Victor Garber and Kelli O'Hara to Host OUR TIME Gala, 4/22
Our Time - a non-profit organization that has been helping children who stutter for over a decade - will hold its 11th Annual Benefit Gala, Worth the Wait, celebrating the bravery and achievements of young people who stutter as well as those who inspire their success. This event comes just one year after the organization honored Offensive Lineman Matt Slauson of the New York Jets, and two years after honoring David Seidler, the Academy Award-winning writer of The King's Speech, whose film changed the landscape for people who stutter around the world. The event has become an annual favorite for a number of celebrities, philanthropists, artists, and social advocates including former NEA Chair and award-winning actress Jane Alexander who has said: "The word has gotten out that this is the best show in town. I go to a lot of galas, but this is the one I always want to go to, bar none."
This year, Our Time will continue its annual tradition of celebrating an accomplished person who stutters by honoring music legend Mel Tillis. His remarkable achievements as a person who stutters inspire the youth of Our Time's programs to live out their dreams. The organization will also present the Budd Mayer Advocacy Award to speech-language pathologist Dr. Phil Schneider for his exceptional dedication to supporting people who stutter and their families. Additionally, Our Time will present a special commendation for exemplary leadership to Saadiq Wicks, the 11-year old Founder & Director of LLLet Me Finish, an extension of Our Time that promotes awareness about stuttering and raises money to send kids in need to Camp Our Time.
The event will be hosted by Victor Garber and Kelli O'Hara, and will feature performances and presentations by professional artists and celebrities including Christian Borle, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Cerveris, Rachel Dratch, Gina Gershon, Jeremy Jordan, Richard Kind, Jesse L. Martin, John Oliver, Anthony Rapp, Ron Rifkin, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn, and many more, alongside the talented youth of Our Time's programs. A festive dinner and auction will follow with honorees and celebrities in attendance.
Our Time's 11th Annual Benefit Gala will raise vital funds to support the organization's groundbreaking programs and services for children who stutter. Since 2001, Our Time has been providing a compassionate community where children who stutter have as much time as needed to express themselves without fear of judgment or ridicule.
Participants gain communication and social skills, as well as enriching friendships with peers who share their challenges with speech. Programs are designed to ensure that all participants experience motivating success while receiving validation from adult mentors and from each other. This therapeutic experience helps youth transform their fear and shame from stuttering into confidence and self-acceptance, enabling them to succeed and reach their fullest potential. Through the generous support of Our Time's annual gala, the company offers its NYC arts programming free of charge and provides financial aid to all youth in need for its speech therapy services and Camp Our Time.
Over 750 people attend Our Time's Annual Benefit Gala including performing artists, celebrities, journalists, and renowned philanthropists. This year, Our Time will honor Mel Tillis whose remarkable achievements as a successful musician and entertainer while being a person who stutters inspire the youth of Our Time's programs to live out their dreams.
Mel Tillis is an award-winning, genuine country music legend who has achieved iconic status in the music and entertainment industries despite lifelong challenges with stuttering. Mel started performing while serving as a baker in the US Air Force in Okinawa, and has been in the music/entertainment business over 50 years. Among his many accolades are: CMA Entertainer of the Year, BMI Songwriter of the Decade (twice), member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and in 2012 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama. He has penned an autobiography, Stutterin' Boy, a tribute to his speech disorder which helped shape his journey to greatness.
"WOW! I never would have thought I'd be honored for my stuttering. Nothing was around like Our Time when I was a kid. God bless the founders. I'm thankful for this honor from such a wonderful program."
Phil Schneider, Ed.D. CCC-SLP is the founding partner of Schneider Speech Pathology and Professor Emeritus of Communication Disorders at Queens College, CUNY. Recognized as a master clinician and teacher, he has been practicing for over 40 years. Phil has received numerous honors including NYS Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Distinguished Clinician Award and was named the National Stuttering Association's Speech Pathologist of the Year. His documentary film, Transcending Stuttering: The Inside Story aired on PBS, and has tens-of-thousands of online views. His second film, Going with the Flow: A Guide to Transcending Stuttering is being used in graduate courses worldwide.
"It is an honor to be a part of the amazing Our Time family. Speech therapy is often not enough for youngsters challenged with stuttering. Along with their family, they need and deserve a loving, supportive community to help them accept themselves and celebrate their inner spark."
At age 10, Saadiq founded his own organization, LLLet Me Finish, to spread awareness about stuttering and bullying, and to raise financial aid funds for Camp Our Time.
"As a person who stutters I've been bullied for my speech and I know what it feels like to be ridiculed. I'm really excited to be working with Taro and the Our Time Family. Together we are going to help so many kids in the U.S. and all over the world!"
With artists and celebrities from the worlds of music, television, and film in attendance, the true stars of the evening will be Our Time's incredible young participants whose voices have been validated and encouraged by the organization. As 16-year old Argenis said, "Before Our Time, I was afraid to speak in public. But now, I can express myself freely."
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos