A multitude of smiling kids dressed in costumes filled Friendship Circle of Los Angeles’ “Purim on the Farm” event. The celebration stayed true to Friendship Circle’s continuously innovative holiday programs by providing a variety of fun activities, such as the Megillah reading, arts & crafts, and an obstacle course.
Friendship Circle’s one-of-a-kind playground featured a petting zoo with a llama, goat, tortoise, rabbits, geese, and hens. The pure joy on the kids’ faces as they played with the animals was an incredible sight. One child ecstatically told his father, “I am having too much fun, I want to stay here forever!”
Teen volunteer Yaakov Sobel could also be found outside, while vigilantly watching over his buddy. Sobel, who has been a Friendship Circle volunteer for four years, discussed his devotion to the organization. He said, “I feel like I’m making a difference and an impact on these kids’ lives and I love to watch them grow over time. The child I am working with right now wasn’t able to talk, walk around, or put his shoes on his own and now he is able to do a lot more.”
9th grader Maya Rosen, who has been volunteering since the 5th grade, also commended Friendship Circle for making every moment special for the kids. She mentioned how Friendship Circle has taught her to be tolerant and to see the best in everyone. Rosen explained, “Even though children with special needs may have difficulty expressing themselves, they are still just like everyone else.”
Fellow volunteer Schiffy Rav-Noy concurred, while adding that working with the children, “teaches [the volunteers] not to judge people so quickly and to have more patience. This has the power to make you a better person.”
Friendship Circle’s main room was transformed into a farm-themed heaven. Cowboy hats and bandanas hung from the ceiling and each table had barnyard decoration pieces. Parents, kids, and volunteers gathered together to enjoy a fantastic “farm fresh” buffet, while watching Rabbi Michy’s live concert.
Photos: Shimmy Lautman
FC board member and parent to a daughter with special needs, Raizy Brief was another attendee at the Purim celebration. She too praised FC for always trying to use every opportunity to maximize the experience for the children. “I think all the children love to come here and there is something for everybody, including the parents,” she said. Especially on the holidays, we love to get together because it feels like one nice beautiful family.”
Brief also acknowledged the impact FC has had on her daughter. “When [my daughter] comes here, she absorbs it all. When we go back home, she will take her play guitar and pretend like she’s playing music for hours. She rehashes everything she did at Friendship Circle. She always looks forward to coming here.”
As a former preschool teacher, Shelly Shapiro is now a dedicated volunteer at Friendship Circle and was also in attendance for the Purim festivities. Shapiro discussed how the warmth and love that everybody shares at FC instantly made her fall in love with the organization. Her daughter has now become a regular volunteer, while her entire family participated in the Walk4Friendship event. Shapiro explained, “I am a big believer in the idea of inclusion and unfortunately there is not a lot out there, but this place is structured so that all physical abilities can fit in. The quality is top notch and it’s really geared to help the families and the kids.”