APPLETON, Wis. — An Appleton audiologist is up for a big award. Dr. Stephanie Long Is a finalist for the 2019 Oticon Focus on People Awards. She's being recognized for making a difference in the lives of children with hearing loss.
6-year-old Madie Bellisle of Ashwaubenon is one of those kids. She has lived with mild to moderate hearing loss since birth.
"It's everyday that you need your hearing whether it's to hear your alarm clock, the door bell, a fire alarm, instructions on how to learn, how to read. It's a big piece of everybody's life, and it's crucial when your brain is growing and you need to learn how to do these things," said Madie's mother, Kellyn Bellisle.
When the Bellisle's insurance wouldn't cover hearing aids, which cost about $4,000 to $6,000 and have to be replaced every five years, Kellyn turned to an organization called Hear in the Fox Cities.
She said it was "A huge relief to our family to find out that there was something out there that was going to help us through this process."
Dr. Long co-founded the nonprofit about three years ago to make sure no one under the age of 21 is left behind.
"If a child isn't waiting to get hearing aids and can have hearing aids that are well fit and functioning always, they will do better in school. They will do better with their speech and language skills, and they do better with their social skills," she explained. "We try to help every kid we possibly can as long as we have money in the checkbooks."
Through fundraisers, community donations, grants and partnerships with local hearing care professionals, Hear in the Fox Cities purchases hearing aids at a reduced cost. Lower income families must then demonstrate a financial need to receive them for free.
"I'm glad that they don't have to struggle with something that I feel like is such a basic need, and that we've worked to fulfill that need, it's very, very rewarding."
After helping 11 children, Dr. Long has now been nominated for a Focus on People Award from Oticon which is a leading hearing aid manufacturer.
"It's very humbling, because I don't really feel like it's much about me. I feel like this whole team of people have done it," she said.
"I couldn't be more happy for her," added Kellyn with tear-filled eyes. "If it wasn't for her, I don't know what we'd be doing."
Kellyn, who has two daughters who use hearing aids, is encouraging people to go online and vote for Dr. Long. If she wins, Hear in the Fox Cities will receive $1,000 to help more children, like Madie and her sister, receive the tiny devices that will set them up for lifelong success.
"They make me hear better," explained Madie.
Dr. Long said winning the award would also help raise awareness of Hear in the Fox Cities both on the local and national level which could lead to new funding sources, so they can expand to other communities beyond Appleton and Green Bay.
Voting closes on September 26th. The winners in each of the four award categories will be announced in November.