January 2024

Friend: Yael Kaufman
Parents: Jonathan and Shoshana Kaufman
School and Grade: Fuchs Mizrachi, 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: Outside of FC I’m active in Model UN, Shalom Taskforce - Go Purple Day that helps people with domestic abuse, I volunteer with Beni Akiva, Cancer Kids First, and I’m on the Saltzman Youth Panel where I’m interviewing and learning about the work of the Maltz Museum.

Yael's Essay:

I got involved with Friendship Circle in 9th grade because all 4 of my siblings volunteered with FC before me and they told me how great it was. I started volunteering at Sunday Circle in freshman year, and then I added Teen Scene and Friends@Home during sophomore year, and this year I do Better Together and Friends@Home.

Volunteering at FC is an amazing hands-on experience where I can see the connection I am making. For example, I’ve been visiting my friend at her house for Friends@Home consistently for almost a year now. We’ve gotten really close and I love talking about life with her and that she feels comfortable telling me about herself. At Better Together it is so nice to see that the friends that I make open up and tell me about themselves as well.

At Better Together we usually do an art project that connects to that week’s Torah Portion or a holiday, there will be some good food which we eat while schmoozing, and then we play a game like Bingo or Hangman that everyone enjoys. When I visit my friend for Friends@Home we sometimes play board games and sometimes we play with the toys my friend has. Other times we just talk and look at all the different stuff that my friend shows me in her house. It’s really relaxed and such a great way to connect. Seeing and being around people who have disabilities made me realize that every person I interact with has their own story and events going on in their lives. I realize that the patience and care that helped me form meaningful friendships with people with disabilities is something that is needed in all my relationships. I think my experience at Friendship Circle has given me a perspective to be able to be compassionate and give unconditionally in all my relationships.

The hands-on experiences I’m having now are unique. I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to spend this much time volunteering in this way as I get older. These experiences have shown the importance of programs like Friendship Circle and organizations that help individuals with disabilities and I hope to remain involved and support these causes as I grow in life and in my future career.

 December 2023

Friend: Jordan Pearl
Parents: David and Robin Pearl
School and Grade: Mizrachi 12th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I am active in the Fuchs Mizrachi Drama program and I love hanging out with my friends.

Jordan's Essay:

"I started getting involved in Friendship Circle when my friend Eli Rancman invited me to join him at summer camp, and I loved it so much that I continued to keep coming back since then.

When I’m at Friendship Circle, I love seeing how happy my friends get when we hang out and do all sorts of fun activities. I enjoy helping other people have fun, and I find that I have so much fun when I help another person have a good time.

The programs I join at FC are Fitness with Friends and Kulanu. In the fitness program, we do fun exercises, obstacle courses, and dance (usually unplanned, but the group sometimes joins in a “flash mob” kind of spontaneous dance!). At Kulanu, my buddy and I join in on the different activities that are planned. For example, most weeks we join in on some of the davening (prayer) songs or arts and crafts activities related to that week's parshah. Otherwise, we play a lot of pretend games and just have a good time.

Before I joined FC, I had never really ever interacted with people with disabilities before. My experiences here have shown me how I can find ways to connect in different ways with people, even if they have varying levels of abilities. My time here has inspired me more to help others, and I see that I can really make a difference in someone else’s life.

I think some of the biggest impacts my time at FC had on me are that I will be much more confident and willing to reach out and befriend people with various levels of abilities. While before I may not have been confident or felt comfortable to approach people that might interact differently or have disabilities, the positive experiences I’ve had here make me motivated to reach out and find ways to connect. This is true with people with disabilities as well as volunteering and looking out to help my community in general."

 November 2023

Friend: Hannah Kendall
Parents: Lisa and Jeff Kendall
School and Grade: Solon, 12th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I work at the Solon Community Center, where I work with children at the after-school program, oversee the rock climbing walls, and volunteer at the Blue Ribbon Camp. 

