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Video: Students help Special Olympics athletes

The Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games is the most exciting time of the year for many of the 4,000 athletes who travel to Illinois State’s campus each year to compete.

Ryan Mulligan ’11 couldn’t agree more.

The third-year doctoral student is training at Illinois State to become a pediatric audiologist. For the past four summers, he’s also volunteered with Healthy Hearing, a program run by Illinois State faculty and students that provides free hearing screenings and hearing-aid vouchers to Summer Games athletes.

“I love it. It’s my favorite time of the year,” Mulligan says.

Healthy Hearing is just one part of a longstanding bond between Illinois State and Special Olympics Illinois, which is headquartered just off campus in Normal. As host to the Summer Games, Illinois State sees more than 10,000 visitors each summer, including athletes, family members, coaches, and volunteers.

Those volunteers include Mulligan, who is now mentoring younger students who’ve offered to help Healthy Hearing. Mulligan says his involvement with Healthy Hearing has taught him more about screening techniques and how to work with unique patients like those with intellectual disabilities, who have a higher rate of hearing problems than the general population.

The program’s Illinois clinical director is Lindsay Bondurant, assistant professor of audiology in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and one of Mulligan’s mentors. Mulligan’s passion for audiology and helping others has turned him into a Healthy Hearing leader, even helping win a grant to pay for supplies for the 2014 program.

“He’s such a sincere and enthusiastic person,” Bondurant said. “He’s taken a leadership role from the beginning. The other students look up to him. He has really reached out in a humanitarian way.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at