Tag Archives: Friendship Circle

dino on wheels

Dylan Yates’ ‘DINOmite’ Artwork Adorns Royal Oak Parking Meters

dinos meter
For a humble, quiet-mannered artist who isn’t fond of the spotlight, Dylan Yates and his dinosaur-themed artwork sure are getting lots of attention.

And the City of Royal is grateful for that.

Dylan, an artist since the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio opened in 2016, was commissioned by his hometown to create vibrant-colored wraps for the city’s parking meters.

“A few years ago, the city added bike hitches to the meters in downtown Royal Oak and no one noticed them,” says Judy Davids, community engagement specialist for the City of Royal Oak. “We knew we had to make the meters pop so we came up with the idea to wrap them in art.”

A former editor of Royal Oak Patch, Davids was familiar with Dylan’s artwork and knew he’d be perfect for the job.

“I love his use of color and his playful images,” she added.

After Davids reached out to the Yates family – and they got the green light for funding from the city’s art commission – the project got rolling.

Dinos on Wheels

dino on wheels
Deciding on a design for his drawing wasn’t easy for the 24-year-old, says his mom, Donna Yates.

At first, Dylan – who has been enthralled with dinosaurs since childhood – wasn’t convinced his muse would pair well with the cycling theme.

“Dinosaurs don’t work with bicycles,” Dylan told his mom.

But with a little coaching – and lots of encouragement — from Soul Studio creative director Adam LaVoy, he soon changed his mind.

A Google search turned up images that helped Dylan formulate his own vision.

“Showing instead of telling makes all the difference in the world,” says Adam.
Then, the young artist quickly went to work.

Dylan drew 10 to 12 different dinosaur images, each one in a matter of minutes.

Working side by side, the pair scanned Dylan’s drawings into the computer and used graphic design software to select colors and arrange patterns. The result: bold, brightly colored dinos riding a variety of bicycles and unicycles set against a beautiful turquoise background with subtle images of prehistoric leaves.

Dylan’s design was a hit, his mom says, and the wraps caught the eyes of passers-by within minutes of being permanently affixed to 10 city meters last spring.

Artistic Dynamo

The project – and Friendship Circle — have helped her shy, unassuming son gain the confidence he needs to take his artistic gift to the next level. Up until he joined the Soul Studio, Dylan hadn’t really fancied himself an artist – even though his emerging talent indicated otherwise.

“It’s been demonstrated throughout his life that art was his strength,” says Donna, adding that he studied visual imaging and fine art in high school.

“He used to say he was a paleontologist who does art,” says Donna. But today he proudly exclaims: “I’m an artist!
“He owns it now.”

And, she says, the Soul Studio has given Dylan so much more than a chance to explore his gift.

“He’s gained confidence, self-esteem, social skills, peer interaction and is building relationships,” she says. “It’s art – but
it’s all those other things that we all need.”

You can spot Dylan’s Dinos near the following Royal Oak landmarks: Beruit Palace, Blaze, Ewe Nique Knits, Hermann’s, Burn Rubber, Noodles, AE Salon, Rock on Third, City Hall and Andiamo restaurant.

Story by Holly Griffin

Walk for Friendship

5 things to know about the 2017 Walk4Friendship

The 11th annual Walk4Friendship is set for Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. Here are 5 things you need to know about this year’s can’t-miss Friendship Circle fundraiser:

1. THERE’S A NEW ROUTE
This year’s route is roughly 1.4 miles and will start at the West Bloomfield Township hall, 4550 Walnut Lake Road, and end at Friendship Circle’s Farber Center, 5586 Drake Road.

Registration and T-shirt pickup will begin at 10 a.m., and the opening ceremony will start at 11:30 a.m. The walk will kick off at 11:45. The festivities at the finish line will run from noon-3 p.m.

2. PLENTY OF PARKING
All parking will be at Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield. We strongly suggest you arrive at the Temple Israel parking lot by 10:30 a.m. to ensure you don’t miss the opening ceremony.

Wheelchair accessible parking: Wheelchair accessible parking will be in a designated area of the Temple Israel parking lot. Please let the parking attendant know that you need wheelchair accessible parking when you arrive. Wheelchair accessible shuttles will transport you to the opening ceremony and back to your car once the walk is over. Shuttles will leave every 30 minutes, at the top and bottom of every hour.