Hannah's Essay:

"I got started at Friendship Circle in December 2022 when I volunteered at the winter camp, and since then, I joined the summer camp this year and a lot of Sunday Circle, which I continue now as a group leader.

What I like most about Friendship Circle are the connections I make with the kids I meet there. Seeing the smiles I get when I come in is so heartwarming and keeps me coming back. I feel that the connections I make there are really on the level of friendship. The gratitude and appreciation the kids show really brightens my day. For example, this week, my friend M saw me when he came in and said, “Hannah, you are amazing!” And another friend, C, always comes over to me and asks me to be his buddy for the day.

While at Friendship Circle, I find the most random games that my friends like to come up with. Some friends like to create bowling games in the gym; we play baseball and pretend we are in the MLB, and others like finding board games that we have a blast playing with.

Volunteering at Friendship Center has given me a lot more confidence in interacting with kids with disabilities and those who have different styles and levels of communication. As I keep coming back to Friendship Circle, I see myself gaining skills and becoming more comfortable in connecting with all different kids.

One of the most beautiful things about Friendship Circle is how the connections I make extend beyond the walls of FC. For example, some of the kids at Friendship Circle attend Solon High School, and now whenever we see each other in the halls, we make it a point to chat and connect, even in school."

 October 2023

Friend: Gabi Kalir
Parents: Ilanit and Doron Kalir
School and Grade: Orange High School, 12th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I play tennis for my school and individually, I have a small business called “FreshFeet” where I resell sneakers online, and I’m also a tennis teacher.

Gabi's Essay:

"I started getting involved at Friendship Circle in my sophomore year through my friend Ari Friedman, who told me how fun it is. I then joined Teen Scene Boys and attended almost every weekend that I could, and I really loved it.

At Friendship Circle, I see that I am able to help other people feel happy, and I get to see life from a different perspective. I like being helpful, and I see that I make a difference at Friendship Circle. At Teen Scene, I saw how all the different guys who would come have such different interests, and I can connect with each of them in their own way. With J, I would love playing basketball, and Big B would love doing puzzles together. In each activity, I saw how their faces would shine, and they would seem so happy in the friendship and fun we made. Being around their happiness helped me feel happy.

The experiences at FC have helped open my mind to different kinds of people and perspectives. I can see how I’m more open to be friends with people who might look or interact very differently than what I am used to with the social circles I grew up in. Recently, I spent time in Israel and saw how there were people who dressed and looked different than I am used to. I realized that I was more comfortable and confident in approaching them and getting to know them because of my experience at Friendship Circle.

Going forward, I can see how my interests in the future have expanded because of my positive experience at Friendship Circle. I learned that I really enjoy helping others. I learned that I can connect with people even if they look and act differently on the outside. I learned everybody enjoys and needs a friend. I am happy to be able to be that friend."

September 2023

Friend: Sara Kurland
Parents: Amanda and Kenny Kurland
School and Grade: Orange High School, 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I play field hockey for Orange HS, I am active in my BBYO
chapter, Saltzman Youth Panel, and I serve on the teen board at Menorah Park where we work to
support social programs for the elderly.

Sara's Essay:

"I started my involvement with Friendship Circle by going to the walk since I was a young child (like 5 or 6 years old, I think). I then started volunteering more formally when I was in 8th grade, when I joined Teen Scene Girls as well as many virtual programs.

What I like most about my involvement at FC is that I get to be a friend to all the kids and teens who come here, as well as meeting all sorts of people!

When I'm here, I love talking and bantering with the kids who talk with me. I also like going to the playground when the weather is nice and doing arts and crafts all together. One of my friends loves when I show him camera filters on Snapchat that make our faces look like lions or other animals. It is great to see how happy it makes him when we do that together!

My experiences at FC have taught me a lot about how to be patient and give space for other people to show themselves, and that when I take the time to get to know them, people show wonderful parts of themselves!

