Do you remember being ten years old? I do – it was a wonderful year for me, in fact. It was the first time I remember being more aware of the outside world. Israel won the Six Day War shortly before my summer birthday, and as a new Young Judean, I was so proud. The Boston Red Sox were on their way to winning a pennant, something that hadn’t happened in almost twenty years. (My niece and nephew in Boston think it’s a normal thing for the Sox to win the whole thing!) I would have a fifth grade teacher who understood my need to read and let me go up to our elementary school library and pick my own books. I finally felt old enough to have my own opinions and was encouraged to think and speak for myself.
Well, I was at a party for a ten year old last night – The Friendship Circle is ten years old and we celebrated last night at NJPAC at the Annual Banquet. The evening honored two families who have been stalwart supporters of this “wonder child,” Sheree, Nathan, and Jennifer Mandelbaum and Howard and Betty Pantirer Schwartz and the 815 teen volunteers for The Friendship Circle who truly make it all happen. The Friendship Circle has a wide array of innovative programming that serves children and teens with special needs and their families. It is hard to believe how much has happened in such a short time. The most amazing number I heard last night however, was not the ten years of existence, but that in the course of the last ten years, over 3,450 teen volunteers have participated in sharing friendship with children and teens with special needs. This is an entire generation of young people who have been touched and now think differently about what it means to be a part of a community which includes people with special needs. I truly believe that Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum have changed how the entire MetroWest community thinks about children with special needs and their families. May they and The Friendship Circle go from strength to strength.
Happy birthday to a very special ten year old, making a real difference in the world!