My friends at the Friendship Circle of Miami hosted a Welcome Back Bash and Family Fun Day on Oct. 6 to kick off their 2013-14 programs. The annual event brought together volunteers, families and friends to learn about the Friendship Circle’s new and returning programs. Kids enjoyed arts & crafts and games, and there was entertainment, food and fun for everyone at the celebration.
The Friendship Circle certainly has much to celebrate. Overwhelming support from sponsors, supporters, volunteers and families in the community has enabled the organization to expand its curriculum. The non-profit group always has been dedicated to offering friendship and acceptance to children and teens with special needs, regardless of their disability. Now, young adults, age 19 to 35, can also participate in a new, enriching program — Young Adult Circle. The Friendship Circle has also added Tween Scene and Hip Hop Dance Circle to the list of outstanding programs.
The Young Adult Circle fills an important need. Before this program was introduced, teens “aged out” of the Friendship Circle programs at 19, leaving them with no options for socialization and friendship. The mission of the Young Adult Circle is to help these young people build confidence and improve their social and life skills, says Friendship Circle director Nechama Harlig. It’s also fun for them to simply “hang out” with their peers, which includes volunteer college students and other young adults. Everyone needs and deserves to have a friend.
One Sunday a month, the group will take a field trip to go shopping, eat at a restaurant and visit local attractions like Bird Bowl, Zoo Miami, Homestead Rodeo and the Holocaust Memorial. One Tuesday a month, the young adults will meet at the Friendship Circle for social activities like baking, cooking, crafts and games.
Because the Children’s Circle and Teen Scene programs were so popular and grew to maximum capacity last year, the Friendship Circle now offers Tween Scene – a drop-off program for pre-teens with special needs, age 9 to 13.
Like Children’s Circle and Teen Scene, Tween Scene meets every Sunday morning. The program offers music, therapy, karate, yoga, gymnastics, fitness, dance, baking, and arts & crafts – all in a funfilled setting, says Ms. Harlig. As always, the sessions are led by highly-trained specialists and physical and occupational therapists, with Friendship Circle volunteers on hand to assist every child. The smiles are priceless.
Parents asked for it, and the Friendship Circle delivered. Another new program is Hip Hop Dance Circle, which takes place Thursday afternoons. For children and teens ages 5 to 18, this program teaches rhythm, musicality, coordination, ageappropriate choreography and jazz dance movement. This is an excellent class for high-energy kids who want to have fun, says Ms. Harlig.
These new programs along with Sports Circle, Music Circle, Cooking Circle, Life Skills, Family Fun Days and Winter break and Summer Camps enrich the lives of children, teens and young adults with special needs. And don’t think they are the only ones who benefit. These programs give the parents and families a much-needed respite, renewed strength and peace of mind. There is no greater joy for these parents than to see their child become part of the community.
For the teenage and young adult volunteers, the program promotes tolerance, teaches the value of giving to others and helps build leadership skills. Their generosity and selflessness does not go unnoticed.
And speaking of generosity, these fantastic Friendship Circle programs are funded by individuals and organizations who know that their contributions are making a difference in the lives of these special children, teens and young adults in our community.
For more information about the Friendship Circle, call 305-234-5654, ext. 12, go online to www.friendshipcirclemiami.org or visit 8700 SW 112 St.