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Hands and Voices
June 6, 2013 11:26 AM | Tagged as CIAF, District 23, Socks for Sound

A big hug and special thank you to Cari Piper for writing about D23 in this month's issue of Illinois Hands and did such a great job!

DISTRICT 23: Cool store with a cool mission! 
District 23 is a home décor store in Springfield that not only sells unique and beautiful items, but has a unique and very special purpose. This store is completely volunteer run, and all proceeds go to the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF). Simply put, CIAF was created to help people who need financial assistance related to their cochlear implants.  Whether it be to have a part replaced, assistance in gas money for the many trips out of town to the nearest CI center for appointments, or to provide recycled implant parts as part of their Trash to Treasure program. It takes a very special, dedicated person to take all of this from a dream to reality, and Michelle Tjelmeland did just that. Michelle not only founded CIAF in 2005 and District 23 this year, but is a CI recipient herself. To add even more to her experience, her oldest daughter, Ellie, who is now 15, is also a CI user. Due to their hard work, and the help and support of her family (husband Joel, and younger daughter, Lucy), friends and community, over 500 families have been assisted by CIAF with many more to come, now thanks to the addition of District 23. The store is located in a renovated home, and the upper space is allocated to the workshop for the “elves” who have already begun working this year on the newest creation for the Socks for Sound fundraiser, also to benefit CIAF. We have been blessed to be involved with Michelle and these programs from the beginning. I reached out to Michelle in late 2005 when our son, Caleb, who is now almost 9 years old, had received his first implant from Children’s Hospital in St Louis. Living in Springfield, the high cost of gasoline for the very frequent trips back and forth became a burden on our family, and Michelle graciously & quickly accepted my request and provided me with gas cards to help. I am fortunate enough to now be able to give back and support the foundation and the store, and volunteer with Socks for Sound each week, working with the other “elves” on the 2013 design, and of course shopping at District 23. The Springfield community has welcomed the store and keeps it packed with customers when it is open every other weekend. Don’t live in central Illinois? Don’t worry! You can visit the store’s website and order online, and “like” their Facebook page to get updates. Keep your eyes peeled for new items added often. Check out the Socks for Sound website on ways you can help with the fundraising project, or to order the new design later this year! Visit these websites for more information:,,

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Golden Ticket Winners
April 1, 2013 6:24 PM | Tagged as CIAF, District 23, Golden Ticket


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WEGO Health Activist Awards Finalist
March 25, 2013 12:36 PM | Tagged as CIAF, Wego Health

For a 'Best Kept Secret Finalist', I sure do have a large mouth! 

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We Have a Winner!!!
March 19, 2013 10:26 AM | Tagged as CIAF, District 23


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Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation outfits bicyclist with equipment for charity ride
March 8, 2013 2:11 PM | Tagged as CIAF, Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation

Rochester, Illinois – Twenty-four-year-old Jacob Landis, who is planning to cycle to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in five months to raise money for those impacted by hearing loss, has received $10,000 worth of upgraded cochlear implant equipment from the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF).

This upgraded equipment will provide Landis with additional flexibility during his ride, which he starts April 3, and will also improve his hearing and speech.
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides sound to a person with significant hearing loss. Cochlear implants are the only medical technology able to functionally restore one of the five senses. Many cochlear implant recipients regain more than 50% of their hearing. The equipment consists of an internal component, the implant, as well as an external component, the sound processor. Landis received his Advanced Bionics (AB) cochlear implant 13 years ago. His AB sound processor is an early model worn off the ear on his belt connected by a cable to a headpiece that communicates to the implant via a radio wave. Since then, AB has introduced behind-the-ear (BTE) processors. These processors can be worn directly on the ear, much like a traditional hearing aid.  Landis’ insurance did not cover the $8,500 cost to upgrade to this type of processor.
Landis contacted the Gift of Hearing Foundation (a charity that provides financial assistance to people who qualify for cochlear implant surgery) to discuss his plan for Jacob’s Ride, his cycling fundraiser with a goal of raising $1 million for those with hearing loss.  
Gift of Hearing Foundation Executive Director Eileen Jones explained, “When I met Jacob in January and discovered he could not afford to upgrade to the newer model, I reached out to Michelle Tjelmeland at the CIAF, who has worked with us at the Gift of Hearing Foundation on several occasions to help us find BTE processors for people. She has never let us down! She luckily had a Harmony™ BTE device that was exactly what Jacob needed and she shipped it in time for his appointment at Johns Hopkins. She not only sent the BTE, but some additional supplies, like batteries and replacement headpieces, totaling about $10,000 in value. Now not only is Jacob hearing better with his new equipment, he now has the flexibility to choose which model processor fits best in his situation along the ride.” 
Landis noticed an immediate difference in his hearing after his new processor was hooked up on March 5 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Landis said, “When they activated the Harmony™ BTE, I immediately thought that things were a bit better, which is extraordinary when what you’re used to is considered almost ‘normal’. It helped to strengthen my resolve to complete this ride. Such a small device can make a huge difference, and we can make this happen one hundred times over.”
CIAF founder Michelle Tjelmeland, who is also a cochlear implant recipient, said she considers this donation as an investment in the hearing-loss community as a whole. “Jacob embodies the spirit of CIAF and our mission to help others hear,” said Tjelmeland. “He’s about to do great things for those who experience hearing loss, and I know I will be cheering him on every step of the way.”
About CIAF: The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation is a 501c3 organization that connects people with the information and resources they need to make an educated decision about cochlear implant awareness surgery, and offer guidance and support to recipients. CIAF does not provide financial assistance for the surgery. For more information, visit
Jacob’s Ride:
Gift of Hearing Foundation:

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Festive socks go viral to raise money for Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation
December 17, 2012 6:10 PM | Tagged as CIAF, Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation

*This article was originally published in The State Journal-Register, written by Tamara Browning.

