Who We Are

FRIENDS is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to empowering young people who stutter and their families. Our mission is to provide support, education and empowerment to young people who stutter, their families and clinicians. We believe that every child, teen and adult deserves to live in a world where they are accepted and empowered. FRIENDS is directed by Lee Caggiano, the mother of a son who stutters and a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP).

Our Story

In 1997, FRIENDS was founded by John Ahlbach and Lee to meet the need for organized support and education for young people who stutter and their families. Over the years, we have expanded into a national organization that hosts a large annual convention each July and many regional one-day conferences around the country throughout the year. We primarily serve young people and their families, but also provide invaluable education to SLPs and graduate students and welcome adults who stutter into our community as volunteers.

Executive Director, Co-Founder

Lee Caggiano

MS CCC-SLP, BCS-F Lee is the Director of Stuttering Therapy and Resources of Northern Colorado and treats children, adolescents and adults who stutter. Lee is the mother of a son who stutters and is co-founder and Director of FRIENDS – the Association for Young People Who Stutter. She is committed to providing a high level of parent education and training and has developed and coordinated workshops for children who stutter, families and professionals for the past several years. She has presented at local and national conferences regarding the needs of young people who stutter and their families. Lee serves as a consultant to many school districts as well as teaching the graduate level fluency courses at New York University, Queens College, and Long Island University-Post.

Co-Founder

John Albach

I co-founded FRIENDS in 1997 with Lee to provide young people and their families with their own space, their own identity within the stuttering community. I have loved every minute of it with all my heart!

Assistant Director and Operations Manager

Ro Ostergaard

I am the mom of a daughter who stutters. My family and I have attended every FRIENDS convention since 1998. My daughter is now a successful adult and a practicing Speech Language Pathologist in a suburban Chicago school district. The difference that FRIENDS has made in our lives is truly indescribable. Working on the three-day convention and general FRIENDS business has become my passion and I am grateful that FRIENDS has become my second family.

Board Secretary, Volunteer Coordinator/New Parent Coordinator

Ruth Ann McDermott I am a retired language arts teacher and mother of an adult who stutters. We joined FRIENDS shortly after it was founded and my son is a confident, successful adult because of FRIENDS. I have become an advocate of FRIENDS because of the difference it made in our lives. I support and help organize one-day conferences in Ohio, reach out to school districts and clinics by keeping them informed of events sponsored by FRIENDS, and most recently, helped organize the 19th annual FRIENDS convention. I also present a workshop to welcome new parents to our organization at the annual convention.

Treasurer

Kevin Onorato

I am a person who stutters and currently work in the Syracuse area as an actuarial analyst in the healthcare field. I admire Friends’ strong dedication to reach out to people who stutter and provide a network of support, care and development. I look forward to the growth Friends will experience in the coming years and am grateful to be a part of it.

Junior Executive Board (JEB)

Angelina Bruno-Metzger

Angelina Bruno-Metzger

I am a PWS and have considered FRIENDS my second family since 2002. I am an attorney with OlenderFeldman LLP and am at home in the court room, the kitchen and on the football field.

Ryan McDermott

Ryan McDermott

I am a person who stutters that loves to inspire others in the stuttering community. I got involved in FRIENDS to build my confidence and meet others who stutter. FRIENDS is like a second family.

Reuben Schuff

Reuben Schuff

I am an aerospace engineer and PWS. From a severe stuttering pattern, I’ve made a transformation change in communication. Wise SLP’s and outstanding PWS role models are a treasure to this journey.

FRIENDS is excited to announce the kickoff of the Junior Leadership Board. This new initiative is sparked by the young adults within FRIENDS who share a passion for helping and stepping up to make FRIENDS serve the stuttering community even better.

Mission Statement: The Junior Executive Board (JEB) is dedicated to inspiring young adults who have grown with FRIENDS to become leaders within the organization, the stuttering community and their own communities.

Purpose: JEB teaches young adults the skills they need to become successful leaders and facilitates opportunities for them to apply those skills. The JEB empowers this next generation of leaders to help FRIENDS grow locally and to make a difference in the stuttering community and their own communities through collaboration, support, advocacy and education.

The JEB plans to focus on aspects of the three-day convention, PR and one-day conferences, and fundraising. If you are interested in more information, please contact one of the facilitators.

