The Gift of Speech: A Face of America Commentary

Written by Tony Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2010
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

I saw the Face of America today. It belonged to mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents who came to an athletic field in our little corner of the world.

I saw the Face of America today on a beautiful autumn morning. The October sky was filled with clouds, but there was nothing but hope in the hearts of those assembled.

I saw the Face of America today. It was filled with confidence and brimming with the humble pride of accomplishment. No one knew that better than two high school students, Courtney Sult and Rebecca Farrell, who organized this day as a class project.

This Face of America was determined to find a cure for a little known, neurological disorder called Apraxia of Speech. It affects thousands of children in the United States who are unable to execute speech movements. It locks up their voices and limits their potential.

On this October morning, 100 people walked three miles to raise thousands of dollars for research, treatment and public awareness.

Nine-year-old, Sean Freiburger, inspired these walks. His mother, Susan, organized the first walk in Pittsburgh, PA, three years ago. She is the National Walk Chairperson for the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America (CASANA). Both were among the walkers. Today, there are more than 4,000 walkers around the nation. From a small voice, a big idea has grown.

Sean has had over 700 hours of speech therapy for his diagnosis of severe speech apraxia. Thanks to receiving appropriate intensive therapy, he found his voice and he is using it to help others find theirs.

As I watched Sean, his mother and the other walkers through the viewfinder of my camera, I marveled at their determination, their optimism, their sense of community and their willingness to do whatever is required to unlock the voices that are silent and create a bright future for children who suffer from Apraxia of Speech.
If ever there was a portrait of the face of America on its best days this is it, young and old, rich and poor walking together into the light of discovery. With helping hands and caring hearts they move forward committed to their cause.

I saw the face of America on a beautiful October morning, in a small, rural community. The sound of silence was in the air, but a glorious symphony of possibilities was playing in the hearts and souls of the Americans assembled here. They were focused. They were positive. They were making progress one step at a time. They were doing what Americans do best. They were helping others.

The words of Helen Keller apply: Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

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