The Starkey Hearing Foundation has announced it is shelving its 2020 benefits and suspending its U.S. and international programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Every year the foundation, which is the charitable arm borne out of Starkey Hearing Technologies, distributes tens thousands of its hearing aids to the disadvantaged in more than 100 countries across the globe, which it calls "giving the gift of hearing."
It also sponsored education and academic pursuits in developing countries, and is an advocate on the world stage for expanding hearing healthcare access.
But its U.S. and international outreach efforts have been put on hiatus by the COVID-19 outbreak, which has also led to the cancelation of its "Summer Sounds" Annual Benefit, scheduled for St. Paul in July.
The Summer Sounds benefit debuted last year, and replaced the annual gala that saw big celebrity names descend on the RiverCentre.
"Due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions and the inability to gather in large groups, Starkey Hearing Foundation is suspending U.S. and international programs," the foundation announced Tuesday.
"Without the ability to safely travel, the Foundation is unable to give the gift of hearing to people around the world," it adds. "We look forward to a time when it is safe to travel and gather so we can reassess how we can return to the important work of helping people hear."
Foundation President and Board Chair Richard Brown said that various travel shutdowns and bans on large gatherings made it extremely tough to operate safely.
"This was a very difficult decision, but after considering the challenges currently in place, we felt this was the most responsible decision for the organization and the safety of everyone involved in our work,” Brown said.
Starkey has said that its Starkey Hearing Institute in Zambia, Africa, will continue its operations despite the pandemic.