are always looking for human interest stories about prevalent health conditions and what can be done about them.  It is hard to imagine a more prevalent health condition than one that affects 48 million Americans!  Also popular are opportunities to try out hearing assistive technology and to ask questions of hearing health professionals.

Hearing expo planners will tell you to start out small and grow the event over time.  For instance, one Expo I know of had no hearing instrument representatives exhibiting in the beginning.  By the time the 2nd or 3rd Expo rolled around, that had changed.  Why?  The exhibitors who did participate in the first Expo found value in their participation and they told other vendors. The Chapter volunteers planned a small first-time event carefully and executed that plan with precision. The next year they drew upon what they learned the year before to plan a little more ambitiously and executed that plan successfully. The next year they repeated the evaluate-learn-grow-execute cycle.

If you are looking to revitalize your chapter, connect it to the community, and fulfill the HLAA mission of information, education, support, and advocacy, please let me encourage you to consider an Expo.  You don't have to do it alone. You can collaborate with other chapters in your State Association, other healthcare institutions or healthcare training programs (technical schools, community colleges, universities, etc.) in your community, and so on.

Thank you for all the amazing ways you fulfill Rocky Stone's vision for HLAA.  You are appreciated!

All the best,
Valerie Stafford-Mallis
HLAA Director of Chapter Development

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