Thursday, February 5, 2009

Zona, baby, Zona!-Part I.

Good evening everyone,

OK so the subject matter doesn't exactly resemble the enthusiastic "Vegas, baby, Vegas!" line made famous from the movie "Swingers." But for members of the National Stuttering Association, it's all about Arizona-as in the 2009 conference. I've talked a great deal in my postings about these conferences and what they can do for your confidence and future success. To this day, I still smile with delight that 650+ teammates attended the last conference in North Jersey. But we still have so many people who have not heard about the NSA...or they have and are afraid to attend the conference. I will say this emphatically: if you ever wanted to find out what the NSA is about, now is the time. Arizona is the place. Don't talk about wanting to about going.

For those people who stutter attending these conferences (and please understand, the conference is open to people who do not stutter as well-those who support people who stutter, SLPs, and graduate students too!) who are first-timers, you are given very special treatment. Since are there so many people in attendance, first-timers are required to attend a special workshop designed just for them, where you will meet others who are also here for their debut experience. Some of my teammates have attended every conference ever since the inception, when the NSA was formerly known as the NSP, National Stuttering Project. We have seminars taught by regular members and professionals. We have dazzling social activities: this year it's the return of karaoke, an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, a night out at the Phoenix Zoo Starry Safari, a pool party, and oh yes...there's a little event which consists of a live auction and banquet, where we go until 3 a.m., and coming from a Long Islander in the suburbs of the world's greatest city, life begins at 3 a.m. LOL.

The NSA conference is our biggest (and only) fundraiser for the year. We all know that the economy has been decimated-banks closing, stocks plummeting, jobs being slashed left and right. Many nonprofits are facing extinction because the money is not available. Every year at the live auction, we can count on our members standing up and being counted, as I like to say. 100 percent of all the monies raised via the conference go right back to the NSA....never in anyone's pocket. At the live auction, we are asked to imagine a world where the NSA didn't exist. I shudder to think what that would be like. The NSA gave me hope. It gave me my life back, in so many ways. It is my calling to help them out anyway I can. Now more than ever, the need is urgent. By attending a conference, you can help support the NSA and as a person who stutters, make the greatest investment-in yourself. I have met families from all over this country, speakers from all over the world. Families often share with others comments like "My son/daughter is having the time of her life. I wish this organization was around when I was growing up." Simply put, you can't put a price tag on camaraderie.

I want to share with those reading some background information. Our conference is taking place July 8-12, 2009, at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., which is an immediate suburb east of Phoenix. We have arranged a very generous hotel rate of $139.00 a night, and considering this is a four-star resort, that's almost unheard of. If you wish to reserve, you must mention you are with the NSA. The hotel site is, for those who live outside of the West Coast, flying is the best way to go. Sky Harbor International (PHX) will be the closest airport, and we will offer a shuttle service, since it will be a 20-minute ride to the hotel. You also have the option of requesting a roommate if you'd like, to save money. We will try and match you up with the best choice. However, there is a registration fee. If you register before the end of March, you can lock in the cheapest rate possible. After that, it goes up until the conference. All the activities are EXTRA...and are distributed on a FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVE basis. Don't get shut out. Last year activities included a Subway Series (YANKEES vs. Mets) game, a "see-the-city-on-your-own" tour, and boat cruise around New York Harbor at night.

If you are a speech and language pathologist, some of our seminars will be eligible for CEU credits too. There are limitless chances to network and more. One of the questions we're often asked is, "How do you choose where a conference is held?" I'll be happy to explain. There are certain criteria that we look for when hosting a conference-some hotels can easily accommodate a conference if it's 200 people or so. That's just not possible with the NSA. We need a major-league caliber type of hotel that can offer us numerous spaces to set up shop. Some cities for example, are beautiful to visit, but just would not be able to meet what we need. We had the conference in Nashville, and it just didn't work. As the NSA grows, we need regions that can keep up with us. We want to make sure our conferences are affordable not only for families, but for everyone who wants to attend. Some cities we've held previous conferences include: Parsippany, N.J. (That's the North Jersey one last year), Atlanta, Long Beach, Calif., Buffalo, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, etc. It's always fun to wonder where next year's will be...believe me, it will be here before you know it!

I will answer some more questions that are often asked in part II of my blog. However, I will leave you with this. If you have any questions, please check out the NSA web site at, and if you have any questions you want to ask me offline, please leave me a comment and I will respond right away. The teammates are standing up for each other. Will you be one of them?

My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person who stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.

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