By Starrla Cray
WINSTED “As soon as you change someone’s life, it changes your life.” Lucas Morang
Lucas, 19, son of Joseph and Donna Morang of Winsted, has changed at least 600 lives over the past decade. He started raising money for the Starkey Hearing Foundation in 2007, and recently reached his goal of $60,000 enough to buy hearing aids for 600 children.
Lucas knows firsthand what a difference these little devices can make. He started experiencing hearing loss when he was a toddler, due to genetics.
“Almost all of the males on my dad’s side of the family have some form of hearing loss,” Lucas explained.
After Lucas got his first hearing aid, his mom had to “bribe” him so he’d get used to wearing it. She’d put on his favorite movie, and every time he took out his hearing aid, she’d pause the movie.
Hearing aid technology has come a long way in 15 years. Lucas still has all his old hearing aids, and describes his first one as “big and bulky” compared to what he has now.
“Sometimes I don’t even remember I have it on,” he said.
With the hearing aid, Lucas can hear “about 80 percent of everything.” He’s become skilled at lip reading to fill in any gaps, and turns on closed-captioning when watching movies.
The ability to hear is something Lucas appreciates every day.
“You don’t realize how much you use your hearing until you lose it,” he said. “I can take out my hearing aid anytime and know what it is like.”
Sharing the gift
Lucas’s family appreciates the gift of hearing, too. When Lucas was 9, he and his mom did a fundraiser for the Starkey Hearing Foundation, as a way to “pay forward” the help Lucas had received.
At first, Lucas wasn’t aware of the impact fundraising could have. But when he learned how many children his donation had helped, that’s when it “clicked.” He told his mom, “we need to do more fundraisers to help more kids hear better like me.”
Since then, Lucas has worked zealously for the cause, raising money through garage sales, bake sales, and carnivals.
“At one point, we were doing four fundraisers a year,” he recalled. “. . . My junior year of high school, I had a goal of raising $100,000 by the time I graduated high school. It was a bit far-fetched, but it was a dream.”
Later, Lucas changed his fundraising goal to $60,000. He was at $57,000 last year, and his most recent event in April (the 11th annual coffee klatch and silent auction) pushed him over the edge.
A hearing aid from the Starkey Hearing Foundation costs about $100, which means Lucas has helped about 600 children in the past decade.
Four years ago, he had an opportunity to meet some of those children while distributing hearing aids in Kenya.
“That was life-changing,” he recalled. “It completely changed my perspective on how we live. Everything here we take for granted. Over there, they struggle for water; they struggle for food. We see our streets, and they’re completely clean or almost clean. Over there, there’s garbage everywhere.”
Lucas remembers the children in Kenya being ecstatic about their new hearing aids, and many of the parents cried tears of joy.
“It’s very emotional,” he said, adding that when the kids first started to hear sound, they got “big smiles” on their faces.
Much like his fundraising goals, Lucas’s career plans center on helping others hear better.
Since he graduated from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School in 2017, he has been studying at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park. He’s now one class away from earning a diploma in plastics engineering technology.
Lucas’s dream job is to work for Starkey Hearing Technologies, which is headquartered in Eden Prairie and has 22 facilities around the world including a location in Glencoe. The company aims to continuously improve hearing aid technology and craftsmanship.
Starkey Hearing Technologies is part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which has given the gift of hearing in more than 100 countries.
Lucas met his goal of raising $60,000 for the foundation in April. Now, he plans to take a little bit of time off from fundraising to finish his education and start his career.
“I’m not quitting, though,” he said. “I will get back into it.”
To learn more about the Starkey Hearing Foundation, follow the link at www.herald-journal.com.