Author Archives: tzvi

Top Moms Night Out Events

Top Moms Night Out Events

Sarah Schectman, the Family Programs Director at Friendship Circle, has been working with our families for close to ten years. Together with her husband Tzvi, Sarah plans the popular Nights Out program for the parents of children with special needs from our community.  Mothers and fathers of kids with special needs have an event about once a month to give the parents an evening of respite and socializing with others from our community.

“One of the goals of Friendship Circle, aside from providing recreational activities for children, is to create a sense of community for families that have kids with special needs. These events provide an opportunity for parents to meet each other and gain support from people that really get them.” Sarah explains.

“We try to provide an opportunity for everyone to meet each other. We usually start with an  icebreaker and let people have time to mill around and meet each other. I guess our goal is two fold; one of it is to give moms a night out. So they can just relax and enjoy themselves. Secondly, we wish to allow them the opportunity to meet other moms and build up that sense of community.” Schectman explains.

Here is our list of the most popular Moms Night Out events:

#1 – AR Workshop
We created custom wooden signs that the moms were able to take home with them. This was a great event!

#2 – Mom’s Spa NightThis one is very popular. It’s in the summer and we’ve done it for at the last five years. We have a family that very generously opens up their beautiful home to our moms.  We hang out around their swimming pool and we have different spa service providers come and donate their time and skills to the moms.  We have massages, facials, manicures and the moms sign up for a spa service.  They get to enjoy the beautiful view, swim and they get their service.

#3 – Master ChefWe held this event at the Henry Ford Demo kitchen.  We had an opportunity for moms to sign up to be a chef.  Contestants knew they would be cooking, but didn’t know what they would be cooking. The rest of the moms came to spectate. Each team was given a mystery box of ingredients and they had to cook a dish in 30 minutes.  We had some chefs from local restaurants  to judge the dishes.

#4 – Whiryball
Moms put on their competitive edge with a fun game of whirlyball. It was fun to see the competitive sides of the moms.

#5 – Segway Tour
At Hines Park you can take a tour on a segway.  We got to practice on the segways for a bit and then we took a tour around and through Hines Park.

#6 – Salad Sensation We had a few tables set up with ingredients and a recipe card and the moms grouped up into small groups at each table to make up that salad. Afterward, the entire group got to taste each type of salad.

#7 – Breakout Room
You get locked in a room that is full of clues, but you’re not given how the clues work and they are all very different. You have to get the locks open so that you get out in the allotted time

#8 – Painting with a Twist
We have done this a few times and it’s always a lot of fun. We have a lead artist that leads the group in a painting project.

#9 – Painting Ceramics
We went to a creative art studio where we were able to paint ceramics. They have pieces already made, but a big selection of different things to choose from.  The moms chose a piece to paint and the staff then fires the painted piece and the moms come and pick it up later.

#10 – Relax and RejuvenateHosted by  Henry Ford, in their Vita Spa. moms were treated to hand massages and neck massages and we had somebody teach relaxation techniques.

#11 –  Mahjong Night
Friendship Circle hosted an evening for those who either are Mahjong players or those wanting to learn the game. Our experienced mom’s coached the newbies till they got the hang of the game. Moms can also try out a little bit of gambling at for some exciting games to end their night.

Do you agree with our list? What was your favorite FC Mom’s Night Out?
Share your story and thoughts with us in the comments!

Sewing and Embroidery Powered by Brother International

Sewing with Brother

Sewing and Embroidery powered by Brother International

Thank you for your donation Brother International!

Donation by Brother

Brother International generously donated 4 Project Runway Limited Edition Computerized Sewing Machines, a 1034D Serger (edger) and an Persona PRS100 embroidery machine to the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio last summer. Several artists have learned sewing skills on the donated machines and have produced purses, scarfs, pillows, mug rugs, bracelets and more. The finished products are then displayed in the gallery and sold to the community. Thank you Brother International; your donation has made it possible for several artists to learn new skills and to push themselves to create more art with those skills.

Artists at work

There is a gentle murmur of excited people around 10am in the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio. The artists are all exiting the regular morning meeting and are headed to their places in the studio to get started with their work. The art program is in the second week of a new schedule, where artists are immersed in a medium for an entire month to get a more thorough experience.

Artists Devorah Newman and Adam Egrin are assigned to sewing projects and their volunteers, Ginger Pringle and Bonnie Laker, are assisting the artists with getting the machines ready to go. Bonnie is threading one of the Brother sewing machines with black thread for Adam’s project and Ginger is applying a line of blue tape near the needle on Devorah’s assigned machine. As she waits to get started Devorah discusses her project and her first time sewing. “I am making a light violet pillow because I had too much room left on the baby blanket I made.” Devorah explains, “I haven’t sewn before and I’m enjoying it. I find it challenging to keep things lined up sometimes, but that’s why she [Ginger] is putting tape on my machine.”

