SayWhatClub Board of Directors

The SayWhatClub Board of Directors can be reached by email at:

Pat Dobbs


My hearing started to decline when I was 19 and gradually diminished through the years. In my late fifties, it dropped to the profound level, making communications a struggle. Today I am grateful for my bilateral cochlear implants.

A classic late-bloomer, I spent the first thirty-five years of my business career selling midrange computer solutions. After I launched the Hearing Loss Revolution and it’s Nine Guiding Principles, (now the Hearing Loss Evolution), I discovered my true
calling – advocating for people with hearing loss. I do this through education by giving workshops, and presentations, but also coaching individuals, helping them to come to terms with their hearing loss. (More details at
I’m a proud graduate of Gallaudet University’s two year Peer Mentor Program. I started the HLAA-Morris County Chapter and today am its Immediate Past President, a Trustee for the NJ HLAA plus a representation on NJ DDHH. I also am honored to represent The Communicator, the clear mask for people with hearing loss.

Duane Tull


I’m 64 years old, married to my wife Rhonda for 24 years (25 in July). I am currently retired. I have been hard of hearing all of my life, so I know the struggle faced by those who are hard of hearing/deaf. I have had both eardrums surgically replaced when I was a kid. While they provided only modest improvement it was still a huge help. I did not get my first pair of hearing aids until I was 45 or so. They helped for a couple of years, then ceased to be helpful. I now have a pair of Phonak Audeo hearing aids.

My wife and I currently live in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. We moved here after my wife retired from teaching last July. We do not have any kids. We have a yellow Lab that I am training to be my hearing and mobility assist dog. She will be my fourth Service Dog, and we were “gifted” a second dog last year.

The SayWhatClub was the turning point for me. Attending my first conference in Savannah, Ga. was the absolute best thing that could happen to me. I was not hopeful of ever getting to attend a conference, but I was encouraged to apply for one of the scholarships. I was ecstatic to be chosen from all the applicants. It was life-changing to meet and enjoy the chance to be with people who “get it.” I highly encourage all who qualify to apply for one of the scholarships. You have nothing to lose and if you succeed … everything to gain!

      Leslie Cotter


Leslie Cotter, SayWhatClub Board of DirectorsI am a long time member of SWC. I joined in 1996 (or there about) on the Connect list where I have made many long time, close friendships. My home town is St Paul, MN where I Iive with my two cats. I am retired from full time careers in many areas, the last was teaching. Crafting is my passion. I love my part time job in retail at a major big box craft/fabric store. It feeds my crafting addiction.

I started losing my hearing in the 4th grade, but it went undiagnosed until college. After being double tested by the school nurse, my positive response to her inquiry about swimming all summer led her to dismiss her findings. This went on through junior high. In hindsight, I recognize many behaviors during those years and high school as indicating hearing loss. My family life was a bit messy during that time with moves, divorce and general life that no one noticed.

Me? I didn’t know I was different. I didn’t know others could hear the phone ring from a different room, or that they could follow the conversation in a dark car. When you don’t know you can’t hear, you don’t know what you’re missing. I didn’t know other students heard every word the teacher said, or that musical instruments made sounds after high F. I didn’t know.

A nasty bout of tinnitus caught my mother’s attention while I was in college on a vocal scholarship. The family doctor sent me to a specialist who said I had pretty ears; they just didn’t work. He didn’t recommend hearing aids at that time, but declared a 50% loss. Hmmm. I graduated with a 3.7 average, and went off into the work world.

Two years later, my hearing took a drop, and I got hearing aids. A couple of decades or more later, I got a cochlear implant and it absolutely changed my life. Throughout it all, I have been up and down. I fought the good fights, and succeeded in life with technology, determination and skill.

Since the 1990’s, I have been an advocate for hearing issues. I served on MN Commission serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. I served as President of MN Chapter #1 HLAA, as well as State Coordinator for HLAA. Additionally, I edited the Chapter #1 newsletter. I served on the MN Hearing Instruments Consumer Advisory Panel, and on the Qwest Consumer Advisory Board. I was Hard of Hearing Program Coordinator for Doorways, a local non-profit. Through Doorways, I developed Hearing Through Older Ears, a program geared to educating Seniors about life with hearing loss. It also targeted caretakers and businesses serving HoH Seniors. On SWC, I served as a List Rep for Connect and been involved in the planning of Conventions. I look forward to making more friendships on SWC in the coming years.

Lorne Smith

Canadian Member At Large

I joined SWC in 2001 and have been on a wonderful adventure of discovery ever since. I’ve learned a great deal about hearing loss and have made many wonderful friends online and in person, attending every SWC convention since 2003.

