The Friendship Circle provides social and recreational experiences to children with special needs. Among the Friendship Circle’s many activities are karate and basketball clubs, winter and summer camps, and programs such as the Sunday Circle that pair typical teenagers with special-needs children. Professional behaviorists and others provide guidance and supervision for volunteers.
At the Friendship Circle of Los Angeles annual Garden Party on May 13th, 370 volunteers were honored for all that they do. Our daughter was among 39 young people who received the Friendship Circle’s prestigious Fellowship Award for their outstanding dedication. As a Sunday Circle volunteer for the past four years, she has devoted many mornings to helping younger children engage in playground exercise, music, gymnastics, birthday parties, and other activities. Some of those children have been wheelchair-bound or nonverbal, and have benefited greatly from those interactions. Equally important, the program fosters true, lasting friendships between the volunteers and the children whom they assist, along with a sense of inclusion. In addition, our daughter has developed invaluable, hands-on training in the field of special education. She has also refined her sensitivity toward the less fortunate or “capable” among us.
My two eldest sons recently contributed their talents to one of Chai Lifeline’s special events. Over the past year, the boys in their school’s upper grades have formed a circus-performing troupe known as “Simcha Productions.” “Simcha” is a Hebrew word for “happiness.” The boys have learned to perform numerous feats, like unicycle riding, music, gymnastics, and other skills. Our eldest boy has picked up a real knack for the yo-yo, and has learned to juggle. His brother is a talented gymnast. Both of them have mastered the unicycle, and all of the boys in Simcha Productions have discovered hidden talents.
Those talents came to the fore on June 11, when Simcha Productions performed for a group of Chai Lifeline’s children. The show began with yo-yo tricks and juggling. Next came balancing acts, including one boy’s balancing a chair on his chin. Those feats were followed by unicycle rides and gymnastics. Among the highlights of the show, several boys rode their unicycles under the legs of another boy who stood on stilts. The gymnastics truly dazzled the audience. Most of the boys ran and leapt into the air, then did flips, landed on their feet, and came back to flip again.
My children have gained a valuable life principle: the dedication of one’s time, energy and talents for a higher purpose. One’s training and skills are put to best use when they bring joy and life to the less fortunate. My kids, and others like them, have truly learned to think beyond themselves. They are all special children.
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