I had a chaotic storm in my head the night before Friends began. I didn’t know what to expect. I pictured a bunch of stutterers just gathered together in a big room, all looking awkwardly at one another, questioning why we were here.

The first day I was there I noticed what a warm and caring environment it was. I felt free. I could go up to anyone I wanted to and talk to them, without the stuttering barrier. Everyone knows everyone stutters. It’s no longer an issue. We continued the first day with workshops and an open microphone session.

Talking at “Open mic” was a great opportunity for us to face a big fear, public speaking. The next day we did more workshops and then went out to the city of Chicago at night, which was one of the highlights of the trip. We got to be ourselves in the real outside world. Not giving a damn what anyone said. There’s power in numbers.

On the last day we got to hear from a great speaker, Alan Rabinowitz. He’s a wild cat specialist and is dedicated to saving them from extinction, but the amazing part is how he became what he is today, and the answer is through his stuttering.

The Friends 2010 convention was a great experience. It showed me that there are stutterers everywhere, from all walks of life, and that even if you do stutter, you are still a person and can do what everyone else does.

Kevin Onorato – August 2010

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