West Jordan (ABC 4 Utah) – “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother,” was one of the hit singles of the original Osmond Brothers. But more than that, the song became their anthem – a statement of their bond, especially with the oldest brothers, Virl and Tom, who were born hearing impaired.
Virl and Tom could not sing with the others, but their parents were determined that no impairment would separate their family.
“Growing up on a farm you don’t have many resources to buy hearing aids,” Virl remembered. “So what did my father and mother do? They taught Alan and Wayne and Merrill and Jay how to sing barbershop harmony.”
Those performances would eventually lead to fame for the singing brothers, and hearing aids for Tom and Virl. “So they went out and sang in the community and they bought us hearing aids. Can you believe that? I thought it was pretty awesome.” Virl said.
Tom added. “I received the earphones and I heard the sounds and I was surprised. I said, ‘What was that?’ I was amazed! Sound means a lot to me.”
Since those first hearing aids, the technology has changed. Now digital models can give them close to normal hearing.
At first, Virl said the new models could be overwhelming. “My heavens, I can hear scratching. You know when Justin put those on me a couple years ago… for the first time I heard crickets. Can you believe that! And I cried. I was just grateful for that.”
And now the family is sharing the gift of hearing around the world through the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund.
At one clinic in Guadalajara, Mexico, they fitted 2,000 kids and adults with hearing aids. “Believe it or not, I was having a ball,” Virl explained. “I’d had a stroke three or four months before that time because of a car accident. I was really struggling. But I forgot about me and I thought about all those people and I thought, ‘Wow, what a blessing!’ So I actually really did enjoy that experience."
Justin Osmond said, “Virl and Tom are my heroes.” Justin is CEO of the fund. He was also born hearing impaired. “They have inspired me to continue the legacy of our mother to help many more children and adults with the gift of hearing.”
Justin says he’s really just carrying on what he learned as a Boy Scout. For his eagle project, Justin raised money to buy hearing aids for a fellow scout. Justin said, “I remember giving him his brand new hearing aids and he started to cry and I started to cry. And I said, ‘You know what, that’s what I want to do for a living!’ I want to pay it forward. I want to go around the world and help more kids like my friend Robert.”
Virl said he’s proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish as a family, “We’ve had fun entertaining the world and lifting people’s hearts. But especially to those who have hearing impairments, we now say there is hope. We have the technology. We’ve been blessed.”
Olive Osmond helped develop a legacy of giving that is now carried on by two generations.
For more information on the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, click here.