3. CONVENIENT SHUTTLES WILL BE AVAILABLE
To the opening ceremony: Shuttles will transport participants from Temple Israel to the township hall starting at 10 a.m. and will run regularly until the walk starts (approximately 11:45 a.m.).

To the Farber Center: Fifteen minutes after the walk begins, supporters who prefer not to walk can take a shuttle directly to the Farber Center, where they can cheer on family and friends!

NOTE: All those who do not require wheelchair accessible accommodations will need to walk back to the Temple Israel lot when the event concludes. There will be no shuttles for walkers. It’s a five-minute walk from the Farber Center.

4. THERE’LL BE UNFORGETTABLE ENTERTAINMENT
The Walk4Friendship promises plenty of fun for the entire family. Entertainment offerings include:

  • The SkyRiders! Trampoline Show featuring death-defying stunts by Guinness Book of World Records holder and three-time national trampoline champion Ken Kovach and his team.
  • The Real McCoy Show, an interactive, all-ages variety performance by Brent McCoy. The show combines Brent’s best circus stunts, lightning-quick wit and lots of audience involvement for a rollicking comic experience.
  • A 28-foot-high zipline that’s sure to give you the ride of your life!
  • A Segway obstacle course to test your skills.
  • The Fuse 45 Ski & Rowing Challenge, where the participant with the best record wins a prize.
  • Bounce houses and an inflatable sports arena featuring the most popular games.
  • Mini NASCAR and monster truck racing courses.
  • A craft workshop sponsored by Home Depot.

5. COME HUNGRY!
There will be festival flavors galore, including:

  • Fresh popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy from the famous Detroit Popcorn Co.
  • Hot dogs with choice of toppings, coleslaw, vegetarian chili and watermelon from Epic Kosher.

Don’t miss out! Register today!

‘Horsing Around’ at Friendship Circle Day Camp

Every Monday this summer, a trailer rumbled up the driveway of our West Bloomfield campus, delivering some tried and true special friends to Friendship Circle Day Camp. Peanut and Bailey, two tame and tolerant horses, joined us each week to provide our students with a unique experience.

“We have a couple of kids who spent the first three Mondays working up the courage to get on the horse. When they did, they were pretty proud of themselves,” says Catie Quinn, Friendship Circle’s camp director and program manager. “It helps some of our children get over their fear with animals. It helps them build confidence; it’s such a great feeling to be up high on a horse and to work with an animal.”

The horses come to Friendship Circle courtesy of Sandy Simmons, a private horse owner who brings along feedbags, hay, water and a practice saddle for the kids who need it.

The students get to brush and pet the horses and ride them along the wooded access trail on our property, with help from six to eight volunteers. Each ride lasts about 20 – 30 minutes.

Jaden, 10, and Cameron, 9, are two of our most confident and enthusiastic riders.

“They just love the horses and they get super excited about it,” says Quinn.

Research shows that riding horses can bring cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits to people with special needs. Scientific research continues to expand our knowledge of equine sentience — their extraordinary abilities of perception, cogntion, memory and even emotions, notes the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International.

Horses are the most popularly used animal for therapy because they have the ability to respond immediately and provide feedback to the rider’s actions, and they can mirror the rider’s emotions, according to the website Equestrian Therapy.

This is the third summer we’ve offered horseback riding at our camp, which serves 23 children ages 5 – 13. We are grateful to Sandy for bringing Peanut and Bailey to camp each week, and we know it meant a lot to our kids.

Cooking Up Kitchen Skills

On the last day of the winter session of the Cooking program, I walked into the multipurpose room in the basement of Friendship Circle and I saw staff members setting up five round tables. They were laying out platters of brightly colored fruit that had been cut into bite sizes and they had stacks of paper plates, wood skewers, bowls, napkins and plasticware already set out in the center of each round table. On the rectangular tables in the back of the room, where the kids and their family visitors were crowding around the craft tables, I saw blank canvas bags and markers. As the kids sat down and used the markers to decorate the bags, I found Robin Danto, the program’s facilitator, standing up in the front of the room next to the handwritten schedule on a large white board.  I asked her to tell me about the weekly schedule and Cooking Program overall.

Robin Danto during program

Robin Danto watching cooking participants make fruit kabobs.

Weekly Checklist

Danto explained that the Cooking program focuses on kitchen skills; like mixing, measuring and nutrition.  They also learn kitchen safety; like the importance of cleanliness and hand washing.

Wash hands before preparing food

Hand washing before preparing food.