Being at FC, I learned how important volunteering is to me and how meaningful it is to donate my time to be with others. The skills I learned about consciously creating friendships with all sorts of people and responding to different situations will stay with me forever and give me confidence to take with me as I grow!"

August 2023

Friend: Nate Jacobs
Parents: Francoise and Avi Jacobs
School and Grade: Mizrachi, 12th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I am part of the Mizrachi Mayhem basketball team. I’m pretty serious about it!

Nate's Essay:

"I've been involved in Friendship Circle throughout my entire time in high school. I stepped up my involvement toward the end of sophomore year with more regular Friends@Home, as well as joining some special events and camp.

When I'm hanging out with my friends from Friendship Circle, I try to tune in to what my friend enjoys and find ways to do it together. Whether it is playing with Legos, drawing, or anything else - when my friend is happy doing it, it brings me joy. When we are doing something fun together, my buddy N. loves to tell me the details about the different things we are doing and that he finds fun and interesting.

My involvement in Friendship Circle has helped me a lot in having more patience and finding ways to communicate that speak to each person, so they understand and connect. I think that being able to take the perspective of another person and patiently work with them to connect is something that is helpful in all different communication settings.

The lessons I've learned and relationships I've built will stick with me and give me the confidence that I can relate and make friendships with people of all styles of communication. The more time I spend with friends at Friendship Circle, the more I see that we all share so much in common. I love being part of this community!"

July 2023

Friend: Izzy Bashkin
Parents: Natalie and Leonard Bashkin
School and Grade: Hawken, entering 10th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I play lacrosse for my school, I’m on the speech and debate team, and I love baking (especially Biz’eh - which is a Russian meringue - type dessert)!

Izzy's Essay:

"I got involved in Friendship Circle very recently when my friend Liv invited me to do Friends@Home together with her. Since then, I’ve started visiting my friend for Friends@Home, and I’ve joined the summer camp in early June!

What I like most about Friendship Circle is the way kids are matched up with each other, and the friendships seem to blossom naturally - it doesn’t feel forced. In particular, my buddy at camp really enjoyed playing freeze tag, which was great because we were able to involve other kids from our group in the game, and it helped us all play together. During Friends@Home, I really enjoy reading with my buddy, and it gives me déjà vu from all the reading I enjoyed doing when I was younger.

Although I’ve only been volunteering with Friendship Circle for a short time, there are some unique experiences that open me to new ways of relating to others. When I’m with my friends from school or growing up, I am usually hanging out with people that I naturally connect with and have fun together with. At Friendship Circle, I have the opportunity to meet people that perhaps I wouldn’t have spent much time with outside of FC, and I learn to interact in a way that is about the other person. I am seeing that with patience and the right opportunities, I can connect and become friends with kids of all different abilities!

I’ve been having such a positive experience at FC that it’s opened my eyes to the beauty and needs of people with disabilities. I hope to continue to learn from and include people from this community in my friend groups and projects I’m a part of!"

June 2023

Friend: Shmueli (Sam) Davidovich
Parents: Dena and Raphael Davidovich
School and Grade: Naaleh High School, 10th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I have my own business of selling body scrubs - my company is called “Sam’s Scrubs” (which can be ordered at: 216-990-3408), I love hanging out with friends, and running - I just ran the Cleveland half marathon!

Sam's Essay:

"When I was a kid, I would join the Friendship Circle programs, and now that I'm older, I wanted to give back. So, about seven months ago, I started volunteering as a FriendMaker. I started by joining Teen Scene Boys on Sundays. I enjoyed that so much that I then started doing Friends@Home and the after-school hangouts on Wednesdays, where we have a cooking club.

What I like most about Friendship Circle is the warm, friendly, and accepting environment. I feel that people are always in a good mood and come together to help others. It is so nice and fun to come to a place where people are so open and care about each other.

