Osmonds sounding off for Aurora hearing center

“The untold story of the Osmonds is that hearing loss runs in our family,” Justin Osmond said, his speech marked only slightly by his own hearing loss of more than 90 percent.

By ADAM GOLDSTEIN, Staff Writer

AURORA | A little-known mission underlies every chapter of the Osmond family’s success story.

From the Osmond Brother’s first appearances on stage in the 1950s to the phase of teen-idol stardom for Donny and Marie Osmond in the 1970s, there’s been a constant cause that’s been more important than the album sales, the TV shows and the hit singles. Founding member Merrill Osmond and his son Justin Osmond detailed that history for a small crowd assembled at the Marion Downs Hearing Center at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora on May 30.

Nyla Morisset, 5, talks with her audiologist doctor Stacy Claycomb at the Marion Downs Hearing Center.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)
Nyla Morisset, 5, talks with her audiologist doctor Stacy Claycomb at the Marion Downs Hearing Center. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

“The untold story of the Osmonds is that hearing loss runs in our family,” Justin Osmond said, his speech marked only slightly by his own hearing loss of more than 90 percent. “The real reason why the Osmonds really got started in show business was to try to raise money for two deaf brothers.”

That mission has continued, through all of the band’s commercial success. It’s the reason Merrill and Justin Osmond made a point of visiting the Marion Downs Center, and it’s also the reason why Donny Osmond will come to Denver in January to perform for the center’s fundraiser and awards gala. The center’s combination of clinical care, medical specialists, education and community support aligns with the family’s history and its continuing purpose.

“We’re big ambassadors for programs like this,” Justin Osmond said. “When I heard about Marion Downs and their hearing program, the whole idea was that it’s exactly what we need. Someone gave me a chance to be able to speak, and this is my way of paying it forward.”

The staff at the Marion Downs Hearing Center gave that chance to Nyla Morisset, 5. Nyla joined her parents, Kristi and Eric Morisset, during the Osmonds’ appearance to offer a firsthand view of the center’s value. Nyla, who was diagnosed with hearing loss the day she was born, has benefited from the early intervention, the speech and language classes and the overall sense of community.

“Honestly, our biggest goal in having early intervention was to get Nyla in to a regular classroom and a regular school,” Kristi Morisset said. “That’s exactly what we’ve achieved … She’s had a speech therapist since she was six months old. Her speech and language has been higher and better than some of the kids in her class without hearing loss.”

That’s part of the reason that the Marion Downs Center’s is so unique. The focus of care isn’t limited to hearing loss in the elderly; it’s not tied to a single population. The inclusive mission is thanks in large part to the center’s namesake. Marion Downs is celebrating her centennial in 2013 (she turned 99 in January). Her hundredth birthday year comes as the center staff work to raise about $20 million for a new facility between East Colfax Avenue and 16th Street.

Donny Osmond’s appearance at the “Celebrating the Legacy” awards gala in January is part of the push to expand the facility, so that those with hearing loss of all levels can have access to care and opportunity.

“We have great faith in the future and we have great faith in what we’re doing here today,” Merrill Osmond said before an impromptu performance of the song “The Impossible Dream” from the musical “The Man of La Mancha.”

Despite the song selection, Merrill and Justin Osmond were careful to point out that the mission of the Marion Downs Hearing Center is far from impossible. As Nyla and her parents communicated with the assembled guests, that much was clear.

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at 720-449-9707 or agoldstein@aurorasentinel.com

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