Every week there is a specific menu with a lesson for the group to learn and a craft that correlates to that lesson. The kids come in and sit down to work on the craft, then they move onto food prep and after the food is prepared, they eat it.  Once they have eaten and cleaned up, the group comes together to make a graph of the week. For example, when they tried the different colored bell peppers a few weeks ago for the “taste the rainbow” lesson, the group graphed who liked the red peppers more than green peppers. The craft for the same lesson was a bracelet with colored beads to represent all of colors that should be included in every meal.

I spoke with Stacy Larson, the mother of Conner Larson, one of the kids in the program.  I asked her about her son’s experience in Cooking. She said, “He hadn’t told me about the crafts, he mostly tells me about the food. He is into the food!  He tells me what he made, what he ate, what he tried and what he liked and didn’t like. This is his most favorite thing to do of the whole week!”

Looking at recipe book

Stacy, Conner and volunteer look at the recipes that the group made during the six weeks

Exploring new tastes, textures and skills

For the final meal of the winter session, the group made fruit kabobs served with marshmallow dip.  “They’re going to have to choose the fruits and put them on a skewer and then they’re going to have to mix up the dip. It’s made with marshmallow fluff, milk and cream cheese. They will measure out the ingredients and mix it up and then they get eat it. That is probably their favorite part.” Danto explained when I asked her about the day’s activities.

Cooking Program fruit kabobs

Special Needs Coordinator, Jenna Simard, with program participants

Measuring, mixing and trying new things are all skills that the kids in the cooking program are challenged to do, but Larson explained that isn’t all Conner gets from the program.  “He’s excited about the cooking and trying new foods, but what he’s learned is, following directions. It’s good for his math and number awareness because they have to follow numbers and he’s not been very great with numbers, so this helps.” Larson said.

Recipes for Kids

Conner looking at recipe book

Conner Larson looking at his recipe book

The program coordinator put together books of all of the recipes that the kids had made during the session.  As he flipped through his book of recipes, I asked Conner to tell me what he had made this year. “Everything in my book really.” He replied.

“What was your favorite?” I asked.

“This was my favorite!” He exclaimed while pointing to the Oatmeal and Fruit recipe.  Then he flipped the page to next recipe and said, “I like all of them.”

On the other side of the room, I found Galia Avramov and her children. Her daughter, Ariana or Ari, is in the Cooking program and today the family came to see what she has learned and see her get her certificate. When I asked Avramov what Ariana had learned in the program, she said, “She brings home some of the things she makes here and then she tries them with her brother. They try different things on weekends. They like to cook breakfast together. They made omelettes last weekend and it was perfect! They really enjoy doing it together.”

Making Fruit kabobs

Ariana Avramov and her brother making fruit kabobs alongside Robin Danto.

A Successful Session   

Danto said, “I think we’ve had a lot of successes. The students have been enthusiastic for the most part and have learned a lot. They have gone out of their comfort zone and tried new things; whether it be herbs that they’ve never tasted or vegetables. They really have found somethings that they like and never thought that they would ever even try. So it’s been very successful this year.”

Cooking Program winter session 2016 group photo

Cooking Program winter session 2016 group photo

This winter session met once a week for six weeks and the kids in the program made six crafts, had six lessons on food and safety and they made six meals. On the last day of the program each child received a certificate to commemorate their accomplishment, they were given a recipe book with all of the recipes they made during the session and they were each given a portioned dinner plate to remind them that half of their plate should be fruits and vegetables at every meal.  

If you are interested to learning more about our programs please visit www.friendshipcircle.org/programs to see what we offer.    

Bakery Skills participants working

Bakery Skills program teaches employable skills

Walk into the Jewish Community Center on a Thursday evening and you can smell the baking challah bread wafting from the catering kitchen. That means the Friendship Bakery is in action!

The Friendship Bakery is a transitional program which is dedicated to preparing its participants for securing and maintaining a job in the community, specifically within the restaurant business.

Let us introduce you to Alexa Morris, Jordan Weinfeld and Ben Nadis, all of whom were involved with Friendship Circle when they were younger and are now participants in the Bakery Skills program.

Weinfeld heard about the opportunity with Friendship Bakery from his connections in Friendship Circle. “I gave it a try and I think it’s just the best thing I ever did because it gave me a perspective on a way to live and way to see others for who they are. I really like that about the Friendship Bakery.” Weinfeld said.

