Honoring Olive’s Dream
by Charlene Paul
I recently had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with Merrill Osmond, lead singer of the world-renowned singing group, The Osmonds, and his son Justin. They were welcoming, warm, and witty, as they spoke of family, the history of the Osmonds, and the upcoming Pioneer Legacy Celebration.
Merrill explained that he and his brothers began singing in public as a way to earn money for the purchase of hearing aids for their two older brothers, Virl and Tom, who are deaf. It was their mother, Olive’s dream to help not only her sons, but others who struggle with hearing loss. As time passed, she formed a foundation that laid the groundwork for the Children’s Miracle Network.
Justin is the only member of the second generation of Osmonds who was born deaf. He was quite shy and at one point in his life, was about two years behind kids his own age, making it difficult to fit in. Because of his hearing loss, he was told by doctors, teachers, and other professionals that he would never play the violin. He had to read the lyrics to his father’s songs. “Can you imagine not being able to understand your dad sing?” he asked.
In memory of his grandmother, Olive’s dream to create awareness for people who cannot hear, Justin formed the Olive Osmond Hearing Fund, www.HearingFund.org, and regenerated the excitement of her dream within the Osmond family. Justin strives to bring that awareness to the ears of those who have been blessed with the ability to hear.
“I may have a hearing loss, but that hearing loss does not have me,” is the motto Justin lives by. He has accomplished things others never dreamed possible. After twelve years of intense speech and listening therapy, which he hated, he hears with the aid of modern-day technology, and is a dynamic speaker who passionately teaches lessons of perseverance and daring to dream.
In 2015, Justin accomplished something that only a handful of people on the planet have accomplished. To raise money for the purchase of hearing aids for twenty-five children in southern Utah, he ran 250 miles in seven days—the equivalent of running approximately ten marathons back-to-back.
Although it has not always been easy growing up deaf in a family of musicians, Justin never let that stop him from achieving what others deemed unachievable. The desire to play the violin grew into mastering not only the violin, but the viola, piano, and drums as well. He received the Sterling scholarship in music, earned titles in athletics, and is an Eagle Scout. He loves life and possesses the ability to put people at ease when he speaks.
In reverence and remembrance of his grandmother, Olive’s dream, he works tirelessly to assist those with hearing loss receive the tools they need to live a life full of happiness and joy, satisfaction and achievement. He continues to work with individuals and corporations, such as Intermountain Audiology, one of the Pioneer Legacy Celebration sponsors who will provide hearing aids for three families this summer.
Merrill says Olive’s dream is moving forward just exactly as his beloved mother envisioned it. “Justin came into our family to fulfill a dream that was destined to be. There were no accidents.”
As a grandmother myself, I know Olive would be so pleased and so proud of her grandson, Justin. He is warm and witty, serious and driven, and I was a little sad when our interview came to an end that day. But I walked away with joy in my heart and renewed hope for all that is possible when we choose not to let our weaknesses have us. Thank-you, Justin. Thank-you, Merrill. And thank-you, Olive.
Honoring Utah’s Pioneer Legacy
by Charlene Paul
he history of the state of Utah is most widely accepted as the history of the LDS church, the Mormons. And while the handcart pioneers and those who followed Brigham Young to the Utah Territory are to be commended for their role in its settlement, Utah’s legacy is so much more diverse and multifaceted. Traveling Catholic priests arrived shortly after the Mormons to serve U.S. troops stationed in Utah. The First Congregational Church was the first permanent, non-LDS church in Utah. The Episcopal Church, the Jewish Community, and the First Presbyterian Church all assembled congregations. Meeting in haylofts and rented halls, the Methodist Church was dedicated in 1875. The Baptist Church and the Church of Christ, Scientist also played important roles in meeting the needs of those early settlers. It is in the spirit of inclusion of those varied groups that founder and executive producer, Merrill Osmond put together the first Pioneer Legacy Celebration.
“In an attempt to bring greater awareness to our pioneer ancestors, through this production, I wish to honor the brave men, women, and children who sacrificed so much, including those who sacrificed all to establish a place of freedom and a safe-haven to raise their families,” explained Osmond. Since 1987, Osmond and his collaborators have endeavored to create a non-denominational tribute to all cultures that played a role in establishing the Utah we know and love today.
This year’s celebration will be held at the Legend Solar Stadium at Dixie State University, and will showcase the Dixie Trailblazer story. Local talent of more than 150 youth, ages five to eighteen years will tell that story in word, song, and dance. Fireworks displays choreographed with the music will be used throughout the show to add to the excitement, adventure, drama, and emotion.
When asked about the youthful cast, Osmond explained that “the decision to make this production a youth-centered production was a unanimous one by all who assisted me, for it is the youth that we hope and pray will continue to remember and honor the pioneers throughout their lives. I pray that they may continue to tell their children and their grandchildren of the many sacrifices the pioneers made, resulting in certain freedoms we enjoy today.”
“We will also be honoring a modern-day pioneer family this year, Sidney Atkin, his younger brother, J. Ralph, their sister, LouJean Atkin Lundin, and other members of the Atkin family,” said Osmond. In 1877, William and Rachel Atkin settled on 160 acres of uninhabited land on the east bank of the Virgin River, eight miles south of St. George, and since they were the first settlers in the area, it became known as Atkinville. Today, the Sun River development is situated on that land. The Atkin brothers and their sister, along with their spouses have started and run several businesses in St. George, and have been involved in many philanthropic ventures over the years. They are active and avid supporters of Dixie State University.
There will be a Dixie Pioneer Days of ’47 Parade and lots of other fun activities throughout the day leading up to the Pioneer Legacy & Firework Celebration that evening. The Pioneer Legacy & Firework Celebration is FREE to the public. “We hope this will bring families of all faiths together. We hope it will be life-changing,” said Osmond.
Be sure to mark your calendar for Monday, July 24.
Doors open: 6:30 p.m.
Pre-show: 8:15-9:05 p.m.
Intermission: 9:05-9:20 p.m.
Merrill Osmond’s Pioneer Legacy & Firework Celebration: 9:20-10:15 p.m.
Fireworks Spectacular: 10:15-10:30 p.m.
See you there!
For more information, visit www.ThePioneerLegacy.com.