ILLIOPOLIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Hunter Martin started his political career six years ago- and he’s only 13.
Now, he’s a student finalist for a national award to recognize his work fighting for hearing aid legislation.
“I did not imagine this would come later in my life, but I’m kinda glad it did because it’s an awesome experience and I never thought it would happen,” he said.
The Oticon Focus on People Award is given to people with hearing loss. Contestants are judged based on their accomplishments.
“It would mean a lot of things to me [to win],” he said. “To know my accomplishments and achievements are being recognized and that other people know what I did.”
For Hunter, his legislative endeavors set him apart.
Before that, his mom, Ramona Martin, began her own journey to find affordable hearing aids after learning two of her children would need them.
“I started working and trying to figure out how to get hearing aids covered when my insurance told me they are cosmetic,” she said.
At the time, Illinois did not mandate that insurance companies cover hearing aids, so children were only covered under early intervention until their third birthday. This meant families were left to pay the rest out of pocket.
Ramona began working with legislators and when Hunter was seven, he told his mom he wanted to try speaking to the committee himself.
Ramona could not be more thrilled with his drive to help others.
“Proud does not begin to cover it. He is an amazing kid, from the athletics to the academics to the passing bills. He just has a drive to do everything. He wants to give 300% to everything he does, and he makes us proud every day,” she said.
In 2018 at the age of 10, Hunter stood by then Gov. Bruce Rauner while he signed Bill 4516 that would require all insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children until they turned 18.
While this was his proudest moment, it turned out to be bittersweet for the family.
“Right after the bill got signed, self-funded insurance would not cover hearing loss no matter what because it was self-funded,” he said.
Despite the hiccup, Hunter persevered.
“I had to send letters out to many different companies to get them to cover it and allow for the insurance to cover and pay for hearing aids,” he said.
The letter-writing campaign was successful, and dozens of companies changed their policies.
“It’s just neat to see him want to do well and want to succeed,” his mother said.
Now a teenager, Hunter’s goal is to create national legislation to help those with hearing loss.
To vote for Hunter, click here. Voting ends Friday, Dec. 17.