There are three areas of this program and each section offers different levels of hands on learning depending on the skill and ability of the participant. The first section is dough prep. In dough prep the participants follow a recipe and weigh, measure and add the ingredients to create and prep the dough for the next section. Baking actually takes place in the second section and participants are responsible for applying the egg wash to the dough, putting the dough in the oven, setting a timer and pulling the bread out when it is done. In the third section the participants sell the baked Challah to customers and receive a small commission for each loaf they sell.

Weinfeld has been in the bakery program since 2013 and has worked all three areas of the program. His experience and expertise have put him in a position to be a leader to others in the program. He encourages his fellow participants and assists with questions and issues that may arise during the process. “We learn those skills here, how to bake. I think it is a really great skill to have. It shows people that we can do things and that we’re capable and that we’re so much more than people give us credit for. I think it is a wonderful thing for the community and us to do and I’m really proud to be here!” Weinfeld said.

This program meets weekly and takes place in a professional kitchen. The participants acquire skills such as measuring, identification of ingredients, correct use of equipment, kitchen safety and cleanliness and basic business management.

“What I like about the program is that I’ve learned different skills. I learned how to braid, how to weigh and be a team player and help people if they need my help.” Nadis explained. “If I keep doing this, I might actually work in a bakery one day, if I decide too.”

In the kitchen, Ben is breaking eggs into a pitcher

Ben breaking eggs for the Dough Prep

Alexa Morris came to the Bakery Skills program because of her history with Friendship Circle and she discovered a passion for cooking. She took the skills she learned in the program and found employment in a professional kitchen. “[This program] has helped me learn more about weighing and measurement. You need to know about those things when you are in a real kitchen. I started working at a kitchen, that has also helped me a lot too. It’s another step [toward] being more independent. It’s helped me gain the understanding of where that level can be.”

Friendship Bakery participant Alexa is reading recipe

Alexa Morris reading recipe

If you are interested in learning more about the Bakery Skills program or you would like to help support it, you can read more about it here: www.friendshipcircle.org/bakery.

The Journey Never Ends: My Final Blog Post (for now)

Editors Note: Max is a 20-year-old college student who just so happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome. He is an intern at the Friendship Circle of Michigan and has been a part of the organization since 2004.

I have said it before to you, my audience, that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of eight, in October of 2004, following my participation in a study at Detroit Children’s Hospital.

In the past twelve years this piece of myself has shifted and changed so many times, that I cannot begin to guess how many. I’ve been through more than someone my age should have to go through and my family will vouch this statement, although my life pales in comparison to so many people I have met, both on the Autism spectrum and off it.

For so long I tried to push this part of myself away. I convinced myself that having Asperger’s would be an obstacle blocking my path to achieving my goals. In my own self-hatred, I lashed out at my brother Gabriel, in a misguided attempt to perhaps give him a better chance at succeeding in life than I had.

I still find myself subconsciously judging him, as well as others I have met on the spectrum. It has taken me much internal reflection and soul-searching to accept myself and him. In my teen years, the weight I carried increased with additional diagnoses of depression, at age thirteen, and anxiety, at age sixteen. All of that combined with the stress I faced in high school I was beyond overwhelmed.

Throughout all of this, all the insanity and madness that pervades this world, there have been very few constant things in my life. One of those happens to be the Friendship Circle.  When I took on this position, as an intern assisting with creating written content, I remarked to my family that I really had come full circle (pun intended).

Shortly after my diagnosis (the first one, in 2004) we became involved with the organization and I attended the Friendship Circle winter camp that December. Throughout my childhood I would participate in multiple programs including: Friends at Home, Friends at Lifetown and Karate, and I would walk with my family in the annual Walk 4 Friendship.  We participated in the walk every from it’s inception in 2005 until 2012, when school began to get in the way. I know everyone here very well and I credit them with helping me to become the man I am today.

The Granitz/Fogel/Zussman Walk team, 2007.

Me at 12 years old, camera in hand, ready to capture the world around me.

(Left to right) Noah, Gabriel, our mom, DeAnna, then me- October 2008.

I will be honest. It is very bittersweet to reflect on the last twelve years. It feels as if they have flown by at an impossible pace. Back then, I struggled to get through the day at school. I was very shy and after hearing the words “he has autism”, and learning what they meant, I could not hope to envision a scenario where all my dreams could still come true.

