16th Annual Benefit Gala
July 11, 2022
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2022 Freeing Voices, Changing Lives Gala

Our 16th annual Freeing Voices, Changing Lives gala on Monday, July 11 was a joyful event this year as we gathered live and in-person for the first time since 2019! Clients, donors, staff and honorees came together to celebrate and support our ongoing work to provide free or low-cost therapy to people who stutter requiring financial assistance. Donations to our therapy scholarship fund can be made below, or by texting "stuttering" to 44321.

Emily Blunt was the master of ceremonies and spoke movingly about her own experiences growing up with a stutter.

She introduced two welcoming speakers, our Chairman of the Board, Eric Dinallo, and our client Siri Quartfort.

Ms. Blunt also presented a surprise award to AIS Director Heather Grossman, honoring her visionary leadership on her 10th anniversary with AIS. Dr. Grossman's vision of a world where it really is okay to stutter has been the backbone of her work at AIS, and informed the themes of the evening.

Sponsors were welcomed and thanked by Will and Eloise Esseks, a brother and sister team who delighted the crowd with their “high five for stuttering” system for sharing their stuttering triumphs.  

Speaker Marc Winski reminisced about his first experiences with AIS, even showing the crowd the notebook where he had once described his goal of speaking on a stage just like this one! Mr. Winski also led the crowd in an exuberant live text-to-give event, raising speech therapy scholarship funds.

The evening continued with a tribute to Sir Harold Evans, a notable editor and journalist who, along with his wife, Tina Brown, and AIS founder Catherine Montgomery, created the first AIS gala in 2005. Ms. Brown spoke movingly about Sir Evans, whose legacy to the stuttering community will be carried on through our continued work at AIS.

Next, Emily Blunt sat down with AIS therapists Mark O’Malia, Kristel Kubart, and Chaya Goldstein for a fireside chat about their experiences as speech pathologists who stutter.

Our youngest speaker, Wynter, received a standing ovation for her speech. She told listeners: “I know now that what I have to say is important, and stuttering doesn’t have to stop me. My message to other kids who stutter is this: It’s ok to stutter, and it’s ok to tell people that you stutter. Telling them can make you feel braver!”

Finally, the Catherine Montgomery Advocacy Award was presented to Lucy Fato, AIG’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Global Head of Communications and Government Affairs. The award recognized AIG’s commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace, and for serving as allies to those who stutter.

It was a thrill to be together under the same roof with our incredible supporters and donors! AIS thanks everyone who made this evening a success, and who supports us every day in freeing voices and changing lives.