Friendship Circle 2K Set for Sept. 10
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Friendship Circle 2K Set for Sept. 10

The walk and a carnival afterward will raise money and awareness for the special-needs program.

Rabbi Yale New and Rickelle New lead Friendship Circle of Atlanta.
Rabbi Yale New and Rickelle New lead Friendship Circle of Atlanta.

Friendship Circle of Atlanta is holding its Walk4Friendship, its biggest annual fundraiser, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody.

Friendship Circle’s goal is to raise $100,000 through donations associated with the 2K walk, which will be followed by a free carnival with activities such as bungee jumping, rock climbing and a petting zoo.

The walk, just under 1¼ miles, is meant to embody Friendship Circle’s philosophy of celebrating the intrinsic value of everyone for who that individual is and what he or she can offer.

Unlike the attitude toward children with special needs 40 years ago, when they were pushed toward institutionalization, or 10 years ago, when “inclusion” became the hot term, Friendship Circle doesn’t think people with differences should be “accommodated” or “allowed” to participate.

Instead, they should be part of a supportive community that gives them the chance to thrive and shine.

“When you take a peep into the program, you have no idea who has special needs and who is volunteering,” one parent said. “It looks like just a bunch of kids hanging out and having a good time.”

Friendship Circle said 150 volunteers and 70 families with special needs are beneficiaries of the year-round programs.

Every program has a typical teen paired with an individual with special needs so everyone can get undivided attention and so genuine friendships can flourish.

Rachel Gray, who is in her 20s and has Down syndrome, was amazed that “these volunteers, who I never knew, they became my best friends. I never thought they would make me laugh and smile, but they do.”

Under the leadership of Rickelle New and Rabbi Yale New, the nonprofit organization is offering the only formal Jewish learning for people with special needs in Georgia, Friendship Circle’s Jewish Experiential Learning Program.

Other programs include Friends@Home visits, Jewish holiday events, a cooking club and Zumba.

What: Walk4Friendship
Where: Brook Run Park, 4770 N. Peachtree Road, Dunwoody
When: 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10

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