27th Annual Convention

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2023 Convention Reflections

These are safe places for your kiddos.

Step in with an open mind and ready to try to step out of your comfort zone and learn from real families and people. You will have never ever known the different types of stuttering and all the ways people hide/conceal/avoid stuttering. And by the end of the weekend you will have a new family in your life. Love how much everyone is accepting, welcoming and open armed for each family. Love the forever friendships that are made every year!

Our son made new, lasting friendships unlike any he has had this far.

That was truly amazing to witness. We as parents felt instant relief in the company of others going through what we are as parents of children who stutter. We shared our fears and concerns along with hope and encouragement.

I was so touched by how actively supportive everyone was.

Everyone offered support and reassurance and helpful suggestions. I especially appreciated hearing from young adults who stutter —those several years older than my daughter—and hearing how their experiences had waves and ups and downs and how there isn’t any one “right” way of moving through growing up with a stutter. 

I really was emotionally impacted by all the 1st timers this year.

The bravery to come to an event like this and be surrounded by other people who stutter and empower themselves is life changing. I also met a lot of new people and formed lifelong connections.


The supportive atmosphere as a first timer allowed me to feel more comfortable (as an introvert) to take risks to meet new people, which enriched my experience.

2022 Convention Reflections

Every speaker had something wonderful to offer the group. The theme of openness and letting your guard down was just perfect.

It helped give a focus to the weekend as I pursued more understanding of PWS, but it meant so much more from a personal standpoint. I cannot overstate how much I needed a lesson on the advantage of vulnerability. You all hit the nail on the head. The panel specifically about openness was simply gorgeous. Having speakers with a variety of backgrounds was so essential, and that diversity of perspectives led to insights I’m still mulling over.

It was a life changing experience that left us wishing everyday was a “FRIENDS day”

Everyone was so welcoming, accepting, understanding, open to sharing their personal experiences and advice, and everyone treated us just like family! The experiences we had and the friendships we made is more than we could have ever hoped for! Our only regret was only attending one day. We will definitely be coming to next year’s convention in Chicago and are counting the days!

I really felt like I discovered a community, a family.

I particularly enjoyed the closing ceremony. I think there was a good balance between workshops from experts and from PWS. I have a feeling everyone that was there – kids, teens, parents, AWS, SLPs, researchers – were highly satisfied with the program. There was something for everybody. Thank you again so much for all the organization. I hope to be able to make it next year in Chicago!

2021 Convention Reflections


There’s not a place in the world where I feel more comfortable to be myself and just stutter than at Friends Conventions.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to the Friends Convention. As soon as I got there I felt welcomed. There’s not a place in the world where I feel more comfortable to be myself and just stutter than at Friends Conventions.

At the convention I learned that it’s far more productive to focus on being comfortable with stuttering than trying to get rid of my stutter with speech tools. Being confident with stuttering reminds me of the power of my voice. I left the convention feeling like the world was mine and I could do anything and not have to change or hide anything about myself.

Friends inspired me to be confident and go out into the world and just stutter openly, it’s a part of who I am so the world needs to see it. – Justin Ross

2019 Convention Reflections


The perfect balance of support and comfort, while also gently nudging/empowering people to want more.

I wanted to take the time to again thank you for all you do, not just for the stuttering community but for the world as a whole. I truly believe that you and FRIENDS teaches people how to be better listeners, more empathetic and advocate for what they want/believe in — all of which are and continue to make the world a better place.

Once again I was blown away by FRIENDS ability to create such an environment that accelerates personal growth at warped speed; in less than 3 days I watched children/young adults from avoiding eye contact when they introduced themselves to standing on stage with a microphone confidently addressing a large group people. You created a space that creates the perfect balance of support and comfort, while also gently nudging/empowering people to want more.

We arrived at Friends unsure what to expect, and it turned out to be a life changing experience for our entire family.

To say that the Friends Convention had anything less than a cataclysmic effect on our lives would be a terrible underestimation. Words fall far short in expressing our gratitude to you and the entire Friends community. You all made us feel comfortable from the second we got there, and your extraordinary organizational and interpersonal skills are truly remarkable! We arrived at Friends unsure what to expect, and it turned out to be a life changing experience for our entire family. From the moment we arrived until the sad (and terribly emotional) flight home, we felt so welcomed, as though we had been coming for 20 years. Every aspect of our experience was spectacular and we profusely thank you, from the deepest recesses of our hearts and souls. You have a family for life, and if you ever need anything (lecture, etc) it would be my privilege! You have made an incalculable difference in our lives and we are truly forever indebted to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you and hope to see you before Baltimore! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

It helped me on my journey towards acceptance.

