The pair were inducted into the Stuttering Association for the Young’s Hall of Fame at the organization’s 2023 Gala on Monday
The couple — who are new inductees into the Stuttering Association for the Young’s Hall of Fame — spoke exclusively to PEOPLE at the 2023 Gala about how their involvement with the organization has blossomed into something even more important than they could’ve imagined.
“I met Taro through the sort of actor communities. We know a lot of people in common. I thought that he was a magical human being, and he told me about the organization, and then he invited us to a benefit,” Hargitay, 59, tells PEOPLE of her history with SAY’s founder Taro Alexander.
“And I lost my mind at the magic evening because I have a foundation also and I've been to a million galas, been to a million fundraisers,” she continues. “And the night that I came, I was just so moved by the work they were doing and this loving community, and I was so grateful to be educated. I could feel the cells of my heart changing— the molecular construction of my heart— it was so beautiful."
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Now parents of three children together — August, 16, Amaya, 12, and Andrew, 11 — SAY has a special place in Hargitay and Hermann's hearts for another reason.
“Our son stutters,” shares Hargitay, “and it was so beautiful to have this lovely community to introduce him to and learn about it from the experts.”
Hermann, 55, notes that knowing exactly where to turn to support August was empowering.
“It was extraordinary when we first heard his stutter to meet Taro and have someone to go to because so many stutterers live in isolation. And there are so many people who come [to SAY] for the first time, and when they come they say that they’d never heard another person with a sutter,” he says.
“Their life begins,” Hargitay chimes in. “But the thing about stuttering, and what I've learned, is so many times people who stutter try not to speak or try to switch the word or not say anything, get out of it, hide. It's so heartbreaking to think that all these amazing humans with so much to offer would be holding it in because of how the world treats them, or for fear. It's been so exciting to learn and to understand and educate people because as soon as people know, they're like, ‘Oh, my gosh. Thank you. Tell me more. Tell me more.’ It's been just a beautiful journey.”
Hermann has learned about the power of patience, too, and how sometimes, all that’s really needed is to just slow down and listen to the voices around you.
“It is increasingly important that we give out grace to take space and take time and to let the ideas out that want to come out,” he explains. “And some of it is just speaking. Just everyday speaking, that chance to simply be.”
With that, his wife smiles. “There's so much beauty here,” she says.
One of SAY’s overarching messages is encouraging people to be comfortable in their own skin — something that these parents are happily familiar with.
“I think when we feel safe and loved, when we level the playing field, your heart opens up to yourself and everyone else,” says Hargitay. “We work hard to help people whose voices have been silenced. I know when I don't feel safe or I'm scared, I also can't express myself. So, I feel more comfortable and in my own skin when I'm here and around these people. It's really a gift to all of us.”
And, though it was his parents who received the organization’s honor, August — their spitting image — was the real star of the evening.
"I think that being in a place where you're surrounded by the people who are dealing with the same thing you are is super special. In school, there aren’t a lot of other people, or on the sports teams you play, at the organizations you go to, at the events I’m at with my parents. There's always a lot of pressure and conversation,” he says. “So to be in a place where the edge is off and it's encouraged, it's welcomed? It's special.”
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Read the original article on People.