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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services

Mission: The Friendship Circle's mission is to provide families who have children, teens, and young adults with special needs a full range of social and recreational experiences. At its heart is the belief that every individual, regardless of ability, can be a productive member of the community and benefit from the social support offered by one's peers. We hope that someday people with special needs will be fully included in society, replacing social isolation, bullying, and loneliness with acceptance, participation, and friendship. The Friendship Circle in San Diego held its first event in 2005, welcoming more than 20 program participants, their families and volunteers. Since then, Friendship Circle has grown to over 200 teen volunteers, 30 college-age volunteers, and 100 professional adult volunteers and serves over 100 families who have members with special needs. While medical research is finding cures for disease, the prevalence of disabilities is increasing.  Society is struggling to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities and there has been real progress.  The Americans with Disabilities Act, mainstreaming of students in classrooms, government agencies and national non-profit organizations are all working hard to level the playing field through legislation, funding, and health services.  But friendship is not on their “to do” list.  For The Friendship Circle, it is the ONLY thing on the “to do” list.

Results: We increase social skills and self-esteem of participants through one-on-one sessions with typically developing teens in the following activities: Friends@Home programs, Monthly Yoga Classes, Teen, Women's and Men's Clubs, Outings such as horse-back riding, Boomers, hiking, picnics, etc.

Target demographics: Children, teens, and young adults with developmental and other disabilities and their families living in San Diego County.

Direct beneficiaries per year: In the last seven years, over 300 families with children with special needs and 500 families of volunteers, for a total of over 2,000 people, have been involved with the Friendship Circle.

Geographic areas served: San Diego County

Programs: Friendship circle of san diego enriches the lives of children, teens and adults with special needs through social and recreational experiences and inspires volunteers to participate in building a stronger and more inclusive community

Community Stories

48 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

dfwellison

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a volunteer I get more than I give at the Friendship Circle. At an organized horseback riding event, a beautiful blonde young woman slipped off her horse, she was unharmed as there were trained professionals right next to her to break her fall. Frightened, crying, and sitting in the dust, she was carried back to her wheelchair. It had taken her so long to overcome come her first set of fears about the horse. Her Friendship Circle companion, a friend who has visited her once a week for two years, stood by her side. Ten minutes later the young blonde woman was back on the horse. She inspired me to try something new. I joined a writers group and whenever I feel like quitting, I remember her crying, her recovery and the large open smile of accomplishment when she rode around the rink, her friend at her side. Having been around Friendship Circle for 4 years, I now know that this experience is an everyday act of courage. It is a honor to be a part of such a compassionate and down to earth community.

Previous Stories

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been involved with Friendship Circle for six years. My daughter, who was fifteen at the time, became involved as a friend to a girl with special needs. She spoke about her experience with her new friend and expressed her initial frustration with this new relationship. Over time my daughter found ways to connect with her new friend, and in that process learned to be more patient, understanding, and accepting. I was so impressed with the level of organization of FC that I wanted to be a part of it. Experiencing their holiday celebrations, teen training, the support groups and education for parents, and the coordination of the children's participation in a myriad of activities, made me come to highly value this organization. I am now proud to be a board member of San Diego Friendship Circle.

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Alec2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i volunteeer and belong to freindship circle of chabad san diego ,california. i have asperger's but am hgihly functioning. Our group under the leadership of elisheva green, works with developmental disabled children and some adults and their families. though chabad is an orthodox jewish organization , jews and even some non-jews are welcomed and all are treated with respect and digiity and made to feel special. we have activites like painting,and making challah(jewsih bread) ,make crafts for passover,and chanukah, and purim ahving us learn abotu the holidays while using our hands and minds as well! we go to the zoo,and boomers(mini-golf and other activites), also we learn to work with one another and see that each of us are unique. Friendship circle provides a helathy environment for the families and participants in the program. For me i dont have a car and freidnship circle provides a inexpensvie way to spend time with other jews and feel a sense of belonging and family . the volunteers i work with our so cool too becuse they are patient and understanding and dont treat us like stupid children or intimidate us. being with them is like being with the kind of people who make you forget you have a disbility and feel you in a place where disability is not a llimiting factor where what ever we do be it singing or planting a tree,or particiapte in religious ceremony or drawing or painting or other crafts is appereciated. i wish the whole world was like Friendship circle and have made many real freidns they are great!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle is a great organization, it is always hosting fun activities for special need kids. All people there are so friebdly and willing to help.

Ellen25

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is developmentally delayed and was becoming very isolated. He began participating with Friendship Circle ans is doing activities every month. Great Job!

MichelleSD

Client Served

Rating: 5

This program offers wonderful socialization opportunities for my two teens with special needs. Matched with a "typical" volunteer, they participate in fun activities in the community several times a year. In addition, one volunteer raised funds for 3 iPads, and our family was lucky enough to be selected to receive one. It's made a huge difference for my kids!

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

My two children with (different) developmental disabilities LOVE Friendship Circle events. What a marvelous, well-run and caring program this is! I appreciate the opportunity for my children to engage in fun, appropriate activities with typically developing peers; the parent support and education component; and the welcome break from parenting responsibilities. What a joy to hand my children over to eager teen volunteers without any doubt they will have fun and be well cared for!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Friendship Circle provides a nurturing and a loving environment to children with special needs, as a volunteer I have become a better person, my son has learned many life long lessons by mentoring and working with this phenomenal organization.

Michoel P.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am the Dean of a private high school in San Diego. The service that the Friendship Circle provides to children with disabilities is incredible. As part of orientation, our school hosts two training sessions for volunteers for this wonderful organization. The impact that the Friendship Circle has on the families they help is life changing. Just as an example, a family that I have known for years has a daughter with Downs Syndrome. The skills that the Friendship Circle helped her learn, and the ability to connect with people outside of her family, enabled her to leave home and study in an advanced setting.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My Son and his friend went to an event a few months ago and are still talking about how much fun it was and even how much they learned. The only reason they haven't been back was conflict of the time when they could not get to the event.

paula-matthews

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle is a wonderful organization. It teaches compassion and understanding to its volunteers and it helps children and adults with special needs. It is an active organization in the community, one filled with love, respect and empathy. When my daughter volunteered for Friendship Circle I was able to see and appreciate the great work they do and the important services they provide.

Cheryl29

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My son has Tourettes Syndrome and knows what it is like to feel different. When he found out about the Friendship Circle he immediately became involved as a teen helping others who are a little different from the normal population. He just LOVES to help others. He has a kind,gentle heart and understands how it is to lead a slightly different life. He has two "special" friends that he visits every week and gives those children a feeling of normalcy for a few hours each week. It is a great relief to the parents to see their kids playing in a normal environment. The Friendship Circle gives back in every way. They are a very organized organization always going beyond their means to help others. This has been a life changing experience for my son. He looks forward to the weekend when he can be with the group at activities just to help others. We are thrilled to be a part of it.