Miami Teen Volunteers: Changing The Lives Of Special Needs Kids Simply By Being Their Friends
January 19, 2023
Dozens of Miami teenagers are helping change the lives of special needs children by simply spending time with them. While special needs children may have the best doctors and therapists, they don’t necessarily have friends and safe places they can go for social interaction. The Friendship Circle of Miami offers a solution to these issues.
The Friendship Circle of Miami is a nonprofit dedicated to offering friendship and acceptance to individuals with special needs, and providing respite to their families. The nonprofit pairs teen and young adult volunteers with kids, teens, and adults with special needs to bond over shared experiences such as art, band, swimming, equestrian and social circles.
Volunteers come from a variety of high schools in the Miami-Dade School District.
Samantha Elkins, Sydney Hochstadt, and Jordan McKean are all seniors at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. They have each been volunteers at the Friendship Circle for three years participating in the Friendship Circle Band, and Tween and Teen Scene.
“The kids at Friendship Circle are very kind, smart, and unique in many ways. Getting the privilege to interact and form relationships with them is something that I don't take for granted. Carrying friendships outside of the designated volunteering hours to text or call and reuniting each week is definitely rewarding. I also like seeing the kids become more confident in themselves and see that they can make friends and they are capable,” says Elkins.
“Through Friendship Circle, I form valuable friendships with people who sadly do not often experience such,” adds Hochstadt. “The most rewarding aspect of my volunteerism with Friendship Circle is seeing the happiness on my friends' faces upon first seeing me at every event. It is something I would not trade for the world.”
McKean says, “Seeing their faces light up when they play an instrument or sing a song is an amazing feeling. The most rewarding part of this entire experience has been the ongoing connections I've made with my friends.”
About Friendship Circle
The Friendship Circle model involves carefully matching teen volunteers one-to-one with children who have special needs, providing the mentoring and friendship that these children seek. Our model promotes inclusion and builds social and recreational skills among children, teens and young adults with special needs, regardless of their level of ability. Beginning with a pilot program and handful of children in 2004, they have served hundreds of children with special needs and empowered thousands of teenagers to become community leaders, advocates, and role-models.
The facility they currently operate their 21 programs out of has become insufficient to manage their tremendous growth and lacks the necessary space to introduce new, innovative services they aspire to offer and that families seek.
Under the leadership and direction of their Board of Directors, they are building a state-of-the-art campus. The new Friendship Campus will offer 20,000 square feet of space which will serve as an activity center, social meeting place and hub for their network of families, individuals with special needs, volunteers, professional staff, and supporters. The new campus will comprise two main buildings which will include beautiful and engaging activity rooms, lounges, classrooms, and a number of custom rooms. More space will allow them to grow their programs and add specially designed rooms for their participants, which will allow them to add new, innovative programs.
The most powerful force in society is a child with a dream coupled with the knowledge, nurturing and means to achieve that dream. The Friendship Campus is a lifelong dream for children with special needs and their families. They hope you will help them make this dream a reality by joining them to meet their $7.5 million goal to develop a beautiful state-of-the-art home for children, for now, and for the future. For more information, visit: www.friendshipcirclemiami.org
A Night of Hollywood Glam
Friendship Circle of Miami will put on its 4th annual Heart and Soul Gala on Thursday, February 2nd at the Historic Alfred I. duPont Building. The event will treat guests to “A Night of Hollywood Glam” featuring a delectable dinner, live music, entertainers, experiences and much more. The event will also give community leaders and supporters throughout Miami-Dade County the opportunity to unite and celebrate the power of friendship.
The Friendship Circle of Miami: www.friendshipcirclemiami.org is a volunteer-driven nonprofit dedicated to offering friendship and acceptance to individuals with special needs, providing respite to their families, and empowering teenagers to make a difference through volunteerism. The nonprofit pairs teen and young adult volunteers with kids, teens, and adults with special needs to bond over shared experiences such as art, band, swimming, equestrian and social circles.
Money raised at the gala will go toward supporting the many programs the Friendship Circle of Miami offers. The nonprofit also recently began development on a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art community center which will serve as an activity center, social meeting place, and hub for its network of families, individuals with special needs, volunteers and supporters.
For more information on the Heart and Soul Gala, visit: www.fcheartandsoulgala.org