Author Archives: Friendship Circle

Overnight Success: Friendship Circle Summer Camp Brings Fun and Community to Those in Isolation

Swimming, boating and a talent show were highlights at sleepaway camp at North Star Reach

Arts and crafts, boating, swimming and singing could all be found at Friendship Circle Summer Camp, Dedicated in Loving Memory of Jamey Moray z”l by Randy and Craig Rubin. With families facing social isolation due to COVID-19, the West Bloomfield-based nonprofit organized four one-week sessions of sleepaway camp for kids and adults with special needs.

Friendship Circle’s mission is to provide community, friendship and support — and families need it now more than ever. With families facing isolation more than ever due to COVID-19, Friendship Circle was determined to find a way to step up for families safely.

With expert guidance from Dr. Robert Stein, Friendship Circle designed the sleepaway camp with safety as the number one priority. Holding activities outdoors, wearing masks, and frequent screening for symptoms kept campers, staff and volunteers safe.

Charles Zwierzchowski, the parent to Brandon and Daniel, said the brothers had a fantastic time at summer camp and are already counting down the months until next year.

“Daniel hasn’t stopped talking about it now for close to a week. They enjoyed their volunteers, boat rides and everything else,” said Zwierzchowski. “He is already asking about next year and if he should pack his stuff now!”

Camp took place at North Star Reach in Pickney, Mich., a campground that normally offers camp for children with serious health challenges. Since those with more serious health challenges were unable to attend camp this year, North Star Reach teamed up with Friendship Circle to provide camp to those with special needs.

One parent began smiling and tearing up because it was the first time they had had a break in months, said Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, director of the camp. It was the first time in seven years that they were not with their child for a night. And for many campers, this is their first time sleeping away from home.

“The ability for that family to recharge before they head back into the unknown, that’s motivation for me,” said Blumstein. “This is more than just a fun camp, it’s a lifesaver for people.”

Faces & Places: Friendship Circle Holds Virtual Walk4Friendship to Raise Money For Children With Special Needs

Friendship Circle’s community of supporters and friends were “Apart But Close In Heart” Sept. 6 for the annual Walk4Friendship.

Because of COVID-19, the annual sea of purple seen winding through West Bloomfield gave way to smaller waves of walkers donning Friendship Circle’s signature tees, as individual teams walk through metro Detroit’s neighborhoods and parks, on the routes of their choosing.

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5 Things to Know About the 2020 Walk4Friendship

The 15th annual Walk4Friendship will take place on Sunday, Sept. 6. of Labor Day weekend. These are five things you need to know about this year’s virtual walk:

1. We’ll be apart but close in heart.

We’re doing things a little differently this year to make sure we all stay safe while having fun. On Sept. 6, we’re asking everyone to walk around your neighborhood, park, yard, treadmill, house or building while following social distancing guidelines.

Just because we are apart physically this year doesn’t mean that anyone should feel isolated in their home. This year’s Walk4Friendship will unite families in the community with the shared goal of spreading awareness and raising critical funds to support programming for kids and adults with special needs.

2. The opening ceremony will be live-streamed.

Tune-in on Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. for the Walk4Friendship virtual opening ceremony on Facebook. Get excited because there are lots of fun surprises in store!

We’re looking back on everything Friendship Circle has accomplished since going virtual in March. From virtual programs to Camp in a Box, Friendship Circle imagined new ways to end isolation and deliver joy and friendship for families.

You can watch the opening ceremony here.

3. We’re celebrating 15 years of Walk4Friendship.

Since Friendship Circle was founded in 1994 with only eight volunteers, our belief that each soul is equal and worthy of boundless love has stayed constant. Walk4Friendship has remained a critical fundraiser each year to support the FC mission of creating friendships in the lives of

individuals with special needs and those facing isolation through programming and other opportunities.

While this year will be a little different, we’re looking back on how Walk4Friendship has united families in the community each year.

4. Tie-dye is a big deal this year.

Walk4Friendship t-shirts came with tie-dye kits this year! Share your fun creations on social media and make sure to tag @fcmichigan and use the hashtag #Walk4Friendship.

Make sure to wear your Walk4Friendship t-shirts on Sept. 6 when you walk and post your photos on social media!

5. Walk4Friendship is still taking donations.

It’s not too late to show your support for Walk4Friendship or to encourage your friends and family to as well. No matter where you are in the world, you can still walk for friendship this year and show your support.

Visit to donate and register your friends and family for this year’s virtual walk.

Friendship Circle camp is in session with extra safety precautions

(WXYZ) — You’ve likely seen the name Friendship Circle. And have seen the purple and white logo. Well, Friendship Circle is a special place, with a special purpose.

It was built on the idea of connecting hearts and souls. And seeing people equally, for what’s on the inside.

Well, for kids, a lot of that happens in the summer at camp. But most of them have been canceled because of COVID-19.