When hanging out with my friends, I like to find things that are mutually enjoyable. For example, with my friend L, we really enjoy doing crafts and sensory activities together. With another friend, we really enjoy cooking and baking on Wednesdays at the cooking circle. When my buddy comes to Teen Scene, I love hanging out and going on trips together. Spending time with my friends at Friendship Circle is the highlight of my day!

I find that the time I spend and the relationships I build at Friendship Circle help me learn to connect with all sorts of people. This teaches me to be patient, open-hearted, and accepting of all people. I hope to continue learning and becoming a kinder person during all my experiences at Friendship Circle. I think these character traits will affect me for years down the line in a way that will make me more accepting and patient with people I will meet in all sorts of settings."

May 2023

Friend: Gabriella Goldberg
Parents: Julia Goldberg and Michael Raykhinshteyn
School and Grade: 10th Grade, West Geauga High School
Extracurricular Activities: I volunteer at Shaker Dance Academy as a mentor/coach for younger dance students, play piano and enjoy helping other people!

Gabriella's Essay:

"Many of my friends that I used to go to school with at Mandel have already been involved at FC for a while. As I entered my sophomore year of high school, I started to become more interested in exploring different extracurriculars and gaining meaningful experiences. So, after hearing about FC from many of my friends, I decided to try it out in November 2022 with Teen Scene and Sunday Circle.

Over the time I've spent here, I've gotten to know so many of the kids who come regularly. What I like most are the bonds and friendships that we get to make with each other. It's so nice to come to a place where I know and like so many of the people.

While here at FC, I do so many different activities with the different buddies I make. I participate in several different programs, and my buddies at each program enjoy different activities. At Sunday Circle, where my buddy is younger, we like to run around, play tag, and have fun. At Teen Scene, we like to color and watch Frozen (on repeat), while at after-school hangouts, my friends love listening to music and shooting hoops in the gym.

Being a Friend-Maker at FC has been so fun. I find that I've been impacted in many ways. Most notably, I've found that I look forward to coming and am so happy to know that I have the ability to help other people be happy. I feel grateful and confident, knowing that I can spend my time making friends like this.

My experience at FC has shown me that I can make friends and positively impact people in general, and specifically neurodiverse people who might communicate or look differently than I do. I am more confident approaching and looking to include neurodiverse friends in my life in general.

I have had such a positive experience and would encourage other teenagers and kids to take the opportunity to volunteer and see the impact it has on them!"

April 2023

Friend: Asher Rosner
Parents: Matt and Shawna Rosner
School and Grade: 9th Grade, Solon High School
Extracurricular Activities: I play lacrosse and golf for Solon HS team.

Asher's Essay:

"My cousin Jack was part of Friendship Circle so I would go to the Walk4Friends with him from when I was a young kid. That built a connection to Friendship Circle that I’ve had for most of my life. As part of my Mitzvah project when I was becoming a Bar Mitzvah, I chose to raise money for Friendship Circle  because I knew how much the program impacted my cousin. After that, I started to volunteer a bit over a year and a half ago when I came to “Playground Buddies” - an outdoor program that was running when people were social distancing during Covid. Since then I’ve joined the winter camp, Sunday Circle, and Teen Scene.

What I like most about being at FC are the friendships and connections I make when I am there. Friendships are so important and having the opportunity to make connections is so fun and meaningful. While at FC my buddies enjoy playing sports like basketball and soccer and we also play board games like Rummikub.

In addition to being able to connect and make friendships I find that I’ve gotten comfortable and grown confident interacting with people of all different communication styles and level of ability. I think that I am more likely to be open and accepting to people of different communication styles and diverse abilities. I am grateful for the opportunities I have to connect with friends at Friendship Circle!"

March 2023

Friend: Michal Kaufman
Parents: Shoshana and Jonathan Kaufman
School and Grade: Home Schooled, 12th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I love reading, drawing, babysitting, and spending time with
family and friends.

