Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

A couple weeks ago Holly and I attended the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) convention in San Diego. This annual conference is the largest speech and language convention in the country.

While Holly was attending conference sessions I walked the exhibit floor. I had certain goals in mind, but found myself striking out by the end of the day. The massive convention floor took me an entire day to work through. By the end of the day my feet were killing me and I just wanted to call it a day.

Special Forces Medic, Staff Sgt. Marc Small
As I walked down the last isle a picture caught my attention. It wasn't the typical picture you'd expect to see in front of someone's booth; it was a picture of a soldier. Behind the picture was a woman with an inviting smile. So I moseyed over to her and asked what they do. She introduced herself as Mary and explained that her organization, Small Steps in Speech, is a non-profit foundation to help fund speech and language services for children who may not have the funds to pay for services themselves. I was astounded to hear this because I had never heard of an organization that helps fund speech therapy.

Mary went on to say that the foundation was created in the name of this soldier, Marc Small. She told me that Marc was engaged to the founder, Amanda Charney, and they had plans to open a speech and language private practice upon his return from Operation Enduring Freedom. Sadly, Marc was killed in 2009 after his third week of deployment in Afghanistan.

I was very taken by Mary's story. I told her I thought it was a wonderful foundation and I could see us working with them in the future. I also, loosely mentioned my wife and I had thought about establishing a similar foundation one day too. This perked her interest and she asked me more about what we were thinking. I wouldn't normally talk to a stranger about Grace in the middle of a convention hall but I did. I told her that we lost our daughter about a year ago and that we had thought about establishing a foundation in her name one day too. Her eyes immediately swelled with tears and she said that Marc was her son. I could feel the lump in my throat grow and tears fill in my eyes. We both share the common bond of losing a child and no matter how old they were when they died the pain is still the same.

We exchanged contact information and have been in touch a couple times since the convention. I remember texting Holly after leaving that day "I met a very special woman today. I can't wait to tell you about her." Holly's reply, "Great..."

Later that night I told Holly about my meeting with Mary. She too was very touched and made plans to go by her booth the next day. I wasn't there, but from what I heard they had a great meeting as well.

We hope we'll be able to work with them in the future. We're not sure to what extend or in what capacity. All we do know, is like Mary and Amanda, we want to turn our heart-ache into good and try to help others in Grace's name.

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