Seven-year-old Judah Toure had a message to share about stuttering.
“It’s not a bad thing,” Toure said Tuesday during the grand opening of the first satellite location of The Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research.
The center today sits in Brookhaven’s Executive Park. A permanent location is planned for the Arthur M. Blank Hospital at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which is under construction on North Druid Hills Road and set to open in 2025.
Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United who runs a foundation based in Buckhead, first established the stuttering center at The University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with a $20 million gift. Now, he is expanding the reach of the center with the new satellite location, which was fueled by an additional $12.25 million grant from his foundation.
For Blank, it’s personal. He stuttered as a child.
“I just had a very supportive mother who told me time and time again that ‘What you say is important. What you think is important,’” Blank said during the Tuesday event.
Blank used President Joe Biden as an example of a person who stutters and is working to normalize the condition.
“We all have dreams in life. We all want to live life to our fullest,” Blank said. “To me, the true beauty of the work is that it unlocks each one of these lives to be the very best at whoever they want to be … If you want to be president of the United States, you can be the president of the United States. You can be whatever you choose to be.”
Blank’s center offers services free of charge. It works to advance effective treatments and programming for stuttering, as well as create a pipeline of clinicians and researchers. It also wants to remove the stigma around stuttering, giving kids the confidence to pursue their dreams.
“Stuttering is not something you should be ashamed of,” said Kia Johnson, associate director of the Atlanta satellite. Johnson has a 9-year-old child who stutters. “It does not hold you back.”
Dr. Courtney Byrd leads the center, described as a “whole-person therapeutic approach that helps children, teenagers and adults grow as confident, effective communicators.”
The Atlanta center looks to help 500 people in its first year.
The hope is to open more satellite centers across the country. Byrd’s intensive treatment program “Camp Dream. Speak. Live.” is also planned for countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Italy and Belgium, among several others.