Brothers on and off the Road: A Different Kind of Music


They’re brothers, on the road and off. They work together, play together, and eat together. But if that isn’t enough brotherhood, the Osmonds, of recording and concert fame, have formed a foundation to promote the brotherhood of man.

The Osmond Foundation was organized to aid the deaf and blind, to help combat drug abuse and alcoholism, and to promote a feeling of brotherhood and goodwill throughout the world.

These goals take on a special meaning for the Osmonds, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—that of spreading the gospel.

The Foundation is organized and managed completely by the Osmond family. They’re all actively involved in it. The father of the clan, George V. Osmond, Sr., is president. Serving as secretary is his wife Olive, and son Alan is vice-president. Sons Virl and Tom act as managers of the Foundation, and the other Osmond children—Wayne, Merrill, Jay, Donny, Marie, and Jimmy—add their moral support, both instrumentally and vocally. The members of the singing group often spend their time at home in Provo, Utah, stuffing envelopes and licking stamps for the Foundation.

Why the interest in those less fortunate?

Nonperforming brothers Virl and Tom can tell you. They’re partially deaf. While their singing brothers were achieving fame, they were wrestling with their own difficulties.

Tom, being more profoundly deaf than Virl, had the biggest struggle.

“I looked into the mirror,” he explained, “dried my tears, and said ‘Tom Osmond, you’re going to stand on your own two feet.’”

But overcoming their own problems with deafness was only the beginning. Virl and Tom realized the extensiveness of the deafness problem while serving missions for the Church in Canada. It was then that they became aware of the small amount of medical research being done, including research in the areas of psychological adjustment, speech therapy, and education.

“Tom and I decided that from that time forward we would do whatever we could to help others in the ‘silent world’ of the deaf,” said Virl.

They were instrumental in starting a program for the deaf in western Canada. This later led to a deaf mission in California.

Their experiences gave birth to the Osmond Foundation idea. It won enthusiastic support from the other members of the family and the Foundation was organized in late 1971.

“Our long-range goal is to get the performing Osmonds’ fans involved in the organization,” said Virl. “We hope they will help by doing everything from passing out brochures to teaching little deaf children to talk.”

Along with teaching the deaf to read, fans can teach less fortunate children to lip read, talk, play basketball, and swim. Young people can also help by reading to blind children.

“Some of these kids are really handicapped in their social relations.” said Virl. “We want them to feel as if they are a part of us, that they can do anything we can do.”

In some cases the Osmonds’ fans have become interested enough to make a career out of it. Many are working in schools for the deaf or making plans to become social workers.

“We’ve already received several letters from fans who have gained from their experience with the Foundation,” said Virl. “Many comment, ‘This has opened up a whole new career for me. Thank you for helping me develop this interest.’ If we do nothing more than interest them and make them aware of the problem, then we’ve accomplished something.”

The Osmond Foundation is working closely with researchers in communicative disorders to develop methods of teaching and innovating various specially programmed educational materials.

Their concern for the deaf and blind is obvious. And their Church principles give them a natural concern for alcoholism and drug abuse. But making those issues part of the Osmond Foundation responsibilities was the singing group’s idea, according to Virl.

“Letters poured into the fan club headquarters by the thousands, saying, ‘I’m on drugs, what can I do?’ The boys really saw a need for concern.”

The Osmonds have planned television commercials and films to help the victims of drugs. The foundation has also published a pamphlet on drug abuse.

Their third goal is to promote goodwill among men. To the Osmonds that means spreading the gospel. The singing group takes every opportunity to express their views on the Church. The Foundation does the same, subtly promoting the gospel through love of fellowmen.

Along with promoting gospel principles, the Osmonds are a living example of goodwill toward their fellowmen. By directing their efforts toward helping the disadvantaged, they are proving to be ambassadors of goodwill in many ways.

“People who are doing such a wonderful thing must be wonderful themselves,” reads a letter from a 14-year-old fan in California.

The Osmonds are working together and they’re working for others. And the Osmond Foundation is one way, as their motto states, to “give a hand where it helps.”

[photos] Photos by Colleen Henrichsen and Virl Osmond

[photo] Virl Osmond, a manager of the Osmond Foundation, tests teaching aid units developed for deaf children. Virl and brother Tom, who co-manage the Foundation, both have hearing losses

[photo] Donny Osmond helps a child feel the sound of words

[photo] Tom Osmond, aware of the small amount of medical research being done for the deaf, aids a deaf child with a teaching device donated by the Osmond Foundation