On the eve of the long-anticipated trailer for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” Paul Rudd was demonstrating what it means to be a real-life superhero.
Helping children was at the forefront of his mind, as he led “Paul Rudd’s 9th Annual All-Star Bowling Benefit for SAY. The Stuttering Association for the Young” at Bowlero Chelsea Piers.
Rudd was starring opposite Julia Roberts in Broadway’s Three Days of Rain when his journey with SAY began.
“I was playing a character that stuttered,” he explains. “I didn’t know much about stuttering, and I didn’t want to just watch an actor in a movie and try to copy that.
“I wanted to talk to somebody who really knows what’s going on and has to deal with this affliction,” he said in an interview with The New York Independent.
Rudd turned to the internet for research and met Taro Alexander, the Vice President of SAY, a non-profit organization that provides, support, advocacy and life-changing experiences for young people who stutter.
SAY offers innovative and thoughtful programs, such as summer camps, speech therapy and creative arts programming, all of which address the physical, social and emotional impacts of stuttering.
Among the stars of stage and screen who joined Rudd at the All-Star Bowling Benefit were Richard Kind, Josh Radnor, Tom Kitt, Geneva Carr and Kelli O’Hara.
“Taro said, ‘You should meet these kids that I work with,’” recalls Rudd. “It was a grassroots organization, and I was so knocked out by these kids that I wanted to be involved.
“It was something that I had never thought about. It took playing a character that was a stutterer to make me think for five minutes what some of the challenges would be going through life.
“I was so inspired by the kids’ courage and I celebrated their joy when they were around other kids that had to deal with the same things as them.
“This organization is the first place that has given them the opportunity to do that. As a result, they get to relax, speak and not feel self-conscious. I’ve seen so many kids blossom and their self-esteem and confidence change.
“I’ve met so many families that have said that it has saved their kid’s life. It’s an amazing thing. SAY is incredible,” he said.
SAY proudly helps young people build communication skills and a community of acceptance.
This year alone, SAY will award more than $1.8 million in financial aid to families-in-need. In the 16 years since the organization’s inception, no child has ever been turned away due to a family’s inability to pay.
Performance plays a huge role in these children’s lives, which hits close to home for Rudd, a beloved actor.
“It is really impressive that these are kids that would never speak up in class,” he says.
“They don’t want to talk in public. Because SAY has such an element of arts education and building up confidence, kids would write plays about what they feel and then perform them! Plus, SAY finds such supportive audiences.
“You see these kids doing things that they never thought they could do. It is unfathomable. It isn’t just kids hanging out with other kids that stutter. These kids are setting challenges and seeing what they can accomplish on epic scales.”
Though Rudd was making headlines for his new trailer, the long-anticipated Marvel movie was the furthest thing from his mind as he celebrated being back at the Bowling Benefit in-person for the first time since the COVID lockdown.
“This is one of the great days of the year for me just because it is so fun to see some of the kids, especially after having gone through a few years where we couldn’t do it in person,” he says.
“The kids have such a blast at this event. So many galas are intended for people to donate money and there are big dinners, but the kids don’t get to participate,” he said, pointing to children of varying ages around him who were laughing and excited to be in the room.
“They’re all around their friends, they get to bowl, and they get to see famous people and actors that they watch on TV. It’s just a big party!”
But, when it comes down to it, are the kids most excited to see the Ant-Man in person? “Nope,” Rudd jokes.
“I’m assuming that they’re excited to see the guy from “Prince Avalanche,” the small indie film I did with David Gordon Green about guys who paint the lines in the middle of the road. That is definitely what they are excited about!”
Visit SAY.org to learn more about SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young.