Devorah Newman and Ginger Pringle applying tape to sewing machine

Devorah Newman watches as Ginger Pringle places a piece of tape as a line guide onto her sewing machine.

Creating new pieces from old projects

The Fiber Arts studio has several looms for weaving and both Adam and Devorah are using their time on the sewing machines to create new pieces out of weaved projects.

Adam and a sample bracelet

Adam Egrin holds up an example of the bracelets that he is working on.

“I’m working on bracelets that are made on memory wire. It was my first time weaving and I made a seven inch scarf that I will be cutting into bracelets. The studio wanted to sell bracelets in the gallery and I was like, ‘hey, I like it and I’ll do those.’” Adam explains. “I chose to make each one have a different design and some of the designs I had multiple threads in one, to make one thread. I made sure to have sparkle thread in each section of the scarf so every bracelet will have some sparkle.” He says excitedly.

Bonnie Laker sewing on Brother machine

Studio volunteer Bonnie Laker demonstrates a two handed sewing technique

Bonnie has finished threading Adam’s machine and she has started sewing a few stitches on the thick scarf. She speaks to Adam to explain what she is doing, “So, the only thing I’m going to tell you about these is that they are very thick.”
“So go slow.” Adam finishes.
“Well, do you see how my fingers are? See how I’m pushing? You need to push the material so that it’s not getting stuck under the needle.” Bonnie demonstrates the pushing motion on the scarf.
“Oh, I see.” He replies and he takes his place on his machine.

Learning the basics

Devorah is also sitting in her place behind her sewing machine and ready to get started by stitching a ribbon into the edge of the blanket. She has lined up her work along the blue tape that Ginger placed there. As Devorah starts sewing, Ginger talks about her experience with donated sewing machines. “I have been sewing since I was ten years old, but I have never sewn on Brother machines before. So far, I really like them. I have a different kind of machine at home, but I have enjoyed these.” She watches Devorah’s progress and stops talking to help her artist, “We need to straighten this up just a little bit.” She explains patiently to Devorah, who stops the machine and straightens her material before starting up again.

Devorah Newman sewing with tape guide

Devorah Newman sewing to complete a baby blanket with matching pillow set.

“They are easy to operate and threading the machine, you have to be careful with that. You need to be sure that you don’t skip any steps. We want the artist to have a satisfying experience and if the machine is threaded incorrectly then they are going to have trouble.” Ginger says. “Brother makes it easy.”

Adam has been listening while he works and adds, “That’s something really nice about these machines, they have three speeds. So, when you are just learning, it’s great because you won’t have the machine run away with you. I like the buttons and display on the side here that explain the different stitching options. It shows each stitch and how you can use it. I can understand it and it makes sense.”

Adam likes the stitching options

Adam Egrin sewing stitches on a scarf to create bracelets.

Bonnie, Adam’s volunteer for the day, chimes in with, “Also, the self threader, I love the self-threader! When the artists are brand new to sewing, that’s a nice feature.”

Strides in stitches

“I’ve definitely noticed an improvement from the artists since they first got started. Devorah has picked up very quickly on this. We use a guide here and it makes it so much easier and she’s able to keep it right on the guide and now I’m not having to help her at all, which is great! Adam had never sewn before last week and he’s doing great too!” Ginger explains.

Adam adds, “Having these machines gives us more versatility because some of the things you can’t do by hand, well you could, but it would take a long time. It also makes stitches that are much stronger than you could do by hand.”

Photo of weaving project in need of rescue

Bonnie shows an example of a weaving project in need of rescue

Bonnie shows off an infinity scarf that she helped to rescue from the discard pile. “This was a first attempt on the loom for one of the other artists. There were a lot of strings and it was very uneven, but thanks to the sewing machines, it now looks like this.”

The rescued infinity scarf

The finished infinity scarf

“That’s a really good thing about having the machines right here.  We are able to take a piece of weaving that you might look at and say, ‘Ok, what are we going to do with this?’ Then we can run it through the machine and turn it into that. Now we can sell it and the artist will make a commission off of her work. So that’s really really neat.” Ginger finishes.

The Dresner Foundation Soul Studio & Gallery are open weekdays from 11am-3pm stop in to see the artists at work and visit the gallery to see their latest works and merchandise.

Creating in Art at Farber

The silence in the Farber Center tonight is almost eerie; the building is usually roaring with life, but on this Monday night, the Soul Cafe’ is closed and the resident Soul Studio artists had already gone home.  

The artists creating art tonight are concentrating very hard on their work. It is the last day of the Art at Farber winter session and the artists are busy finishing up their projects.  Around the room there are large triangular roll around displays, each displaying art from a different artist in the program.