7 Action News Reporter Andrea Isom tells us how the Friendship Circle family is making sure camp is still in session!

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Friendship Circle camp for special needs children presses on amid pandemic with precaution

PINCKNEY, MIch. (FOX 2) – A day on the lake with friends – the kind of kinship so many of us crave in this COVID-19 socially distanced world. Distance is even more difficult for children with special needs.

“I think the biggest thing that our campers are facing is really isolation,” said Rabbi Yarden Blumstein.

Read the full article.

It’s Camp in a Box!

Friendship Circle delivers the spirit of camp

Over 70 families were thrilled when Friendship Circle appeared at their door to deliver a special surprise. It was Camp in a Box filled with lots of activities created and assembled by Friendship Circle’s dedicated staff.

Inside, families found carefully packaged crafts and puzzles meant to recreate the sense of fun and curiosity of camp at home.

By surprising families with Camp in a Box, everyone who wasn’t able to attend camp this year can still feel included in the Friendship Circle family. Right now, many feel more isolated due to social distancing, making it more important than ever to ensure every individual knows that they matter.

Brady Bond was surprised and delighted to receive his Camp in a Box after missing being with his Friendship Circle pals. The whole family has missed Friendship Circle tremendously, said Brady’s mom Natalie, making the surprise that much more meaningful.

“He was so happy to open the box and look through the MANY fun activity bags,” said Natalie. “We are excited to do the crafts and activities together.”

Friendship Circle is always thinking of new ways to help each other feel cared about and included. While safety and social distancing is a brand new hurdle, Friendship Circle has continued to find ways to support families while apart.

Since March, Friendship Circle of Michigan has launched virtual programming in partnership with Friendship Circles from all over. A newcomer to virtual programming is Ayan Jain, who was beyond excited to receive his Camp in a Box.

“Ayan is loving Camp in a Box,” said Julie, Ayan’s mom. “[He] is not usually very good with arts and crafts but likes this box as he gets to do it [at] his pace and choice independently.”

Friendship Circle Holds Social Distancing Graduation Parade

June 9, 2020

Social distancing parade visits students with special needs to congratulate those graduating elementary, middle, and high school

Friendship Circle of Michigan applauded all its elementary, middle, and high school graduates today with an all-day social distancing parade of vehicles. The parade visited graduates’ houses to deliver ice cream, smiles from friends, and to say congratulations.

The parade visited the houses of 20 graduates and was headed by the Friendship Circle ice cream truck which handed out treats to the graduates. Families posed for pictures with their graduates outside with homemade colorful posters.

“We recognized that because of social distancing, kids might be feeling isolated in their homes,” said Bassie Shemtov, executive program director at Friendship Circle. “The parade was a way for everyone to connect with each other and share the celebration safely. Seeing the smiling faces of the kids and families makes it all worth it.”

This is the first year Friendship Circle has held a graduation parade. It was the perfect way to congratulate all the graduates while still practicing social distancing since everyone could stay safe in their cars, which were decorated to celebrate. The parade was around 20 cars long with many teen volunteers in attendance who got to visit with their buddies for the first time in months.

“Thank you so much for being such an important part of our life,” said Mara Freund whose son Andrew is graduating from Walled Lake Central High School. “Andrew loved his awesome friends from Friendship Circle.”

Therapists Offer Tips for Surviving the (Expanded) Stay-at-Home Order

Local psychotherapists are seeing a lot of patients dealing with increased anxiety.

Novel coronavirus. COVID-19. Self-quarantine. Social distancing.

These previously unfamiliar phrases have become part of our daily vocabulary.

While people who are ill with the virus are most profoundly affected, life has also changed dramatically for those in healthy households.

Children are schooling at home. Adults are working from home. We are no longer visiting elderly parents and grandparents, fearful of spreading a disease we may unknowingly carry. The meetings, group events and happenings that normally fill our business and personal lives are taking place remotely or not at all.

The past few weeks, the primary focus has been caring for the sick and slowing the spread of the virus. However, many people are realizing that COVID-19 is taking a toll on their mental health.

Local psychotherapists are seeing a lot of patients dealing with increased anxiety. The pervasive uncertainty about when the virus will…

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UMatter’s Teen Mental Health Program Continues Online

The stay-at-home order was issued during the spring session, so participants of the Teen Talks have been unable to meet in person.

Teen Talks, a UMatter program, is still available during the quarantine through Zoom, a video conferencing software. This program was designed to give teens a safe environment for an open conversation about mental health, suicide, hope and more.

Last fall, the program met weekly at Friendship Circle during a four-week session. Participants were split into two groups, each facilitated by a member of the UMatter teen board with a list of discussion questions surrounding one theme. Some previous topics were stress, positive thinking and “one thing I wish my parents knew.” The groups also included a Friendship Circle staff member and mental health professional. Participants stayed in the same groups from week to week to feel more familiar with one another.

“People who have come repeatedly get really comfortable,” said Amanda Smith, a Friendship Circle staff member involved with the Teen Talks. “They share a ton. People are definitely open to sharing. It makes them feel like…

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