Our Story

District 23 and CIAF

To Fund a Successful Non-Profit, You Must Think Outside the Fundraising Box…

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF) is a non-profit organization that connects people with information and resources they need to make an educated decision about cochlear implant surgery, and offers guidance and support to recipients. The Foundation does not provide financial assistance for cochlear implant surgery. Through our Hear Again™ campaign, we accept gently used cochlear implant equipment such as cables, processors, batteries and more from individuals who are upgrading equipment. We also partner with members of our Hearing Health Family like Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Mayo Clinic, and Colorado Institute for Hearing. All equipment received by CIAF is cleaned, processed, and cataloged into our massive database, so when a request comes in, the correct equipment can quickly be found for the individual in need. Cochlear implants are expensive, and an average gift of equipment to a deserving individual costs around $8000. Michelle knew that to help more people hear through CIAF, she needed a consistent means to support the efforts of the Foundation—enter District 23 Boutique. Michelle opened the District 23 flagship store in 2013 on MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield, Illinois. This visually appealing boutique sells on-trend women’s clothing, accessories, home décor, gifts and more. To keep up with the growth of District 23, the Springfield store moved to The Wardrobe building in 2018.

Michelle Tjelmeland: The “Powerhouse” Behind CIAF

While pregnant with her daughter Ellie, Michelle Tjelmeland became profoundly deaf after struggling with moderate hearing loss most of her life. A few months after giving birth to Ellie, it was discovered that Ellie was also profoundly deaf. About that time cochlear implant technology was just being introduced. Michelle and Ellie both received bi-lateral implants, which has proven to be life-changing, but still carries challenges. In 2005, Michelle founded the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation (CIAF) to help guide families through their cochlear implant journeys.

District 23 & CIAF – 100% Committed to Helping People Hear

A cochlear implant is revolutionary for people who cannot hear, as it is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or hearing-impaired. An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her understand speech. While this technology gives a new lease on life to many, unfortunately the process for getting a cochlear implant can be extremely complex as well as costly.
100% of Profits Directly Support CIAF

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation is a charitable organization under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Service code. We want to be transparent with our supporters when we say “100% of all profits go to CIAF.” It is not a marketing tool to make you feel good about shopping at District 23, nor is it meant to be misleading. In the most basic terms, 100% of profits means what remains after business expenses are deducted from all of the income we receive from District 23 sales and all CIAF fundraisers. All businesses, whether they are commercial or nonprofit, have normal business expenses to keep the doors open—employee compensation, cost of goods, store space, marketing and advertising, etc. Our management team, along with our board of directors, develops and adheres to an annual budget to ensure all CIAF profits go directly into helping more people hear. It is also important to note that each one of our board members and volunteers serves without compensation. We are committed to providing great service and products to our District 23 patrons and doubly committed to providing incredible and lasting hearing support to our CIAF community. Read our latest CIAF Newsletter to learn all about what is going on at D23 and CIAF!

Want to join our team? Find more information HERE!

Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation

When you shop D23

All proceeds benefit The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation to help people hear via cochlear implants. In the past 24 months, CIAF has gifted $2.4 million worth of equipment to those in need. Shopping local matters and makes a difference.