Now, I’m about to enter my third year in college. I’ve traveled essentially alone to New York City, most of Western Europe, and Israel. I’ve been published three times in a literary journal and twice by an international online publication platform. I’m on my way to becoming a full-fledged writer!

If you said to me even five years ago that this would be my life, I would have never believed you. I could only dream of my future back then. The dreams that I held onto seemed as inconsequential and incorporeal as a wisp of smoke. Now, I’m living that future I wanted so desperately. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s more than I could have ever hoped for.

I took this on the train bound for Toronto, just a few weeks ago. It is still surreal to me that I am 20 years old.

I owe much of it to the support I received over the course of these twelve years from the wonderful staff here at the Friendship Circle and the volunteers who spent countless hours with me. When I was younger, the highlight of my week was coming to the Friendship Circle and participating in Friends at Lifetown, as well as Karate.

For a while I resisted it, but I realized that it was doing me good, so I stayed with it; it paid off in the end because I learned skills that would come to benefit me years later.

The title is, sadly, accurate. For the foreseeable future, I will be unable to continue contributing to the blog when I return to school. This experience has been invaluable. I have learned so much in these twelve weeks. Thank you to everyone for the incredible responses and feedback you have given.

Not only did I have the opportunity to return to a place that holds so many happy memories for me to provide resources to parents of and individuals with special needs, but I have noticed a growth in my skill as a writer as well.
This is Max Granitz, signing off.
“Good night, and good luck.”

Walk4Friendship

5 Things you Need to Know About Walk4Friendship 2016

This year marks our 11th annual Walk4Friendship. We have some exciting new changes this year and these are the things you need to know. Please take a minute to read the following carefully and share this information with your family and friends via email and Facebook.

1. New Location, Same amount of space!

This year, the walk will be starting in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center at 6600 W. Maple Road and ending at the Farber Center. While Some have expressed concerns that the Farber Center will not have adequate space to hold all walk participants. We can assure you that there will be plenty of room. Please check out the graphic below as it will show the space we will be using at this year’s walk.

2. New Time

Please note that there is a new starting time for the walk. To avoid the mid-day sun and hungry stomachs at the opening ceremony everything will start one hour earlier.

  • 10:30 AM: Registration for the walk begins.
  • 11:30 AM: Opening Ceremonies in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center.
  • 11:50 AM: Walk4Friendship Begins.
  • 12:00-3:00 PM: Post-Walk entertainment at the Farber Center.

3. New Walk Route

Due to the new location, there will be a new walk route. The new route will depart from the JCC parking lot (north east side) and head north on Drake road for a just shy of a one mile walk to the Farber Center. Due to the new location and for logistical reasons we will not be having a 5K walk route this year. We do hope to bring back the 5K option for future walks.

4. Parking Information

Parking is at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital: 6777 West Maple Rd, between Halsted Rd and Drake Rd. Shuttles to the JCC will start at 10am. Be sure to arrive by 10:30am to be assured of an on-time arrival for the walk start (11:50am).

Returning to your cars from the Farber Center

Shuttles will run from the carnival to the parking area at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital starting at 12:30pm and running about every 30 minutes until 3pm.

Wheelchair accessible parking

Wheelchair accessible parking will be at the JCC (Drake Parking Lot). Wheelchair accessible shuttles will transport you to the JCC and bring you back to your vehicle after the event.  Only vehicles that have registered for wheelchair accessible parking will be allowed to park at the JCC parking lot. Please visit the Walk4Friendship webpage for specific information on Wheelchair accessible parking.

5. More tents to keep out of the sun

We are preparing for warm weather so you don’t have to sweat out a 90-degree day! We are doubling the amount of tent space available and the Farber Center Banquet Hall will be open as well.

 

Have questions? Make sure to contact Walk4Friendship Support.

Need to register for Walk4Friendship? Make sure to register at www.walk4friendship.com/register

We have a whole new lineup of new activities for this year’s Walk4Friendship. Visit walk4friendship.com/Entertainment to check out all of the new activities.