Michal's Essay:

I have been involved at Friendship Circle for approximately 2 years. My older siblings used to volunteer and I hope to work with children when I get older so I thought volunteering at Friendship Circle was a great place to start. I started off by coming to Sunday Circle and Teen Scene. I also enjoyed coming to the camps when they run. I’ve kept up coming to those programs and have also started visiting friends at their homes as part of the Friends@Home program.

What I like most about Friendship Circle is hanging out with my friends and helping others who need some additional support. Of all the programs, I like camps the most because there are the most people and it brings the most energy which makes it a lot of fun.

At camps I really enjoy the field trips that we go on. For example, at President’s Day we went to
Adrenaline Monkey where I pushed myself to try the ropes course (even though it was terrifying to be up so high!) and had a lot of fun with my friends C. And B.! In addition to the trips, I like that at camps there a lot of people all coming together. The group feeling helps the day be more fun.

I feel like volunteering at FC has brought more meaning to my life overall. I’ve made a lot of friends and helping other people be happy helps me feel happy as well. Now I look forward to Friendship Circle all week long and it makes the whole week better.

Before volunteering at FC I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but my positive experiences here helped solidify that want to work with children with disabilities and help them be happy, learn to communicate, and live their best life!

February 2023

Friend: Yoni Meyers
Parents: Hadassah and Oren Meyers
School and Grade: Mizrachi School, 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: Chess Club, I study and compete in Chidon Tanach, and I’m
learning Guitar!

Yoni's Essay:

"I got involved in Friendship Circle when I was in 8th Grade. I joined FC because my older siblings were a part of it and really enjoyed it. Further, spending my free time to help other people was something I wanted to do more of. What I like most is building relationships with other kids who have disabilities. I find that it is very fun and fulfilling at the same time!

I like the flexibility of getting to know my friends and finding what they enjoy. In particular, I enjoy the artwork we get to create and playing sports. Sometimes even just talking and having conversations is fun in itself.

The way that Friendship Circle has impacted is in the way that I learn to see other people around me. Instead of looking at external or superficial characteristics, I have learned to focus on the inner character of people I meet, and I’ve found that I am more patient when interacting with others and give them time to show their goodness. No matter which specific career path I ultimately choose, volunteering at Friendship Circle has given me an experience that makes me want to continue making helping other people a priority of mine.

The way we treat and interact with other people is very important. Even for people who aren’t actively volunteering, being mindful of how other people are experiencing the world is something that my experience at FC has instilled in me.

I’m grateful to all those that work to help create such opportunities for me and my friends!"

January 2023

Friend: Samantha DeMinico
Parents: Lauren and Mike
School and Grade: Hawken, Grade 8
Extracurricular Activities: I play on the Hawken School tennis and lacrosse teams, and I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family.

Samantha's Essay:

"I became involved with Friendship Circle last spring when I collected donations for the organization for my Bat Mitzvah project. I chose to donate to Friendship Circle because I witnessed the impact it has made on my sister, Ellie, who has volunteered there for the past four years. I enjoy participating with Ellie every week because I learn so much from her about how to be a good Friend-maker.

Shortly after my Bat Mitzvah, I registered to become a volunteer. My first experience was at Friendship Circle camp, and throughout the summer I met so many kids with whom I formed friendships. At the end of camp, I knew I wanted to continue volunteering throughout the school year. In September, I joined Sunday Circle, and I look forward to attending every week. When I hang out with my buddies at FC, I especially enjoy spending time at the Pepper Pike playground, going on field trips, and participating in the special weekly entertainment.

Now that I’ve been volunteering at Friendship Circle for the past six months, I understand why my sister loves it so much. It’s such a welcoming organization, and it’s so much fun to connect with the kids there and learn from one another. I am excited to continue volunteering at Friendship Circle, and I look forward to experiencing winter camp and other great programs."

