Ask any nine-year old girl what she wants for her birthday and the list of top picks are likely to include a variety of \u201cmust haves,\u201d from skinny jeans with plenty of bling to the latest high-tech gadgets! Not so for Mariana Lopez. As this Washington Woods third grader unabashedly pulls back her silky black hair to show off her sleek new powder blue hearing aids, she proudly exclaims, \u201cThese are my favorite birthday gift-- ever!\u201d Mariana\u2019s mother Jennifer recounts that although Mariana passed her newborn hearing screening, hearing loss related to chronic ear infections persisted well into her early elementary years. When various treatments including surgical intervention, proved unsuccessful in resolving Mariana\u2019s hearing issues, her parents were advised the time had come to seriously discuss amplification options. Given the type and degree of Mariana\u2019s hearing loss, behind-the-ear hearing aids were considered the best choice. The family quickly learned however, that many health insurance policies do not cover the hefty cost of those devices. Just as her mother and father struggled with the anxiety of how to afford not one but two hearing aids, a brochure in the doctor\u2019s office outlining a new hearing aid assistance program offered help and hope. Thanks to the Hearing Aid Assistance Program of Indiana (HAAPI) administered by Hear Indiana in conjunction with the Indiana State Department of Health and its Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education, Mariana qualified to receive the hearing aids so crucial to her continued academic success. With a maturity that exceeds her young age, Mariana shares how her new devices have changed her life. \u201cPeople used to think I wasn\u2019t paying attention. Listening was so hard and made me tired.\u201d Mariana beams with pride as she relates, \u201cNow I have more energy and I don\u2019t have to say \u2018what?\u2019 so many times!\u201d With a mischievous grin, Mariana also admits her powerful hearing aids give her the capacity to overhear whispered conversations between family members who may not think she\u2019s listening! This new skill can be especially annoying to her older brother! Mariana continues to gain confidence with her new hearing aids to fully engage in all the activities of any busy pre-teen. Alongside her peers, Mariana plays a fierce game of basketball! She has also discovered the joy of singing favorite tunes on her new karaoke machine. Mariana is conscientious about taking good care of her new hearing aids, and applies that strong work ethic to other duties at home including shared responsibility for family pets. She sets high goals for herself in school, and dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Mariana hopes that sharing her HAAPI story will help alleviate the financial hardship for other Hoosier students who need new hearing aids. For further information about HAAPI, contact Info@HAAPIndiana.org, or call 317-828-0211.