HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — It's time to recognize all the good happening in central Arkansas. And the good people doing it. All this week, we are introducing you to remarkable people.
As the owner of Natural Hearing Centers in Hot Springs, Dan Delong does more than just help people hear. He changes people's lives.
"I see these old men that get drug in kicking and screaming," he explained, saying "I hear just fine, but they hear 'I love you, grandpa' and they turn into this big, withering emotional mess."
He wanted his family to experience those emotions, so four years ago he took his wife, Angela, on a mission trip to Peru.
As part of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, they helped fit thousands of needy people with free hearing aids.
"There really aren't a lot of words other than it just feels like love," said Angela. "That's what it feels like. Like a really strong feeling of love."
They were hooked.
"After we left," she said, "that was the first thing. Our next mission will be with the kids. We're never coming again without the kids. Because they need to see this. They need to experience this."
Fast forward to earlier this year: mom, dad, and their two oldest children booked a mission trip to China.
"I didn't know what to expect," admitted 15-year-old Ella Delong. She was excited, and then her 17-year-old sister found out some disturbing news.
"My daughter Taryn did the research," explained Dan. "She said, dad, social media's illegal in China. And I'm like sweet!" He laughed. "That's awesome."
Two teenage girls and three weeks without social media.
"At first," Ella said, "I was like, ugh I don't know if I can do that."
But Ella's mom had a different reaction.
"It was good," she said. "It was like reconnecting right. Look somebody in the eye and have a conversation and not be like distracted by this. It's incredible."
The Delong's traveled 7,000 miles, to give back and get closer as a family. They arrived to a massive crowd of 6,000 people, waiting for the gift of sound.
"There was a special needs girl," Angela remembered. "She started singing. She was so excited she could hear her voice. And Taryn's just crying and the little girl's singing. The teacher's crying. It's so emotional, it's so incredible."
While the girls had their eyes on those they were serving, mom and dad had their eyes on their girls.
"To watch my daughters help these two little girls," Dan said, "and watching my wife beaming in the background. Just taking note that this is happening. Just an 'ah-ha' moment. This is why we're here. And I'll never forget that moment."
A remarkable moment, courtesy of this remarkable family. The Delong's said they're going to make this an annual tradition. Their youngest boys are excited to go with them next time.
You can help them give back. A portion of hearing aid sales at their stores goes to support the Starkey Hearing Foundation.