December 2022

Friend: Owen Grossman
Parents: Jennifer and David
School and Grade: Solon 11th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: I play cornerback and receiver for Solon HS football team, spending time with friends and fitness.

Owen's Essay:

"I knew about Friendship Circle from when I was younger because my brother and other friends were involved. In the summer of 8th grade I was invited by my friend Ari Friedman to join MyWalk4Friends and had a great time. From there on I have just loved being involved in any way I could.

What I like most about FC is when I get to see the long term and spillover effects of the friendships built at Friendship Circle. While getting together at FC is always fun, it’s nice to see how friendships progress over time and show up even outside of the building. For example, after coming for over a year to teen scene, my friend A comes over and give me a big hug right when I get to FC and we immediately connect. Even outside FC, my friend Z started coming over to me in school to say hi with a big smile.

I really enjoy the Teen Scene program. Since last year, a group of us teenagers get together and hang out in the gym to play basketball. When the weather is nice we go out to the playground and walk around or use the workout equipment there. Recently, we started to hang out as a group in the teen lounge playing games, Wii, and eating pizza. That has been a lot of fun!

I’ve noticed how spending time at FC has impacted my life in a positive way. I’ve felt that it opened my eyes and helped me be more considerate and sincere in my interactions with other. One particular area I’ve seen grow is my appreciation and gratitude for the things I have that I used to take for granted. I think the time I spend at Friendship Circle brings me in contact with unique experiences give me a perspective on kindness that I will take with me in whatever my next steps will be."

November 2022

Friend: Scarlett Begam
Parents: Chrissanne and James Begam
School and Grade: Chagrin Falls High School, 12th
Extracurricular Activities: I love spending time with friends, family, and my pet dog!

Scarlett's Essay:

"I got involved at Friendship Circle in 2018 when I heard about how fun Friendship Circle is from our good family friends the Rotskys. I was excited about the idea of making new friends, helping others make new friends, and helping people in general.

What I like most about friendship circle are the social connections I get to make while I’m here. My first 2 years I joined I was a part of summer camp which I really loved and since then I’ve come as I have been available. Recently I’ve been joining the after school programs that happen Monday-Thursday from 3-5 and Teen Scene Girls.

At Teen Scene I’ve enjoyed that we’ve been going on field trips every other week while staying at the FC building the other weeks. The change of place helps keep things exciting and makes friendships even more easy to form.

Spending time at Friendship Circle has helped me feel confident that I can build friendships with people of all abilities. My experiences have helped me become more understanding and empathetic because it is not always apparent what people are going through!

My participation at FC inspires me to want to give friendship and volunteer my time to help people with disabilities going forward. Specifically, I hope to be a pediatric nurse practitioner one day and my experiences helped me want to work and help all children."

October 2022

Friend: Edie Chaiten
Parents: Cindy and Louis Chaiten
School and Grade: Hawken, 11th 
Extracurricular Activities: I tutor Hebrew at Bnei Jeshurun as well as general homework tutoring for underprivileged children, I serve on the board for Glamour Gals where we build bonds with seniors, as well as being on the teen board for Hope for Henry.

Edie's Essay:

"I started getting involved in Friendship Circle at the beginning of this past summer when my cousin Aaron’s mother recommended I spend time with Friendship Circle as part of my Integrate Service Learning (ISL) project I was doing with school. My cousin Aaron is a sweet 5 year old boy who was born with multiple disabilities and I spend time with him every Sunday. I feel like we have a very special bond and I particularly love watching him learn and grow at his own pace and do things in his own special way.

At Friendship Circle, I loved being able to create bonds with many different individuals throughout both summer camps I was a part of. It is a super unique opportunity to connect with so many different people!

Some of the activities I enjoyed most included going to the playground and the crafts we did throughout the day. Even if my buddy didn’t want to go to the playground, I simply enjoyed spending time and connecting with my friend.

