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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Friendship Circle SD Inc

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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

3 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

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.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

This is an amazing organization that has done wonderful things for special needs children and adults! I was a special education teacher for 21 years and witnessed first hand, friendship does not come easy for people with special needs. Friendship Circle creates socially appropriate activities and events that are very specific to the population they serve. The "typical" teen volunteers encourage their matched "friend" to experience the activities at the event, at the same time fostering a friendship that often continues with home visits and an ongoing friendship that can last for years. Friendship Circle has changed the lives of both the volunteers and friends and has given children and adults with special needs someone and something to look forward to...........a social event and a friend!


Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Friendship Circle of SD has helped my brother who has a very rare syndrome emensly. Every time I speak with him, he tells me about the next activity or event coming up. Thanks to Friendship Circle, he now has a social, educational and stimulating schedule to keep him busy during evenings and weekends. This is very important to me, since I live in Europe and am unable to spend time with him myself. I am a program director of an international European non-profit organization. I have extensive experience with non-profit organizations, and I have been very impressed with how efficeint friendship circle is run both with focus on every detail of the programs themselves, the care for each individal involved, and in the meticulous budgeting of the organization. I feel confident when donating to Friendship Circle, because almost all resources are spent directly on providing programs. I wish it were possible to make more funds available to Friendship Circle which in turn would benefit more special needs children and provide them with more programing.