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation seeks to connect people with information and resources they need to make an educated decision about cochlear implant surgery, offering guidance and support to recipients. However, the foundation doesn’t provide financial assistance for cochlear implant surgery.

Before the sock fundraiser, the foundation had $374 in its account, Tjelmeland said.

Then donations began snowballing: The foundation received a check for more than $61,000 from the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association Auxiliary, and the socks fundraiser has gained in popularity.

“(The auxiliary) raised funds for us for a year, but we just got the check. That was a great holiday surprise, and then shortly, right before that, my girlfriend came to me with this sock idea,” said Tjelmeland, whose daughter, Ellie, a freshman at Rochester High School, is deaf and is a bilateral cochlear implant user.

“It took that big push to get us going.”

Team process

Adults and teens have worked to reach a goal of 250 handmade socks. Many people were instrumental in turning things around, including Tjelmeland’s friend Laura Gehrs, her father, Max Klemm and her aunt, Ginny Klemm. Others helping include Cheryl Neff plus Brandy Lozosky’s mother-in-law, Pat Lozosky.

“All these people are showing up all over. I don’t even know most of them. They’re coming to these garages that are set up. People are donating burlap, and they’re donating the paint,” said Tjelmeland, who added that the Rochester Post Office has been a big help.

Brandy Lozosky said it takes at least three nights a week to make the socks.

“I have gals that cut out the stockings out of burlap. Then we have a day when we just paint (with acrylics). That dries. Then the next day we sew them all together. Each work night we have a step that we do,” she said.

Lozosky estimated 275 yards of burlap has been used so far. The socks are stuffed with recyclable plastic bags — from 10 to 12 bags for the small socks and about 100 bags for the large socks.

Snowball effect

Many people have hung the socks — which come in traditional with red and green paint and funky with turquoise and hot pink paint — on doors with bows or ornaments. Each sock comes with a tag that tells the foundation’s story and directs people to the website to learn more.

Since marketing on Facebook and word-of-mouth, the fundraiser has taken off. Socks have been shipped to at least a dozen states.

Tjelmeland said she believes God put everyone together for the fundraiser “to do more and better for others.”

Because this was a “last-minute” project, plans are to start the process in February for the next in a series of Christmas-related burlap socks with a new design. The goal is to have the socks finished before Christmas.

Lozosky said the goal next year is to make 500 socks. But Max Klemm is thinking bigger.
“I think we can sell 1,000 next year. I think that once we get this thing going viral and then we just start telling people ... people will want to have the next in the series,” Klemm said.

Tamara Browning can be reached at 788-1534.


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Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation donates equipment to MSSD student
December 14, 2012 10:39 AM | Tagged as CIAF, Gallaudet University

*The following article was posted in Gallaudet University's Clerc Center Daily on December 13, 2012

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation recently donated a cochlear implant coil and cable to MSSD student Gabriela Cevallos to make her CI functional again. Venita Dzime-Assison, Cevallos's audiologist at the Clerc Center, arranged for the donation through CIAF's recycling program which accepts gently used implant equipment or batteries, and passes them on to recipients who could use them.

"The CIAF founder, Michelle Tjemeland, also a cochlear implant user, personally understood the importance of this part to Gabriella," said Debra Nussbuam, coordinator of the Cochlear Implant Education Center at the Clerc Center and a board member of the CIAF. "She went out of her way in her busy schedule and travel around Thanksgiving to see that Gabriella received the part she needed."

Gabriela wrote a letter of thanks to the foundation, "I am happy that I can use it [cochlear implant] again…The coil and cable are working perfectly. Thanks to the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation for the donation."

For more information on the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation visit their website.

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Great story about two brothers!
September 5, 2011 11:47 PM | Tagged as Brothers, CIAF, Cochlear Implant, Swimming

 Inspiring story about two deaf brothers who are competing in the World Deaf Swimming Championships!

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Cochlear Implants in India
September 4, 2011 6:20 PM | Tagged as CIAF, Cochlear Implant, India

 1)      Cochlear Implants bringing hearing to People of India.

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Trash to Treasure Program
August 10, 2011 8:49 AM | Tagged as CIAF, Cochlear Implant

If you have gently used cochlear implant equipment or batteries that you are no longer able to use, CIAF will gladly pass them on to Cochlear Implant recipients who can use them.

Click here to complete the form.

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Posted: June 6, 2013 11:26 AM Hands and Voices
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