Throughout the community there are many hundreds of children with special needswho, along with their families, often live with a sense of desperation and isolation. This includes children with Down syndrome, autism, ADD or any number of emotional or physical challenges that prevent children from comfortably interacting with peers. The Friendship Circle addresses the challenges facing these children in a way that celebrates rather than laments their uniqueness and individuality. Founded in Orange County in 2006, the centerpiece of the Friendship Circle program is the pairing of local teenagers with the children for home visits, and extends from there to a full range of activities and events catering to children with special needs and their families
By integrating the wisdom of professionals and the energetic spirit of teenagers, The Friendship Circle brings out the best from within all of those involved. It has been found that by utilizing the gift of friendship, the young volunteers succeed in reaching the children in ways that other forms of therapy do not. Furthermore, the program has had a profound effect on the teenagers themselves – instilling within them the values of giving and gratitude.
The underlying philosophy of the Friendship Circle is that every child is an entire world – needy and worthy of love, laughter, nurturing and connection. A child with special needs feels the pain of loneliness and euphoria of friendship. Indeed the real beauty of the Friendship Circle is that it has so many winners: The special needs children, their families, the teenage volunteers, the staff members and the benevolent supporters. All are part of a seamless circle of giving and sharing. What can be more satisfying and worthwhile than brightening the world of a child through love and laughter, companionship and friendship?