I think that all the hours I spend at Friendship Circle helped me develop a widened perspective. I learned a lot about communicating with others and how speaking isn’t the only way to communicate and connect. I feel like I have confidence knowing how to connect to others.

My time at Friendship Circle expanded my knowledge and gave me experience in areas relating to connecting with people with disabilities. I want to work as a child psychologist when I get older and the time here made me want volunteer more with the community of people with disabilities."

May 2022

Friend: Molly O’Neill
Parents: Stacey and Daniel O’Neill
School and Grade: Hathaway Brown, 11th
Extracurricular Activities: Art (including painting, collaging, and making jewelry)

Molly’s Essay:

"I moved from Connecticut earlier this year. In January, I became involved with Friendship Circle. What I like most about Friendship Circle is that it’s a place where kids can be themselves and have a safe community where they can express themselves and have as much support as they need.

My favorite thing to do is drawing with my friend C at Sunday Circle. Every week we draw together. C’s favorite thing to draw is cats, and last weekend we worked on a piece together where I drew a bunch of cat faces and C drew a big cat among all the different faces that I had drawn. It turned out really well, and it was fun to collaborate!

My involvement with FC has definitely brought a lot of positivity and happiness to my life. It makes me feel really good when I’m at FC, because I feel good that I am helping someone. I understand how important it is to have someone I can go to and have a close bond with, and I believe everyone deserves a friend.

Since I’ve started volunteering at FC, I’ve gained an interest in learning more about working with people with disabilities. It is something that I would like to pursue in the future and learn more about in college. I think it has opened that door for me.

Friendship Circle brings me so much happiness and I love being a part of it!"

April 2022

This month, there are two Friends of the Month. Jake Goldman and Jude Holz spend their Sunday afternoons together with their special buddy and have created a meaningful friendship which has blossomed throughout the year.

(Left: Jude Holz; Right: Jake Goldman; Front: Liav Stark)

Friend: Jake Goldman
Parents: Jody and Steve Goldman
School and Grade: Beachwood High School, 10th grade
Extracurricular Activities: Soccer, Wrestling, Baseball, Stock Club

Jake’s Essay:

"I became involved at Friendship Circle this past fall when I started coming to Sunday Circle. It was then that I noticed people at FC seem genuinely happy to be here. My friends are friend-makers as well as the kids who come to make friends! Sometimes my friend arrives, and he seems sad but by the end of the session he always leaves feeling happy.

My buddy really loves playing in the gym. We get creative with whatever materials we find in the gym and use them to play games like basketball or baseball.

I can see that from coming to FC, I have been able to grow and become more responsible. Knowing I can be relied upon, and I can do things that I couldn’t do before. I feel like I have tools to watch other kids and help make them happy. I definitely have a greater understanding of people with disabilities.

The traits and skills I develop at FC, like patience, caring for and sharing my time with kids, are important, and I think they will remain with me and be useful to me throughout my entire life."

Friend: Jude Holz
Parents: Mark and Leslie Holz
School and Grade: Mastery School Hawken, 10th grade
Extracurricular Activities: Pitch for Baseball Team for Hawken, Coding Club, Gaming Club

Jude’s Essay:

"I joined Friendship Circle in the fall of 2021. I volunteered at Sunday Circle since that is what I saw my siblings doing. My siblings, Raya and Ethan, were very involved in FC, and I observed the different perspectives they brought home. I noticed how my siblings became more patient and their real-life application skills improved because of their time at FC.

What I like most about Friendship Circle is the ability to build a real connection with my friends. When I attend weekly, it is beautiful to see how my friend becomes more comfortable interacting with me and Jake and other friends. I really like seeing how he grows in his communication and interactions.

Some of our favorite activities are movement-based activities. We love going to the playground as well as finding ways to get creative with different sporting equipment we have in the gym. We take the materials available and produce ways to play. For example, we take a bowling pin and play baseball with it! Once we have played all the different movement activities our friend also likes to go into the multi-sensory room where there are cool lights and video-type games.