Reuben Schuff (reuben@friendswhostutter.org)
Ryan McDermott (ryan@friendswhostutter.org)
Angelina Bruno-Metzger (angelina@friendswhostutter.org)

Convention Committees

Jessie Caggiano

Jessie Caggiano

Convention registration, Sibling Workshop Leader

I am a social worker from New York and sibling of a PWS. I grew up going to Friends Conventions with my family every summer and the connection and support FRIENDS created for me was more than I ever imagined.
Aisha Glover

Aisha Glover

Convention Scholarship

I am a working mother of 3. We discovered FRIENDS 10 years ago, and we appreciate the impact it can have on an entire family. I am committed to spreading that impact through scholarship access.

Dave Hankins

Dave Hankins

Convention Store Chair

I am a proud parent of a child who stutters. We have been involved with FRIENDS for a while, and the support we have received from this amazing organization has been immeasurable. Now we want to give back!
Sarah Hankins

Sarah Hankins

Convention Auction Committee Committee co-chair

I am a proud parent of a child who stutters. We have been involved with FRIENDS for awhile, and the support we have received from this amazing organization has been immeasurable. Now we want to give back!

Stacy Jolley

Stacy Jolley

Volunteer Coordinator

My son Evan is a PWS. The people of FRIENDS inspire & comfort us, and we’d be lost without them. Evan recently said to me, “I’m really glad I stutter, because if I didn’t, I would never have come to FRIENDS and met all these wonderful people.”

Jeanne Murphy

Jeanne Murphy

Registration Committee

I am a proud parent of a child who stutters. We have been involved with FRIENDS for awhile, and the support we have received from this amazing organization has been immeasurable. Now we want to give back!

Roger and Susanne Ruden

Roger and Susanne Ruden

Chairpersons for the FRIENDS Charity Golf Classic

We started going to Friends 6 years ago when our son was 12. It changed our lives, so we wanted to give back. Through the Charity Golf Classic we raise money to help families attend 1-day workshops & the national convention. To organize a golf fundraiser contact us.

Ed Samp

Ed Samp

Convention Scholarship

My son Eddie is a stutterer. Our family attended the 2nd annual FRIENDS conference in 1999 in Boston when Eddie was 9. It changed our lives. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed staying connected with our FRIENDS family through the annual conference. Our conference scholarship program helps others afford the expense involved in attending.

Steffi Schopick

Steffi Schopick

Childrens' Programs, Graduate Student Training Program Coordinator

I am a Speech Language Pathologist working in the private practice treating kids, teens and adults who stutter. I have been involved with FRIENDS for the past 12 years facilitating children’s workshop.

Valerie Watt

Valerie Watt

Convention Auction Committee Committee co-chair

I am a person who stutters and have been involved with FRIENDS for over 18 years. FRIENDS inspired me to become a speech-language pathologist. I love that my family and husband love FRIENDS as much as I do.

Jason Watt

Jason Watt

Convention Auction Committee Committee co-chair

I am a high school teacher and have been involved with FRIENDS for over 4 years now. My wife Valerie is a person who stutters and FRIENDS has given me the opportunity to better understand stuttering.

Our Volunteers

Jim Fortunato

Jim Fortunato

Raffle Fundraiser

The oldest of my three children is a person who stutters and brought us to FRIENDS. For the past ten years, we look forward to the annual three day conferences and build our vacations around them.
Melissa Fortunato

Melissa Fortunato

Raffle Fundraiser

The oldest of my 3 children is a person who stutters and brought us to FRIENDS. FRIENDS has changed my life and impacted my entire family with all of its support, friendship and acceptance.
Chaya Goldstein

Chaya Goldstein

Stepping Up Program Coordinator

I am a PWS and SLP dedicated to educating the public and empowering children who stutter. I am also co-leader of the NSA adult chapter in Midtown, and teach the stuttering course at LIU. I am forever inspired by FRIENDS.

Dhruv Gupta

Dhruv Gupta

Website

I work in India to mitigate climate change (cbalance.in) and empower the stammering eco-system (speak.org.in). FRIENDS has inspired me to reach out to children, teens, parents and speech-language pathologists.

Caryn Herring

Caryn Herring

One Day Conference Coordinator

I am a person who stutters and an SLP, and am currently pursuing my PhD. I first found FRIENDS in 2010 and am continuously inspired by the strength displayed by the kids and families.

