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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

1 Story from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters



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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