Chapter Meeting – February 19, 2015

Tom, Todd, Katherine, Bill, Gary and Mith

Todd Cardin talking to cast members

As you might now, five members of our chapter are participating in a theater play: Marissa, Mitch, Bill, Gary and myself.  Our producer and manager is Katherine Filer.  The play is being written specially for our group by Todd Cardin.  It will be a comedy and musical.  At this meeting we had a chance to meet Todd and Tom, his composer.  All of us, except Marissa, were there.

Todd was at the meeting for the first 45 minutes and told us about himself and how he works.  A few months ago Katherine interviewed each of us and recorded a video for Todd to see and get to know us.  He will create characters based on our personalities so that it is easier for us to portray them.  He will also write song lyrics that will fit into each scene.  For example, I asked him if I would have to disguise my Spanish accent and he said he’ll make it fit into the story somehow.  That could be the subject of one of the jokes.

I was concerned about the play being a comedy and having to deliver a line with precise timing. I am not good at telling jokes because I just destroy the punchline.  Todd said that the fact that is a comedy can be a good thing precisely in those moments.  He explained how comedy works and how to take advantage of the audience’s laughter.  The idea is that you let the audience laugh, which gives you time to compose yourself and then deliver your line as the laughter dies down.

Mitch suggested that although we don’t want the play to be about stuttering, it would be nice to have stuttering be a part of it without being intrusive.  Todd said that he can work it into the play in a good way.

Todd was honored to be part of this project and he was very complementary about our chapter and the

Todd Cardin and Katherine Filer

Todd Cardin and Katherine Filer

NSA in general.  He has enlisted a director and a song coach that will work with us.  They are all volunteering their own time and we are very thankful to them.

After Todd and Tom left we started our regular meeting.  We read the Welcoming words and checked in.  Katherine told us about the fire on the townhouse next to hers six weeks ago.  Her own house was damaged but no one was hurt.  We also spent some time talking about plans for the 30th anniversary celebration and about contacting local press to cover the event.


30th Anniversary

Happy Anniversary!

Chapter Meeting at the Bala Cynwyd Library, 1987

Chapter Meeting at the Bala Cynwyd Library, 1987

February marks the 30th anniversary of our chapter.   Our founder, Bill Parry, tells the story about the first meeting.  He placed an ad on the newspaper to advertise the meeting, not really knowing if he would reach anyone.  The day of the meeting, a Saturday, started with a blizzard and Bill was wondering if anyone would venture out.  Well, 26 people showed up!  The next month, over 30 people attended.  There was such a need for a support group for people who stutter that bad weather didn’t deter anyone.

At that time, the NSA was called The National Stuttering Project (it became NSA around 1999-2000). The NSP was an organization that had originated in California in 1977 and promoted self-help support via support groups where people could share experiences, learn about their stuttering and gain self confidence, which lead to increased fluency.  In 1985, attorney Bill Parry convinced the NSP to come to Philadelphia and at a regional meeting held on January 19th, 1985, the chapter was founded.  The first meeting took place in February 3rd, 1985.

While researching for this anniversary I have learned that during our 30 years of existence our chapter has had a lot of influence on many areas that have helped define the work done by the NSA and its chapters (keep reading).   I am very thankful to Bill Parry and Lou Madonna for all the work they have done and I hope to be able to continue in their tradition of helping people who stutter find the support and resources they need.

Stay tuned for details about a Spring celebration for this important milestone!

Did you know?

  • Bill Parry is the author of the opening and closing words that, with some minor modifications, every NSA Chapter uses to begin and end its meetings.
  • Bill Parry and Dan Weiss, editor of the Philly NSP newsletter “Speaking Out”,  were honored with the “Spirit of Philadelphia” Award by WCAU-TV10 for their service to the community through the Philadelphia NSP Chapter.
  • The Philadelphia NSP Chapter hosted the sixth annual convention of the NSP in June, 1989.
  • During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, we coordinated closely with the Delaware NSP Chapter, until it folded in 1992.  Barbara Koval and Paul Castellano, who were involved with both the Philadelphia and Delaware NSP Chapters, were responsible for creating the National Stuttering Awareness Week observance back in 1988.  They were instrumental in having a resolution passed by Congress which was signed by President Reagan.
  • Bill Parry was elected to two 3-year terms on the NSA Board of Directors from June 1997 to June 2003.  This was a time of turbulence and transition for the organization, with a change in leadership as well as a change in name – from the National Stuttering Project to the National Stuttering Association.
  • Bill Parry was also Chair of the Advocacy Committee from 1997 to 2003 and got involved in employment discrimination matters.  He researched and created most of the material that the NSA offers for advice regarding advocacy issues for employment, discrimination, etc.
  • Lou Madonna was awarded Chapter Leader of the year in 2005.
  • Bill Parry is the author of the book “Understanding and Controlling Stuttering” and all its profits go to the NSA.
  • We also work closely with the South Jersey Chapter which was formed in 1998  by Katherine Filer and Lucy Reed; however, the Tri County Fluency Group, its precursor, was started by Katherine Filer in 1992.

Time line

  • Jan 19, 1985 – The Philadelphia Area Chapter is founded at the regional meeting of the National Stuttering Project (NSP).  Coverage of the event by Channel 6 AM Philadelphia starring Bill Parry and C. Woodruff Starkweather can be seen here.
  • Feb 2, 1985 – Bill Parry, our founder and first chapter leader, held the first meeting of the chapter during a blizzard.  26 people showed up.
  • 1987 – Bill Parry and Dan Weiss receive Spirit of Philadelphia” Award from Channel 10 News.  See video here.
  • 1989 – 6th NSA Annual conference held in Philadelphia.
  • 1997 – Bill Parry becomes member of the NSA Board of Directors and Chair of the Advocacy Committee and remains for 6 years.
  • 2000 – Bill Parry retires as chapter leader and Sherri Laster takes over through the end of that year.
  • June 2001 – Lou Madonna becomes Chapter Leader.
  • April 2003 – Regional workshop at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), conducted by Russ Hicks.
  • June 2005 – Lou Madonna receives Chapter Leader Award at the NSA Conference.
  • July 2005 – Alan Badmington, from Wales, held a Saturday workshop at our chapter.
  • June 2010 – Lou Madonna retires as Chapter Leader.  Bill Parry resumes leadership of our chapter.
  • November 2013 – Carmen Shapiro becomes Chapter Leader.


February 5, 2015

We were 5 people in attendance.  Bill Parry and his wife, Marilyn, Allan Cohen, Bill Collins and I.  This date was close to the actual 30th anniversary of the first chapter meeting and Bill shared some facts about that event (see separate article about the anniversary).

I read a page from the book “Setting My Words Free. Inspirational Messages for Adults Who Stutter” by Vince Markowsky.  “Day 14” talks about the difference between “stutterer” and “person who stutters”, the difference between something you are and something you happen to do.  We had a lot of things to say.  We all agreed that advertising helps because you take control of telling people that you are a person who happens to stutter.  Advertising helps you change how people view you.

Bill Parry and Allan are both speech language pathologists and they talked about different approaches they have used in treating people who stutter.

We also talked about the annual national conference and our different experiences.  Last year’s was my first conference and I have a lot great memories from it.  Bill Collins and I recall feeling overwhelmed physically and mentally, all the people we met, seeing families and children who stutter, the workshops and evening activities.