Melanie Haiken

Melanie Haiken

Publicity

I’m a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my daughter Linnea, and I discovered FRIENDS 12 years ago. Now Linnea, who stutters, her sister Melia, and I attend every year. I help with media and publicity.

Kristel Kubart

Kristel Kubart

One Day Conference Coordinator

I stutter and am a speech therapist at the American Institute for Stuttering. Attending FRIENDS has helped me realize that it’s OK to stutter. I want to assist others in the same way.
Michael LoPinto

Michael LoPinto

Facebook Manager

After many failed attempts to find successful speech therapy, my mother came across Lee Caggiano who introduced me to the FRIENDS Organization 10 years ago, I have been an active member ever since.

Stavros Ladeas

Stavros Ladeas

Website

I am a person who stutters and have been involved with FRIENDS during these last few years. I live in Queens, am involved in the tech scene, I enjoy hiking and exploring different parts of the city.

Joanne LoPinto

Joanne LoPinto

Marketing

I am the mother of a son who stutters. Friends is about sharing, caring and building connections that last a lifetime. Lee, thank you for introducing Mike and myself to friends 10 years ago!

Sara MacIntrye

Sara MacIntrye

One-Day Conference Program Director

I am a person who stutters and a speech-language pathologist at the American Institute for Stuttering in NYC. FRIENDS quickly became a second family for me and I feel strongly about making everyone feel welcomed.

Loryn McGill

Loryn McGill

One Day Conference Coordinator

I am a speech-language pathologist and it has been my privilege to be involved with FRIENDS. Planning conferences at Chapman University every year brings outreach and support to our local community.

Roisin McManus

Roisin McManus

One Day Conference Coordinator

I am a person who stutters, work as an ER nurse in NYC and firmly believes in empowering one another through support. I help out at FRIENDS, co-lead the NSA Brooklyn Chapter and am a regular host on the StutterTalk podcast.

Steven Ostergaard

Steven Ostergaard

Technology

Over the years, I have volunteered with FRIENDS in a variety of roles.  Most recently I have worked on videos, slide shows, as well as mobile digital processing.   My sister and father are people who stutter and our family has attended every convention since 1998.  FRIENDS has impacted our lives, and the people who we call family.

Russ Ostergaard

Russ Ostergaard

Fundraising Committee - Financial

I am a person who stutters, and have been involved with FRIENDS since the first convention in 1998. I am a former manufacturing sales rep and now work in a school setting with kids who have disabilities. FRIENDS has taught me more than I could have ever imagined. As a fully-volunteer run organization, FRIENDS is a shining star.

John & Sue Parisi

John & Sue Parisi

Merchandise Managers

We are the proud parents of a child who stutters. We have been involved with FRIENDS for a while, and the support we have received from this amazing organization has been immeasurable. Now we want to give back!

Professional Advisors

Joe Donaher

Joe Donaher

PhD, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a speech-language pathologist, and live outside of Philadelphia with my wife and 2 children. I became involved with Friends after sitting next to Lee Caggiano for several days at a stuttering workshop in 1998.

Heather Grossman

Heather Grossman

PhD, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a speech therapist who became involved with FRIENDS in 1998 because I was inspired by Lee Caggiano and working with CWS! It has become a second family to me that I can’t wait to visit each year.

Eric Jackson

Eric Jackson

M.A, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a person who stutters and a speech-language pathologist currently pursuing my PhD in NYC. I am a long-time supporter and volunteer for FRIENDS, and have enjoyed becoming part of the FRIENDS family over the years.

Joe Klein

Joe Klein

PhD, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a person who stutters. I am married and have three amazing children. I got involved in Friends to give something back to children who stutter and their families. My life is better because I have Friends.

Lisa Scott

Lisa Scott

PhD, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am Clinic Director at Florida State University and VP for Education for the Stuttering Foundation. I became involved with Friends through my professional relationship with Lee and other Friends friends!
Patty Walton

Patty Walton

M.A, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a board recognized specialist in fluency disorders. Being a part of the FRIENDS family has been an amazing blessing to my entire family. I am also an avid skier and love to travel.

Tricia Zebrowski

Tricia Zebrowski

PhD, CCC-SLP, Board Certified in Fluency Disorders

I am a university professor and SLP with a special interest in working with teenagers who stutter. My involvement with FRIENDS over the years has helped me to be a better therapist, teacher and researcher.