Friendship Circle: Creating Connections for Everyone
Brandon is a seventh-grader who plays the clarinet and wants nothing more than to perform on stage in a musical theater production. Outgoing and full of excitement, Brandon loves spending time with friends, especially his friend Rebecca. He and Rebecca met at The Friendship Circle of Dallas, an organization dedicated to helping children and young adults with special needs to become more fully integrated into the broader community. Brandon may live with an intellectual disability, but his friendship with Rebecca has connected him with a supportive social group he loves.
Rebecca, a high school junior at Yavneh Academy of Dallas, first heard about Friendship Circle through a fellow student. “We are always looking for teens who want to help make our city more inclusive,” said Leah Dubrawsky, Friendship Circle’s Director/Program Coordinator. “Rebecca really followed through, and now she’s a member of our Student Leadership Board!” The Friendship Circle in Dallas began in 2015, modeled after the national Friendship Circle programming. With roots in the Jewish community, Friendship Circle is open to anyone who would like to participate.
Rebecca meets Brandon at his home once a week to hang out, play games, and listen to music. “I was looking for a hands-on way to volunteer and I found that at Friendship Circle,” Rebecca shared. “I am making a real change in the world, and Brandon and his parents have made me a part of their family.” Rebecca plans to pursue a degree in psychology or education after graduation, focusing on youth programs.
Friendship Circle also offers a Sunday Circle meet-up, open to all 40 student volunteers and their friends. “Sunday Circle offers a bit of respite for parents of kids with special needs and social differences, and siblings are always welcome” said Leah. Sundays are filled with fun activities like baking, playing music, and martial arts where students with special needs have a safe place to socialize.
“When Brandon was younger, it was easier to schedule play-dates, but now that he is older it has gotten more difficult,” shared Allison, Brandon’s mom. Friendship Circle has been the perfect solution for her outgoing son to learn new things and build real relationships. Friendship Circle also plans plenty of outings throughout the year, like bowling, bumper cars, and an upcoming kick-off party at a local water park.
Leah’s passion for connecting with friends who have special needs started when she was a student at her own small, Jewish high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Two students in her class had special needs and Leah always wanted to make sure everyone felt included. Leah then worked for her local Friendship Circle before moving to Dallas with her husband. “Dallas didn’t have a Friendship Circle, and everyone needs a friend,” Leah said. So in 2015, Leah and her husband Levi started the Dallas organization.
With several years of consistent programming under its belt, Friendship Circle is now looking to expand. New programs on the horizon include a program for young adults with plenty of group activities out in the city, as well as Junior Friends, a program for toddlers with hands-on play times.
If you are interested in volunteering with Friendship Circle or making a donation, you can sign up on their website. And at Friendship Circle, everyone is a volunteer because everyone has friendship to give!
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