COVID-19 DIDN’T STOP THE POWER OF THE FRIENDSHIP CIRCLE

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Friendship Circle of Miami 11th Annual Walking4Friendship 3K

https://www.facebook.com/MiamiFriendshipCircle/

Friendship Circle of Miami’s 11th Annual 3K Walk took place on Sunday May 3. Walking4Friendship is a beloved community event that raises crucial funds and awareness for Friendship Circle of Miami, a nonprofit organization that benefits children and adults with special needs.

What made this event even more extraordinary was that 1000 people signed up to walk virtually from their home or a socially safe location.

Due to COVID-19, the popular walk transitioned to a virtual format. Instead of throngs of people walking in unity throughout the streets of Miami, participants walked the three kilometers individually, or with family and friends.

The historic walk had 1000 pre-registered participants and expanded beyond Florida’s borders and included participants from Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and Michigan.

Clay Ferraro, Local Ten’s Sports Anchor helped to get the virtual participants energized and stay motivated throughout the day.

A full host of virtual activities were planned and included:

  • Rabbi and Nechama Harlig, co-directors of the Friendship Circle thanking everyone for the participation and support
  • Daniel Vega, one of the Friendship Circle’s special friends and a part of the Friendship Circle family for many years, sang the National Anthem before the launch of the walk.
  • Next, came the Friendship Circle Virtual Band Choir with each member singing “Stand by Me”
  • Claudia Potamkin, a Friendship Circle board member and co-host of the walk interviewedAnthony Z. about his experiences with the Friendship Circle and the importance of having a friend as well as interviewed Adina, a 9th grader and a third year volunteer with the Friendship Circle.
  • Another highlight was a virtual Zumba class conducted by….

 

“This was a chance to show our strength in a challenging time and to walk with our virtual community across South Florida,” says Nechama Harlig, Co-director, Friendship Circle Miami.

“The feedback we have been getting has been incredible,” said Rabbi Yossi Harlig, Co-director, Friendship Circle Miami. “People were moved and inspired and after weeks of self-quarantine it gave people a purpose.”

Historically, the walkathon raises a large portion of the nonprofit’s annual budget.  “Due to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the monies raised from this fundraiser are more important than ever,” Rabbi Harlig added.

Family members, whose children benefit from the services of the Friendship Circle, all shared heartfelt feedback. Comments like, “Meant alot to the kids and “people care about me” were a constant theme on Facebook and social media.

“We all need friends, on a basic level. The special needs community feels isolated most of the time. The walkathon funds will ensure that their friendships and connection to each other will continue without interruption. The joy they felt that “typical” people made an extra effort on their behalf is more significant than I can say,” said Claudia Potamkin, Friendship Circle board member.

Participants made a point to tell organizers how fulfilling the walk was on a personal level. “I felt connected to everyone else. Because of social media I felt like I was a part of something important. Gave people a purpose. Felt like I was doing something meaningful,” said Russell Eckert, Chief Development Officer, Friendship Circle.

The funds raised from this popular event will support Friendship Circle’s many programs as well as its new community center, the region’s first of its kind, scheduled to break ground in early 2021.

“Our initial goal was $150,000. By the end of the day, we raised nearly $175,000 with more donations still coming in,” said Eckert.

This year’s walk was presented by Milam’s Market.  This year’s major sponsors included: Value Store It Self Storage, Fairholme Foundation, The Children’s Trust, and Berk, Merchant & Sims.

Corporate partners are: Veitia Padron Incorporated, Perry Ellis International, Armor Correctional Health Services, The Palace Group, Synalovski Romanik Saye, Evensky & Katz Foldes Financial, KW Property Management, Gelber Schachter & Greenberg, Raymond James Barkow Wealth Management and our Media Partners WLRN, Miami’s Community Newspapers and WPLG-TV.

Mission

Friendship Circle of Miami is a nonsectarian, community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that creates friendship and develops life skills for individuals with special needs through teenage volunteers and community outreach.


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