Congratulations 2017 Oticon
Focus On People Awards Winners

They are a dedicated and diverse group who share one common goal:
To eliminate negative stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss. Meet our 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards winners - remarkable individuals whose courage, vision and commitment are helping to change perceptions and open doors of opportunity for all, but especially for people with hearing loss. 

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Braden Baker

Dallas, TX

This ten-year-old boy with a heart as big as Texas knows how important his Oticon hearing aids are to his life. To help give the gift of hearing to other children who are not as fortunate, Braden started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $1,000. He credits Ellen DeGeneres and her support of worthy causes and a lesson learned after the family pet chomped on his hearing aids for giving him the idea for his GoFundMe initiative. In August, Braden presented a check for $15,000 to the Oticon Hearing Foundation. He continues to raise money through his GoFundMe campaign – including a $20,000 donation from General Mills, presented to him by Ellen DeGeneres on her network television show.



Student - 1st Place

Ellie Kobak

Portland, OR

Ellie Kobak never lets her hearing loss stand in the way of making positive contributions to her school and her community. At Lincoln High School, 17-year-old Ellie volunteers as a tutor for struggling students, mentors incoming freshman and is a varsity athlete and member of the National Honors Society. In recognition of her leadership, Ellie’s classmates recently elected her senior class treasurer. Ellie also offers inspirational advice to parents of young deaf and hearing-impaired children when she openly shares her own experiences of hearing loss at Columbia Regional, an Oregon Department of Education program that funds special education services for students with select disabilities. When the State of Oregon cut Columbia Regional’s funding for audiology services, Ellie testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee to argue for restored funding.

2nd Place
Rachel Friedman
Weston, FL

3rd Place
Tsering Shola
Camas, WA


Adult - 1st Place

Lt. Commander Michael McManus

Honolulu, HI

Decorated naval officer Mike McManus served in the Marine Corps in Kuwait during the first Gulf War and voluntarily deployed multiple times with the U.S. Navy Seabees during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mike, who was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, hesitated to wear hearing aids, concerned about how this might affect his career in the military. He quickly recognized that his openness and willingness to learn and experience new technologies has consistently benefited his professional and personal life. That acknowledgement was a turning point for Mike who now proudly wears his hearing aids on duty and off. His thinking: the ability to hear information critical to the success of his missions is far more important than the perception of “perfect” hearing. Today, Mike is actively pursuing a personal campaign to reduce the stigma of hearing loss in the military, aiming to serve as a role model and mentor to those coming up behind him.

2nd Place

Mala Bawer
Bernardsville, NJ

3rd Place
Dan Beck
Rockville Centre, NY


Advocacy - 1st Place 

John Cartwright

Anchorage, AK

John Cartwright was raised in a generation that puts less investment in children with hearing loss and their potential to learn and speak. He defied the odds and now aims his career and volunteer efforts to support early hearing detection and families of children with hearing loss. Most importantly, John models the success a person with hearing loss can achieve. As a volunteer with the local Alexander Graham Bell committee, John lends his expertise to help and support families trying to navigate the world of hearing loss with their own children. John is an inspiration to people with and without hearing loss. During the year his wife was deployed overseas, he continued his volunteer activities while serving as a single parent to six children, including one with special health needs.

2nd Place
Jena Howell, RN, MSN
Texarkana, AR

3rd Place
Cheri Perazzoli
Redmond, WA


Practitioner - 1st Place

Marilyn Hinrichs, AuD, CCC-A

Dallas, TX

Dr. Hinrichs is passionate about helping others understand how hearing loss affects everyday life. Her mission is to educate and bring awareness of the impact of untreated hearing loss to the community and influential medical providers. That’s one reason she participates in 200+ community events per year, providing hearing conservation information and free hearing screenings to assisted living communities, local churches, recreation facilities, colleges/universities and physician offices. Dr. Hinrichs is currently working to establish Ears4Years, a non-profit foundation that will collect donations and provide hearing services and hearing aids to people with restricted financial resources in her community. She has generously donated her time to supervise more than 30 audiology students, hosting student tours of her practice, demonstrating services and helping students who are planning a career in health care to understand the importance of hearing health care.

2nd Place
Diane Kenworthy, AuD
Utica, NY

3rd Place
Doug Wesson, BC-HIS, ACA
Manteca, CA

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