June 26, 2017 - Our 11th Annual American Benefit Gala was certainly an outstanding event. Guastavino’s provided the perfect backdrop for the evening which began with a cocktail reception where honorees and Board members mingled with the crowd and took pictures on the red carpet.
The live program began with a welcome message by Board member Michael Sheehan where he noted this occasion as one of “celebrating stuttering” He was joined on stage by AIS clients Ragip and Selena who thanked our corporate sponsors.
Board member Sander Flaum introduced our returning Mistress of Ceremonies, Emily Blunt, who delighted the crowd with her warmth and wit. Emily next introduced the Catherine Montgomery Advocacy award, presented this year to the creators of Gabriela, the 2017 American Girl doll fashioned after a girl who stutters. Unable to attend in person, CEO Katy Dickson delivered an eloquent acceptance message via videotape.
Emily next welcomed Priscilla Almovodar to the stage to introduce our first honoree, Eric Dinallo and present him with the Freeing Voices, Changing Lives “iceberg.” The audience received a special surprise visit from Mayor Bill DiBlasio whose remarks further outlined the importance of the AIS mission and Eric Dinallo’s personal and professional accomplishments.
Eric, AIS Board member and one of the Institute’s most loyal advocates spoke of his own challenges with stuttering and his dedication to the work of AIS.
After dinner service, the second portion of the live program was introduced by long-time AIS supporter and Board Chairman, Nolan Russo. Emily invited Jon Mangum to the stage, who presented his colleague and personal friend Mr. Wayne Brady with the second Freeing Voices, Changing Lives award. Wayne’s heartfelt remarks made it clear that he personally relates to the ongoing struggles of dealing with stuttering and the importance of public advocacy.
Emily next invited the AIS clinicians and client speakers to the stage. Dr. Heather Grossman, AIS Director, highlighted the AIS tag line “Speak Freely, Live Fearlessly” as she introduced the first client speaker, Mr. Dhruv. Dhruv spoke of his own experiences in therapy at AIS, summarizing the importance of a more positive perspective.
The last speaker, MaKenna summarized her personal journey with stuttering and the importance of supporting and helping others.
A short video entitled “What is it like to Stutter?” was shared with the audience, depicting some of the common concerns shared by those who stutter, including worrying excessively about how other will react.
AIS Board member, Mr. Clarence Page kicked off the lively AIS scholarship auction, which provides direct funds to provide therapy for those who would not otherwise have access to quality stuttering treatment.
The event concluded with closing remarks and a scrumptious desert. It was truly a spectacular evening!