POINT PLEASANT – A dedicated fiancé and speech-language pathologist of Point Pleasant Borough is celebrating 10 years of helping children with communication disorders through her nonprofit foundation.
Amanda Charney-Berardi created “Small Steps In Speech” 10 years ago. The foundation was created in honor of her late husband Staff Sgt. Marc J. Small, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. The name “Small Steps In Speech” is an ode to Staff Sgt. Small.
“When the heartbreaking news came of Marc’s passing, starting this non-profit foundation seemed like a good way to start keeping his memory alive and close to the heart,” Charney-Berardi said. “The foundation helps children with communicative disorders be able to take the steps needed to become better communicators.”
Charney-Berardi is a member of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) and a speech-language pathologist for the Collingswood school district. She specializes in preschool age children and children with multiple neurological disorders.
“Over the past decade, this foundation has brought hope to families all over the country, and it allows me to do something positive in Marc’s memory,” Charney-Berardi said. “Throughout the school year, parents always ask me, `When will my child talk?’ `I want to know how their day went in school.’ `Why are they crying, what hurts, what is the matter?’ This foundation has made wishes come true for so many children.”
When the foundation was still new in 2010, it began by giving out just a few small grants. By 2018, Small Steps in Speech had grown to provide over 100 grants each year to families, an equivalent of $137,000 in funds.
In the past 10 years, the organization has provided more than $1 million in grants to about 800 families, 43 of which went to families in New Jersey. Totaling $63,030.91, these grants helped to fund hippotherapy with a speech therapist, speech and language therapy, summer programs/camps emphasizing speech therapy and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices/applications for children with disabilities.
“We’ve received testimonials from parents and therapists stating how a child went from being non-verbal in a self-contained classroom to now talking and mainstreamed within general education classes,” said Charney-Berardi. “We are now looking for new partnerships as there is such a need to assist these children with communication disorders.”
According to Small Steps, every dollar raised directly benefits the children.
In 2014, the organization was also recognized by NJSHA with the Distinguished Service Award for its many accomplishments.
“We are proud to have a homegrown hero in Amanda Charney-Berardi, who has made such a difference for so many families across the state and across the country,” Faella said. “She is a shining example of what our NJSHA members have been able to accomplish in the field. We are tremendously proud to congratulate her on the 10th anniversary of Small Steps in Speech.”
NJSHA has helped Charney-Berardi expand her mission with Small Steps throughout New Jersey, for which she noted she is very thankful.