Our annual benefit galas are always special nights. However, the 4th Annual Freeing Voices, Changing Lives gala, held June 7, 2010 at Tribeca Rooftop, was truly unforgettable.
Less than two weeks earlier, AIS Founder and Executive Director Catherine Montgomery passed away after an extended fight against cancer. The gala would recognize not only our distinguished honorees and client speakers, but the heart of AIS, Catherine. The evening opened with a touching slideshow tribute to her.
The night’s emcee, beloved British actress Emily Blunt, welcomed the audience for the evening and set the stage for the honorees. She herself was an honoree at the 2009 gala.
Award-winning journalist and columnist Clarence Page was the first of the night to be honored with the Freeing Voices, Changing Lives award for great achievements as a person who stutters. He was warmly introduced by author and publisher Sir Harold Evans. About the award, Clarence said, “This is not an award for me, but it’s really a symbol for so many of us for just being able to overcome.”
The next honoree was leading communications strategist and trainer Michael Sheehan. Michael is also a member of the AIS Board of Directors. He was introduced by two of his good friends, George Stephanopoulos and, via video, former President Bill Clinton. On the successes of people who stutter, Michael shared, “We all didn’t get where we are now in spite of our stuttering. I think we got here in part because of it.”
Our clients, the highlight of every gala, followed our first two honorees.
Isa shared about her experiences at AIS and working with Chamonix Sikora (née Olsen). “Now that she has helped me, I could be an actress if I wanted to be. She is amazing!” exuded Isa. Isa’s mother spoke briefly Clora Kelly to provide a parent’s perspective.
Joel talked about his outlook on life after attending AIS. He shared, “I think of me going through high school and college just fine, without any problems.”
Dr. Zhanna Livshits told of how AIS helped her to speak freely. “I hear my voice and I like the way it sounds for the first time since I was a child,” she said.
Journalist and editor Tina Brown welcomed the final honoree, veteran actor Harvey Keitel. On stuttering in his childhood, Harvey told the audience, “I could only imagine what life could have been like had there been a place like AIS when I was a boy.”
We would like to thank Tina Brown and Sir Harold Evans for serving as Co-Chairs for the gala, the honorees and clients for sharing their hearts, all in attendance for celebrating with us, and all who supported the gala through their generous contributions.
Finally, we are forever grateful to Catherine for her vision and spirit, which were so alive during the night and will continue to shine through AIS.