CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) – If you attend a Special Olympics softball game…you’re sure to see Branden Thibodeau on the field.
Branden started participating in Special Olympics at age 18 and found a second family on his softball team.
“It’s really a lot of fun. I appreciate. We can hang out and joke around with each other and we meet other people who are like us,” Thibodeau said.
But imagine playing softball and not being able to hear much. Well, you put yourself in Branden’s shoes. He is partially deaf in his left ear, which means that once he leaves the dugout, another challenge awaits him in the field.
“It’s a bit difficult to hear your coach yelling at you to change gears or where you need to go,” Thibodeau said.
Despite this challenge, Branden was selected to represent Wyoming at the USA Games.
“We have people from different countries coming, and we were able to meet and hang out and then play against each other,” Thibodeau said in describing his favorite moments from the games.
It is estimated that more than 30,000 Special Olympics athletes suffer from some form of hearing loss. About 83% of these athletes never get the proper testing, and Starkey Cares wanted to change that.
“When we heard these numbers and knew there was such a need in the Special Olympics community, it was obvious to us that this was a group we wanted to partner with and we want to help in every way. possible ways,” said Michael Scholl, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations for Starkey Cares.
And after a series of hearing tests, Branden was one of the first athletes in the US Games to receive a free hearing aid from Starkey.
“He was such a good young man to have a conversation with. He was so excited to be there and so excited to be involved,” Scholl said.
This hearing aid was not only a game changer, but also Branden’s life.
“It was very emotional. I liked it. I liked it. Being able to hear is the best thing you can have in life, especially playing on the pitch to hear better. I can hear my teammates , and I can also hear the ball hitting the stick, so you know where it’s going to land,” Thibodeau said.
And now Branden is determined to give back to the organization that gave him new hope.
“I want everyone to see where I came from and how I did it and that Special O can help you out,” Thibodeau said.
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