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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

20 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!

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.

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.

Joyce10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

the Friendship Circle of San Diego is an amazing organization. It helps children/teens/adults with special needs have a non-judgemental friend. They are one of the most caring groups I have even been associated with.

Ann_20

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization has provided not only our 14 year old son but my husband and I an opportunity to help our community with special needs. The organization is one of the best groups I have ever been associated with. It has wonderful outings and I can see all people are treated with restpect.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The organization provides an excellent opportunity for children with special needs to be included in various activities. It is very beautiful to see how the children interact and they grow on experiences. Having someone to be with means more to them then anything else and the Friendship Circle creates that environment.

Zander C.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This organization helped me understand how valuable my life is. I volunteer with a family with 3 autistic children--seeing how they go through life with such a struggle to do basic tasks it humbles me that i take these actions for granted.

Suzanne21

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle ("FC") is an organization that shows its sensitivity from all who are involved for the disabled child and adult. FC, through those who work and volunteer for it, is a friendly, helpful and really amazing organization that gives the disabled a reason d'etre. It enhances their lives, and gives the children and adults a way to have fun and know more than living with their disability. It shows them a way to have fun and be positive with their disability. I have found those who are involved with this wonderful organization to be the most senstive, positive and kind people and am very happy to be associated with them. Not only has this organization changed the lives of the disabled children and adults, but it has changed the lives of the volunteers as well, all for the better.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Working as a volunteer for the friendship circle is such a rewarding experience, I love seeing how happy the children get when they meet their "friend" for the day. Volunteering here for the last 2 years has been a great experience.