I find that these experiences at Friendship Circle are teaching me to be more flexible in my interactions with other people. Sometimes I have an expectation of what my friend will find fun and like doing but not always does my buddy react the same way. I learn to be flexible and attuned to what my friend is feeling and adapt to him.

Spending time with my buddy and understanding how he feels helps me develop patience and empathy. I believe the skills and traits I am gaining in this role will apply to many other fields and jobs and they will be extremely beneficial for me in my future."


March 2022

Friend: Dalya Berezovsky
Parent: Wendy Berezovsky
School and Grade: Beachwood High School, 10th grade

Extracurricular Activities: I am active on the board of Go B’Yachad, I love baking, art, dancing, and singing. I am the president of our family run non-profit called “Sweet Dreams for Kids” where we collect and donate new comfy pajamas for children with extended stays in the hospital all over the world.

Dalya’s Essay:

I’ve been involved in Friendship Circle for  little over two years. I became involved when I was in eighth grade, and I continued to participate throughout COVID over Zoom programming. Although the zoom programming was fun, it’s even better when we can hang out in person!

It’s really hard to pick what my favorite thing is, because I like everything so much. I love being around my friends, hanging out and helping make other people happy. I love doing Friends@Home with my friend B. I don’t see what I do as volunteering – but rather I see it as going to spend time with my real friend. It is the highlight of my week.

I look forward to coming to Friendship Circle and it is my favorite time of my day and week. Knowing that I can help make someone else feel like they have a friend that really cares about them brings me joy.

My participation in Friendship Circle has sparked an interest and enjoyment in working with children and helping people feel that someone likes them and cares about them. When I get older, I would like to work with kids in the hospital, be a special ed teacher, or work in a nursing home.

February 2022

Friend: Asher Baskind
Parents: Samantha Baskind and Danny Geller
School and Grade: Shaker Heights High School, 9th Grade

Extracurricular Activities: Model UN and Track (distance)

Asher’s Essay:

I became involved in Friendship Circle before the COVID-19 shutdown. Growing up, my family was involved with Friendship Circle, and we participated in My Walk 4 Friends. I then became active as a peer model over sixth-grade summer break.

I enjoy making people happy. I particularly enjoy my buddies who I am matched with on Sundays. I feel I want to do the right thing and be active in the Jewish community.

I love going to the movement room with my special friends to build forts, run around, have pretend sword fights, play games, and build towers of blocks to knock them down with a toy motorcycle.

I think Friendship Circle has had a super positive effect on me. I really enjoy volunteering.

In the future, I think I would like to continue down this path and work with children with disabilities. After I graduate from high school, I hope to continue volunteering at Friendship Circle. If there is a Friendship Circle near my college, I hope to continue to volunteer with them as well.

January 2022


Friend: Andie Berlin
Parents: Greg and Marla Berlin
School and Grade: Orange, 10th Grade
Extracurricular Activities: Cheerleading and Lacrosse

Andie’s Essay:

"I became involved with Friendship Circle last year during the pandemic. This year, I have joined in-person programs. Although the virtual Zoom programs were very important and enjoyable, I think I make a greater impact at in-person programs because I feel a better sense of connection.

I enjoy many aspects of Friendship Circle. I attend Sunday Circle nearly every Sunday, and I join either Teen Scene or Friendship Social during the week. During the programs, I really enjoy Music Circle, because I can dance to the music with my friends. We also participate in fun sensory activities and crafts.

What keeps me coming back to the programs is the feeling I get after spending time with my special friends. I feel like a better person, knowing I've made a positive impact on others. 

My participation at Friendship Circle has helped me to be more understanding of challenges other people face. For example: the time when I saw a friend from Friendship Circle crying in the school hallway. Many other students were just walking by her, but because of my experience at Friendship Circle, I had the confidence to go over to her and help her. I really like Friendship Circle a lot!"