Facing a price tag in the thousands for new hearing aids for her son, Lori Andaloro wasn’t sure what she was going to do. What she did know was that the daunting price put them out of her reach and that her son, Michael, desperately needed his decade-old, falling-apart hearing aids replaced.
Fortunately, the Andaloro family lives in Arcadia.
It all started with a post on the Arcadia Parent Google group. The page, used by neighborhood residents to reach out with for sale items, announcements, questions, concerns and the like, is a popular forum for the area, and Lori didn’t know where else to turn.
Michael has hearing loss in both of his ears. When he was three years old, his mother noticed that he wasn’t speaking or responding to any audio cues. Doctors told Lori that Michael’s hearing loss was so profound that he would never speak.
“None of the doctors guessed that it was hearing loss because I was passing the hearing tests by watching the audiologist and knowing when to respond. As a kid I hated the tests so I essentially cheated on them to get them over with,” Andaloro said.
Eventually, one doctor conducted an ABR test (like the test that newborns get) and Michael failed each of them.
Michael was put in an oral/deaf school called the Omaha Hearing School, located in Omaha, Nebraska. It was there that Michael closed a three-year language gap in six months. The family moved to Phoenix when Michael was four and he was mainstreamed into “normal” school in first grade. After attending multiple schools in the area, Michael started at Veritas Prep in 6th grade and remained there until graduation in 2017.
Michael’s name is well-known in the Arcadia Parents Google group. In high school and through college Michael has offered his services doing odd jobs around the neighborhood to raise money to pay for school.
Recently, Lori had noticed that Michael was increasingly having trouble hearing with the aids he was using. Doctors determined Michael was only hearing 10-20 percent of what was being said. His hearing aids – which were 10 years old – needed to be replaced.
That news was followed by sticker shock, as the new pair would cost $5,000. As a single mom, Lori was out of options. She decided to reach out and post to the Google group, asking for advice or ideas on raising funds for new hearing aids.
Community member Robin Detroy saw the post and asked if someone would set up a GoFundMe (online fundraiser) for Michael. Almost immediately, the community rallied together for someone that has helped many of his neighbors when they needed something.
“I had no idea the fundraiser was even created until my mother called me and asked if I was sitting down. She explained her post and the GoFundMe for my hearing aids and said the campaign had successfully raised $5,000 within 36 hours,” Andaloro said. “I was shocked to hear that I would finally be receiving new hearing aids after 10 years of wearing my old ones. Nobody expected the campaign to finish within that amount of time, and I was so moved when I learned what had happened.”
For many people, supporting this young man and his family was a chance to “give back.”
“We needed a handyman to fix a few things in our home. I have used grown men who were unable to fix things that Michael fixed,” said Linda Tinsley. “He impressed me the moment I met him. He is honest, kind, trustworthy, efficient and reliable. He charges a fair price.”
“We had the great fortune of having Michael take care of our three crazy dogs this summer. He is such an amazing young man,” Detroy added.
Michael says that his most common jobs are furniture building and tech support, but he’s also hung artwork, mirrors and televisions. During winter break, Michael helps with yard decorations and hauling away Christmas trees.
“I have been helping the neighborhood as well as the Valley as a whole for three and a half years. I was looking for jobs to begin saving up for college and my mother suggested I post on the Google group,” Andaloro said. “Since that first post, I have been helping the neighborhood every summer and winter break.”
Family friend Marqel Godzich took over the GoFundMe account, and within minutes, donations started rolling in.
“Since I knew the family, I thought it was a great idea to help Michael. I was so impressed, and I cried tears of joy so many times in that 24-hour time period,” Godzich said.
“The community really came together by offering business promotions to the first donors that would give,” Godzich said. “Everything from photo sessions and Pilates sessions to a food truck party; the neighbors would not let the ball stop. They continued to promote and give to Michael.”
Eva Hofstedt, owner of The Stand Burger Shoppe, offered to throw food truck parties for families that donated a certain amount.
“Initially, I said the first person to donate $1,000 to Michael’s GoFundMe will get a party. I didn’t get any takers. The next day, I noticed the account had risen to $3,500. We were so close,” Hofstedt said. “So, I thought, let’s try a lesser amount and see if we can get multiple parties to donate $500 each for a food truck party. And it worked.”
Sarah Pyper of Pilates Plus AZ offered Pilates sessions to the first few who donated $300. Her offer was accepted within minutes. Pyper is already well-familiar with Arcadia’s generosity, as the community stepped up to hold donation drives for her son years ago.
“I was really inspired by the photographer [Sandra Tenuto] who so willingly donated her time and talent. I wanted to do the same in hopes that other neighbors and members of our community would jump on that train,” Pyper said.
“I have been back in Arcadia for 10 years, and I can say without a bit of doubt that we have a very unique neighborhood. We are lucky to have so much talent, resources and true care and compassion of our neighbors. This is a neighborhood that others dream of. We are lucky.”
In just under two days, the GoFundMe account reached its goal of $5,000. The donations didn’t stop – they kept coming until the fundraising period ended, with 48 families donating a grand total of $5,615.
The community response enabled Michael to receive his new hearing aids on August 6.
“These hearing aids have been a life changer,” Andaloro said.
Along with faster technology and speech processing, the new aids are equipped with a Telecoil, a tiny wire coiled around a rod that is a receiver for a unique channel. Telecoil is an expanding technology that is used in places like churches, movie theaters, college classrooms and museums for guided tours. The telecoil amplifies the important audio and eliminates background noise. The aids are also Bluetooth-enabled, which allows Michael to stream music, audio and calls from his phone.
“In the past, I relied on reading lips to understand what people said, but these new hearing aids allow me to understand much more than I thought possible. These hearing aids were able to meet my deafness level and still leave room to spare for more volume,” Andaloro said.
Michael headed back to Dallas in late August, ready to start the school semester with a new apartment and state-of-the-art hearing aids. He asked Arcadia News to pass this along...
A message from Michael:
I would like to thank the community for the willingness of the members to support one another.
I would like to thank the local businesses for their support in making my campaign successful. I would especially like to thank Eva Hofstedt for her generosity and support.
When my mother told me about the GoFundMe and how it finished within 48 hours, she was crying from happiness. These new hearing aids have had a huge effect on my hearing and I am hearing things I was not able to in the past. We have a grandfather clock and I heard it for the first time across the room. I heard the garage door open from inside the house. I am beyond grateful to be returning to school hearing so much better and I am forever grateful to everyone in our community. Thank you all!