Friendship Circle Farber Center opens helping adults with special needs

Many adults with special needs find themselves socially isolated and without an outlet or employment. Our friends from The Friendship Circle are woking to change that with the opening of the new Friendship Circle Farber Center. At the new center is the Soul Cafe and event space, where 40 percent of the employees have special needs. The Soul Cafe is a state of the art Kosher restaurant, which is opened from 7a – 3pm Sunday – Friday for breakfast and lunch with both inside and outside seating. The public can come and eat, but a reservation is recommended

Read more

Soul Satisfaction: Michigan Friendship Circle Opens Arts Studio and Cafe

At the Farber Soul Center, there is no shortage of “A-ha!” moments. For Noah Sriro, 24, who works in the Soul Cafe, it’s the joy of his very first tip—tangible recognition for a job well done. For facilitating staff artist Carolyn Morris, it’s the joy that comes when a fledgling artist discovers he can weave a scarf in a pattern of his own design. For volunteer artist Lori Champagne, it’s the joy of introducing an artist to a new technique and watching the creativity flow. And for parents of young adults with special needs, it’s having a place where their sons and daughters can go to learn new skills and take pride in their accomplishments.

Read more

Volunteer Recognition Event

Game Changers: A Volunteer Recognition Event Recap

On Monday, May 23, the Friendship Circle and its members gathered at the Berman Theater in the Jewish Community Center, in West Bloomfield, Michigan, to honor the countless volunteers who have given their time over the last year.

The event was attended by well over four hundred people, including families, volunteers, local community members, and Friendship Circle supporters. Opening remarks were given by Friendship Circle parent Valerie Lane, who reflected on her experiences being the mother of a daughter with special needs.

Friendship Circle parent and opening speaker Valerie Lane.

The theme of the event was “Game Changers”… how the Friendship Circle and its staff have changed the status quo for people with special needs, giving them new opportunities, and the respect they deserve.

Rabbi Yarden Blumstein.

Teen Volunteer Coordinator Rabbi Yarden Blumstein.

Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, Teen Volunteer Coordinator, spoke next. He discussed how the idea of game changers relates to the Biblical tale of the receiving of the Torah, how the Israelites had to wait fifty days to finally receive it. People with special needs have had to wait years to be respected by the world at large, and the Friendship Circle has helped to bring that day closer to the present.

Friendship Circle co-founder Rabbi Levi Shemtov.

Rabbi Levi Shemtov, co-founder of the organization, spoke about the founding of Friendship Circle twenty-one years ago. Originally, he and his wife, fellow co-founder Bassie Shemtov, personally drove teen volunteers to the homes of children with special needs. The waiting list to become a volunteer grew over time, and by 2005, they had a space of their own where volunteers and their matched “friends” could interact with one another.

Honored teen volunteers who had logged 50, 100, 150, 200 or more hours at Friendship Circle.

Teen Volunteer Presidents being recognized at the event.

Teen volunteers were honored based on the number of hours they had put in with Friendship Circle, as well as male and female Presidents of the Volunteer Club.

Honoring Ed Krass

Ed Krass, an adult volunteer was given a special honor, including a short film about his life, and the gift of a monogrammed sports jacket reading “Coach Ed”. Ed has been the sports instructor for the Friendship Circle since 2010, following a lengthy career in sports education in public schools. He spoke about how, after retirement from education, he was unsure where his life would go. He found a new purpose in the Friendship Circle, and continuing to work with kids.

Remembering Alex Bruni

The night was not without tears shed. Last year, Alex Bruni, a long-time Friendship Circle volunteer with aspirations of attending medical school passed away. His sister spoke of his kindness, his “contagious smile”, and his generosity.

Friendship Circle co-founder Bassie Shemtov then recalled how, years ago, Alex had been paired with Danny, a friend who had had difficulty connecting with his volunteers. However, when paired with Alex, Bassie remembers how he began to grow and develop under Alex’s guidance. After Alex’s death, Bassie brought Danny to the Friendship Circle to add his touch to a plaque honoring his and Alex’s friendship, and immediately Danny recalled his favorite volunteer.

brian kavanaugh - IMG_6860

Friendship Circle. co-founder Bassie Shemtov and the Bruni family.

Bassie presented the Bruni family with a memorial plaque to be placed in a table at the Friendship Circle’s new Soul Cafe.

Gamechanger Anthony Ianni

The event ended with a speech from the only person with autism to ever play Division I college basketball, Anthony Ianni, an alumnus of Michigan State University and motivational speaker.

brian kavanaugh - IMG_6894

Former Big Ten basketball player and motivational speaker Anthony Ianni.

He spoke of his experiences growing up having autism, and how, as a child, no one believed he would amount to anything. He attended Grand Valley State University for two years, before accepting a scholarship to play basketball at MSU. He now travels the country speaking about his life.