I’ve had a hearing loss since childhood but did not get my first hearing aids until I turned 40 and could no longer function without them. I joined SWC looking for help and support with the purchase of my second pair of aids, and wish I had done so sooner. I’ve since replaced those aids several times and have acquired neckloops, an FM System and other assistive equipment, most of which I learned about through SWC. I worked as a daily-newspaper journalist in Vancouver for 40 years before retiring in 2018. I’m married with four adult children and six grandchildren.
Within SWC I’ve been involved in the List Rep Committee, Web Committee, Convention Steering Committee and Newsletter Committee. I previously spent six years on the SWC board, during which I served at various times as liaison to the Hospitality Committee, Web Committee, Social Media Committee and List Rep Committee.

Ilene Morales

InformativeMy hearing loss and tinnitus began when I had high fevers with measles at age 8. I was not tested until I was in college and got my first hearing aid then as well. I have a ski slope loss in both ears that goes to profound in the high tones.

I managed for a long time, adding a second aid years later, but as I got older it was more difficult to follow conversations. Audiologists suggested a cochlear implant, but I knew no one who had one and it seemed like a very drastic action. I attended the 2016 HLAA convention in Washington DC, in an effort to learn more about cochlear implants. I asked someone I met there for ways to meet others with hearing loss. She told me about the Say What Club, and I signed up right away. The support I received was instrumental in my decision to go ahead with an implant in January 2020. I did so well with the first side that I did my other ear in December 2020. I love my brand, Advanced Bionics and am a mentor for them. I speak to potential candidates regularly to assist on their journeys.

For the past 44 years, I have worked at a non-profit community based organization, in a variety of roles. I am currently a financial compliance coordinator. I am a lifelong New Yorker, love to read and travel.

Bet Whitcomb


I am a retired public high school math teacher who lives in Northfield, Massachusetts.  I have three grown children and four rapidly growing grandchildren.  I started to lose my hearing in my 20’s due to otosclerosis, a condition I inherited from my mother.  Luckily for me hearing aid technology has kept pace with my worsening hearing loss.  My loss is now severe to profound across all frequencies.  I wear two powerful BTE hearing aids and have been told that I am on a path towards a CI, though it may be years before I get there.
I joined SWC in January of 2003.  I remember the day very well.  It was a day of in-service training for teachers and I was having an extremely rough time trying to hear anything that was said.  On the verge of tears, I went to my principal and told him I couldn’t do this anymore.  He excused me from the training and suggested that I go online and see if I could find any resources that may help me.  What I found was SWC.  I joined immediately and was placed on Forum.  By that summer I was a list rep on Forum, a position I have held ever since, until joining the BOD.

Angie (Fugo) FUOCO


I have been a U.S. Government employee for 36 years, making government agencies accessible to people with hearing loss and other abilities, all while performing other roles. My newest position is Employee Experience Coordinator at the United States Mint in Philadelphia. I am honored to serve my country in civilian work as I was unable to serve in uniform due to my hearing loss. 

I have a bilateral hearing loss and use cochlear implant, hearing aid and an array of technology to hear. I became profoundly deaf in the left ear at age 9 after the mumps and unknowingly experienced moderate to severe loss in my right ear by my 40s.

In 2017 Pat Kovac learned I was nearby (in Atlanta) and a former speaker at HLAA & ALDA conventions. Pat asked me to speak at the Savannah convention; I accepted and fell in love with the SayWhatClub.

I offered up my beautiful hometown of Pittsburgh for the 2020 Convention, serving as local host for 2020 (the cancelled convention) and the successful pandemic “reunion” convention of 2021.

I have a Master’s in Public Health, a BS in Chemical Engineering, and an Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies. I am a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Professional, Associate Safety Professional, and certified ADA Coordinator. I love connecting people to all kinds of accessibility and especially, that which involves hearing loss. I love presenting and changing hearts and minds about hearing loss, disabilities, ableism and accessibility. Most of all, I love connecting with people, hearing, deaf or any possibility in between.

Ann Marie Picardo


I have a progressive hearing loss that began in my late 30’s. By the time I was 61, I reached the point where hearing aids were no longer giving me much speech comprehension so I moved forward with getting a CI in my left ear.

Getting a CI has been a blessing for me. I’m so grateful for this amazing technology.
I joined SWC in 2016 and prior to joining the BOD was a CI List Rep. I’ve attended several conventions and have enjoyed them.

I’m also a member of the Hearing Loss Association of America and am currently the President of HLAA Morris County Chapter. I have also served on the board of the Hearing Loss Association of America – New Jersey State Association.

While living with hearing loss is challenging it also has a positive side. It’s allowed me to meet some wonderful people that have become friends.
I’m retired from a long career in the music business and am a life-long resident of New Jersey.