Now that I’ve had a week to process all that happened inside and out at the Friends National Convention, I have to write you a quick note.  Thank you for creating and sustaining this welcoming and experienced community. As a new parent, I was unsure what to expect, but the conference far exceeded what I had in mind. It helped me on my journey towards acceptance. Dealing with my emotions of guilt, jealousy, worry, panic and embarrassment has been the hardest part. As an SLP, I have also grown in my ability to work with kids who stutter.

Thank you also for giving my son, James, “jobs” that showcased his extroverted personality. He loved all the attention and it helped him become invested in the convention.  He can’t wait to go to Baltimore!

When you look back on your life, I hope you feel a huge sense of accomplishment! And not only that, as you fall asleep each night, I hope you realize that you have directly impacted hundreds of people to sleep better at night too, knowing the peace, hope, inspiration, and success Friends offers all families. 

Thank you, thank you!
Bridget Berning

I will make changes over the next year because of the convention.

I had an absolute blast for being there for the first time and you can expect to see me at future conventions. I will make changes over the next year because of the convention and I couldn’t be more thankful. 

I also don’t think I fully introduced myself. I’m a 20 year old person who stutters from Raleigh, NC and I’ve only started going to get help with my stutter for a couple of years now. I’ve done the one days in Raleigh and had a blast, and my friend Lera invited me to the convention this year. I’m hoping to stay in touch throughout the year.

Thank you again for a great weekend. Can’t wait for next year in Baltimore!

Tyler Jennings

2017-2018 Convention Reflections


We felt like we ‘belonged’ as soon as we arrived.

Thank you very much granting our family a FRIENDS scholarship.  It was very critical in allowing us to attend the conference this year.

We felt like we ‘belonged’ as soon as we arrived at the hotel. We benefitted so much from hearing of other families’ journeys, their challenges and their victories. In the parents’ sessions, we experienced a sense of belonging.  We visited with other parents of stutterers, young adults and adults who stutter who all have amazing stories. We witnessed young people stand up and speak in front of a crowd with such courage. Our son, who stutters, feels included at the conferences where he often feels excluded and left out in similar gatherings outside the stuttering community.  The conference was very well managed and the schedule was a good blend of information, sharing, and fun.  Thank you again for helping us attend the conference……  we hope to see you next year!

It became very clear that Emery was not alone and his feeling of being comfortable was through the roof.

Just want to let you know how much being able to attend the convention meant to our family. Emery, my 11 year old, has a stutter. Just moving to Kissimmee, I searched for organizations/groups in the area that give Emery a sense of belonging to and support. Upon finding information about the Friends convention, I applied for a grant so that we could enter since it was going to be nearby. When I received the reply that we not only received the grant to enter the convention, but to also stay at Embassy Suites, I thought that it was a mistake. I assumed that the error would be corrected because during this time I didn’t expect something so wonderful happening to us. I heard from Ed again with the same information and it became real. I told my children and they were very excited. We assumed that we would only support Emery at the convention.

From the moment of arrival at the Friends convention, it became very clear that Emery was not alone and his feeling of being comfortable was through the roof. The focus was Emery. He knew it, we knew it and it felt so awesome. Although we thought that we were there just as support, we were really there to learn how to support Emery in his journey. Emery learned that he can stand up to be who he is without judgment and he really can accomplish anything. I just don’t think that it would’ve been the same if we hadn’t stayed at the hotel to be able to absorb all that gained during the Friends convention.

I wanted all of my children to attend the Friends convention so that they will understand. The realization of what Emery has to deal with was very emotional for my oldest son, Justin, because as much as he loves and cares for Emery, there were times that he didn’t listen to Emery by allowing him time to speak. Justin apologized to Emery and Emery cried as well. Justin and Emery are very close and Emery considers his brothers his best friends. We learned so much.

With everything that our family is going through right now, including unsaid suffering, therapy, Justin’s tumor and Eryk’s birthday with no means, Friends stepping in and taking our family under the wing was beyond any words that I could express. We needed this opportunity more than we knew. I am forever and ever grateful to the board, Ed, Lee, Dr. Popovich and the entire Friends family for showing Emery that there’s no way that he’s alone and for helping the rest of us to see so much clearer.

From all of us… THANK YOU!!!

Damie Rivers

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