Living the Legacy: Small Steps in Speech

Author: Amanda Charney

At some point in our grief journey many of us conclude that we will go on living—not merely existing or even just surviving, but truly living—for those who died. After all, we are the legacy that our loved ones left behind. ~ Betsy Beard, Editor TAPS Magazine  

It all started years back at a Philadelphia Eagles game. My brother-in-law invited me down to tailgate on New Year’s Eve. He had been trying to fix me up with his best friend Marc Small, and this was part of his plan to get us together. That New Year’s Eve, I knew Marc would be the one for me.

Amanda Charney and Marc

I am a school-based speech language pathologist in Collingswood, New Jersey, and Marc was a supporter of my profession. He loved to hear about my day with the kids that I work with. We would talk about our future together, our plans to travel, the names of our children, and what our wedding would be like. Marc used to tell me that once we married and started a family, I should open my own private speech practice so that I could work from home and have a flexible schedule. I asked Marc, “What would the name of the practice be?” Quickly, Marc replied, “Small Steps in Speech,” Small representing my last name after our intended wedding along with the steps it takes a child with a disability to build with their communication.

We wanted to start our lives together but decided to wait until Marc completed his five-year term with the Army. He deployed in January of 2009 for his first tour to Afghanistan and was killed on February 12, 2009 while conducting combat operations. When the tragic news of Marc’s passing came, starting Small Steps in Speech as a non-profit seemed like a great way to keep Marc’s memory alive.

Small Steps in Speech assists children with speech and language disorders by funding supplemental therapies and treatments for individuals as well as grants to charitable organizations that serve children with communicative disorders. Our goal is to give children the chance to better express themselves in the world in which we live. We have provided up to a year of private speech and language therapy to children, sent children and their parents to workshops to improve their communication, along with providing a variety of other grants for children who have neurological disabilities impacting their comprehension and expression of speech.

Amanda Charney and kids

If you know of anyone who may benefit from a grant, we encourage you to apply. You can change the life of not only a child but also their family with the gift of improved communication. For more information please visit

I can’t help but think of how the days, weeks, months, and now years just keep on moving. It doesn’t seem real. I never thought that this is what my life would be like, and I wonder if I will ever not think, “What if…” Step by step, I am helping children and their families as well as continuing the legacy of my true love, Staff Sergeant Marc J. Small.  

By Amanda Charney MA, CCC-SLP, surviving fiancée of Staff Sergeant Marc Small