Photo credit: David Miller Studios
The 4th annual Walk4Friendship was truly a walk to remember, which attracted more than 1,000 participants and raised 100,000 plus for important programs that enrich the Jewish company and its kids with special needs.
The event took place on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rancho Park with an inspirational opening ceremony led by Gail Rollman, Director of Development at the Frienship Circle, a nonprofit organization that brings “joy, cheer and respite to children with special needs and their families.”
“We’re thrilled that you’ve come out for this amazing day to celebrate what Friendship Circle does for the Jewish community, for our kids,” said Rollman. “What I also want to do is give a huge shout out to all of the sponsors that have made today possible. On the back of your t-shirts you will see a list of very generous people, please give a huge round of applause for all the walk sponsors.”
Since opening its doors in 2003, Friendship Circle united teen volunteers and children with special needs together, to encourage acceptance, inclusion and friendship, providing services to 140 families.
Michy Rav-Noy, Executive Director of Friendship Circle, took the stage to serenade the crowd and introduce the walk with his rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” except his was “The Friendship Song.”
The song really set the stage as to what friendship walk is all about , as members of the community unite as one to show their love and support for an amazing cause: “Special kids make all the difference with the help of all the mighty, they teach us how to love unconditionally. So let’s all walk together, united as one, as Jews, as humans, as children of the holy one. Won’t you help me sing, this song of friendship, it’s all we ever have, the friendship song, the friendship song.”
Other notables presenting on stage were Rebecca Kianmahd, a 10th grader at Milken Community High School, who promoted the walk at her school and has volunteered at Friendship Circle for 6 years. “As a volunteer, I’ve learned what it means to have a true friendship based on values of caring, respect, patience and fun,” said Kianmahd.
In closing of the ceremony, Chani Lazaroff, mother of Tani, a child with special needs expressed her gratitude and kindness toward all the people that have showed their support for the Friendship Circle and all that the Friendship Circle has done for the Jewish community. “As parents of special needs children, sometimes we feel alienated and alone, not quite fitting in anywhere,” said Lazaroff. “But thanks to Friendship Circle, we have found a home. With this incredible program and volunteers, Friendship Circle has become an extended part of our family.”
Following the ceremony, the 3k walk began as everyone got into the spirit clad in purple t-shirts with friends and family by their side, and upon reaching the finish line the walk ended with a celebration of food and fun activities: train rides, mobile mural lab, carnival games and more.
As always, donations are needed and welcome at walk4friendshipla.com!