Real Life Heroes
I love when my family life and work life sometimes collide. Around this time last year, my son Adam was searching for a service project in honor of his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. He wanted to work directly with children, but at age 12, the options were limited. Which is how we happened upon The Friendship Circle, a nonprofit offering social interaction for special needs Jewish youth with their typically developing peers.
Adam began by volunteering with the Birthday Program. With no prior training, he was paired up with another boy who had autism at a local gymnastics facility. (Their philosophy - “I don’t need to train you how to be a friend.”) Walking to the car after that first experience, Adam shared, "It was really hard, but I want to do it again.”
I started emailing with the director, Chana Kaplan, and after her noticing my company's name in my email signature, said, “We need to talk.” The 10th anniversary of their organization was coming up and they wanted to celebrate in a big way.
When I say that I love what I do, part of the reason is getting to know real life heroes who do great things in the world.Chana & Mendel Kaplan have created a program that is truly life-changing for everyone involved – from the children with special needs who would not have many friends if it weren’t for this program, to their more typical peers, who often choose related careers after this experience.
As part of their anniversary video, we featured a family with a teenage daughter who not only has autism, but also has severe Crohn’s disease. Hearing her parents talk about how this organization has changed their lives was truly inspiring.
The real heroes of this story aren’t just the families and volunteers, but Chana and Mendel, who saw a need in the community and decided to do something about it.