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"There is in every true woman’s heart, a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.” Washington Irving

This is the story of a rare woman, Amanda Charney, who fully exemplifies the truth Washington Irving described. Amanda is a Speech and Language Pathologist who works with children. In 2006 she met the love of her life, Marc J. Small. At the time Marc was training to become a Special Forces medic the U.S. Army. She and Marc dreamed of the day they would marry and Amanda would open a private practice “Small Steps in Speech”, the name being a play on their surname and a description of the steps children take to become better communicators.

In February 2009, SSG Marc J. Small was tragically killed in action in Afghanistan. Though devastated by his loss, within months Amanda channeled her pain and deep love for Marc to found Small Steps in Speech (SSIS), a non-profit organization. Created in Marc’s honor and memory, SSIS assists children with speech and language disorders by funding an array of speech-related therapies. Since 2010, when grants were first awarded, Small Steps in Speech has awarded over $140,000 to more than 75 children throughout the U.S. Applications have increased over 200% in both 2011 and 2012, demonstrating the need for this type of aid. As Founder and Executive Director, Amanda leads a volunteer Board of Directors in the short and long term planning of this dynamic organization. The goal of SSIS is straightforward: to allow children the ability to communicate their needs and desires. While this may seem simple, for anyone who comes into contact with a child with a speech or language disability, the inability to express a need or an emotion, like “I love you”, can be very difficult, indeed. Through Amanda’s vision, everyone associated with SSIS, either as a volunteer, donor or grant recipient, is keenly aware of her desire to help children and their families become stronger through improved communication.

However, Amanda’s rare heart is bigger than just SSIS. In the summer of 2012 she combined her immense caring for children in need with her love of travel to donate five weeks of her summer vacation to serving children in the poorest sections of India. Amanda treated and loved the orphans at TARA: The SOFOSH Dhadphale Centre for Children with Special Needs, an organization “Where human tragedies are treated with love…”. She also worked in Mumbai with the Family Service Center, a volunteer organization committed to preserve, promote and strengthen the family.

Amanda Charney has devoted her professional and personal life to improving the lives of children and their families. To lose one’s soulmate is a life changing experience. Amanda possesses that rare quality that allows the beacon of hope for children and their families to blaze out of her “dark hour of adversity.”

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