Friendship Circle of Columbus, the local chapter of an international organization, empowers teens to build communities in which people with disabilities are included as contributing members of society. Our network consists of dozens of student volunteers from local high schools and colleges trained to work with children of all ages and abilities. They get together for one-on-one and group activities that foster camaraderie, friendship, and fun. Trips to the zoo, visits to arcades, horse ranches, concerts, and other events enrich the lives of the volunteers and their buddies. 

The experiences build confidence, leading to more positive relationships in other areas of their lives — at school and at home. Friendship Circle also offers much-needed respite for parents and siblings, as well as fostering a connection with other families who share common goals.  Our core belief is that “everyone has a soul and deserves to be valued for who they are.” Friendship Circle exists to bring happiness and companionship to children and young adults with special needs by celebrating their individuality, as well as bringing energy, support, and peace of mind to their families.

To do this, we focus on developing the values of altruism, compassion, and acceptance in our teen volunteers as we heighten community awareness and sensitivity and encourage a sense of responsibility and involvement. Everyone in this world has a unique purpose. When we focus on abilities instead of disabilities; those with special needs can be part of the strongest friendships and influence people in positive ways that others can’t. Unwavering acceptance, positive thinking, honesty, and commitment are just a few of the important lessons these individuals teach by example. We have dozens of volunteer teens and college students from throughout Columbus and beyond. Interested volunteers should contact [email protected].

There are five areas of Friendship Circle:

Friends@Home. Every week, pairs of trained teenage volunteers visit children with special needs at home. These one-hour visits go a long way to curing loneliness through board games, stories, music, and play.

Family Fun Days. These events include outings for the whole family. Parents and siblings can watch the child hang out with peers and socialize. It’s also an opportunity to connect with other families. 

Sports Night. Sports are a great way to build friendships, confidence, and physical health. Volunteers help kids to shoot hoops, kick goals, throw and catch under the watchful eyes of a professional instructor.

Children’s Torah Circle. This program helps to teach children everything from gross motor and cognitive techniques to communication and language skills. Music, stories, arts and crafts, and socializing provide children with special needs varied ways to learn about their beautiful Jewish heritage.

Parent Events. These informal gatherings are for parents of volunteers and parents of the special buddies. They come together, enjoy some camaraderie, learn more about the program, and get their questions addressed.