Over 300 guests attended Friendship Circle of Los Angeles’ Garden Party on Wednesday, May 21st at the Gilmore Adobe Gardens. Guests enjoyed a cocktail reception and an inspiring ceremony celebrating a year of giving. The evening’s theme, “Celebrating Young Leadership”, acknowledged the dedication and commitment of 360 volunteers to the children of the Friendship Circle and their contribution to the Los Angeles Jewish Community.
“Our volunteers are compassionate, productive and giving members of the Jewish community”, said Chana Fogelman of the Friendship Circle. “This evening was a salute to them, the friendships they have built and the good they have accomplished.”
Volunteers from 58 schools across Los Angeles dedicate their time each week to buddies with special needs. The volunteers from Friendship Circle’s Friends at Home Program, Hebrew School, Sunday Circle, Basketball and Karate Clubs attend workshops, orientations and receive ongoing support from Friendship Circle, so they can build meaningful relationships with their buddies and create lasting friendships.
Adam Rokah, student at Shalhevet High School was awarded the Hineni Award for his vision, initiative and leadership in founding the Friendship Circle Karate Club at the start of the year. A National Karate Champion, Adam brought together a group of teenagers and fellow friends from Shalhevet to train and teach kids with special needs at his father’s dojo.
In his acceptance speech, Adam noted how martial arts, particularly Karate, is scientifically proven to boost the performance of kids with special needs as well as their confidence. He reflected on the satisfaction and fulfilment he has felt from watching the physical and emotional growth of participants.
Leadership awards were also presented to Maddie Appel and Lauren Katz, seniors at Windward School, who received the Spirit of Friendship Award for their dedicated four year friendship to Shauna, a child with cerebral palsy.
Guests enjoyed a spirited Fellowship Award Ceremony where 23 students received the prestigious Fellowship Award for their extraordinary commitment to volunteering and for enhancing their knowledge in the field of special education. Awards were present by Dr Gil Graff, executive director of Builders of Jewish Education and Dr Kimberley Schwartz, Milken Upper School Principal.
Guests heard from Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy, Executive Director of the Friendship Circle and parent of Friendship Circle participant, as well as founder and spiritual leader of Maayon Yisroel, Rabbi Reuven Wolf.
A highlight of the evening was a video profiling volunteers and the impact Friendship Circle has had on their High School years titled, “A Salute To Young Leadership”.
Mrs Miriam Rav-Noy, program director at the Friendship Circle concluded the evening with a message to volunteers. “You are the voice and visionaries of children with special needs”, said Rav-Noy. “Use your experiences and all you have learned to promote acceptance and inclusion.”