Hailey Reinke next to her Wall of Art

Hailey Reinke next to her Wall of Art

Meeting the artists

Program participant and artist, Hailey Reinke, is a bold and seemingly uninhibited young lady.  She wears two beautiful shoulder length french braids in her hair and a blue and gray t shirt.  When she talks about her time in the Art at Farber program there is a smile on her face.  Hailey describes her project called All About Hailey as a paper collage that features sketches and drawings of her and her thirteen year old cousin. She also explains that she used painting markers for some of her art pieces.  After the winter session, Hailey plans to return for the spring session of Art at Farber.

Hailey, Elizabeth and Alexa working on their art projects

Hailey Reinke, Elizabeth Brinkerhoff and Alexa Morris working on their art projects

Making it work

Hailey is working at a table with two other young ladies. Alexa Morris is drawing a large sketch with colored pencils as she uses a photograph as a reference for her work.  Elizabeth Brinkerhoff shows off her wall of art proudly as she explains what the images and painting are all about. “I like spooky things.” She says.

There was a handful of printed pictures of dark and spooky images, like spider webs and silhouetted trees, with an almost-completed painting on canvas of Dracula in the center of the prints. When she is asked about the printed images she replies, “Oh they were supposed to go into the background of my painting. All of this stuff was originally supposed to be part of the portrait, but I did it differently.”

She talks about how her original idea did not work out and that Brian Kavanaugh, the Gallery Director for the Soul Studio, helped her with another idea. He had set up her canvas and a projector to project an image onto the canvas so Brinkerhoff could transfer her vision to the painting, “I liked tracing it with the projector for the background and then putting it all together.”

Adam working in studio

Adam Reinke and Jaime Whitener in the Soul Studio

Assisting with the artist’s vision

Helping the artists create their vision is one of the reasons why Jamie Whitener volunteers here.  “I’ve been doing this for about 4 weeks now and I love it! Especially this new facility, it’s perfect for me because I love art. I love helping people with art and being able to volunteer here, it’s really awesome.” He explains.

When asked about the program and how it all works he replied, “It’s like, ‘what do you want to make?’ and usually they know exactly what they want to do for that day and they do it. We just go with the flow. They get paints out if they want to paint; get pencils out if they want to do pencils.” He says. “Sometimes, like when we made the paper mache, [all of the artists participate in that project] because that is something that is harder to do. Harder to set up, but it’s really chill.”

Adam and Jamie in studio

Adam Reinke and Jamie Whitener pose together in the studio

Artistic Voices

This evening Jamie is assisting Adam Reinke, Hailey’s twin brother and fellow artist in this program.  “He enjoys looking at books and drawing the pictures he likes, but with his own take on it. Like, this whole wall here, is his stuff and you can see it’s Disney Characters, but they are really colorful and kind of stylized.” Jamie said when asked about Adam’s work.

“I am all done with Mickey Mouse.” Adam tells Jaimie.

“It looks good.” Jamie replies.

Adam says that he enjoys painting because he likes to make pictures of movie characters. “Yeah he’s really good at those.” Jaime chimes in.

Adam asks Jamie for another piece of paper so he can draw another picture and as Jamie gets a sheet for him, it becomes clear that the kids in the room are not just participants in a program, but artists. They each created a wall of art in their time in the program and they are proud of their work. They are encouraged to use their own artistic style and to experiment with different mediums to find their artistic voice. This group of young people can sometimes struggle to communicate, but this evening they show a lot of expression and emotion in their art.

The Spring session of Art at Farber is starting up soon! If you are interested to learning more about this program or the other’s that we offer, you can read about them at

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, who also tried Blue Apron and other meal kit programs recently, though she had no free trials with Blue Apron.  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 with delicious looking book cover designs 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 to see what we offer.    

Giving Tuesday 4Friendship Fundraiser

#GivingTuesday #4Friendship!

If you had walked into Friendship Circle on Giving Tuesday morning you would have heard the voices of several volunteers and staff members on the phone with community members to ask for donations in honor of the day. Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and this year Friendship Circle held our first end of year fundraiser 4Friendship! #GivingTuesday #4Friendship!

Starting on Tuesday, November 29th (Giving Tuesday), we hosted a 36 hour fundraising phonathon and social media campaign with the goal to fundraise $360K in just 36 hours.

Bassie Shemtov launched our social media campaign with this message:

Thanks to 3 special donors, we were able to make this year’s fundraiser, a matching campaign. The generosity of these donors meant that each dollar donated during the 36 hour period of this campaign, was worth four times the amount given. So for every $1 that came in, we actually earned $4 for our organization.

Meet the Matchers:

We would like to introduce you to the matchers behind this campaign. Without their support, this campaign would not have been possible.


In blessed memory of Joseph Fetter

Joseph Fetter’s recent passing is the reason that Neil Fetter, one of his sons, has agreed to match the donations we received in our #4Friendship campaign. Friendship Circle is honored and thankful that the Fetter family honored Joseph’s memory by contributing to this campaign and our organization in his name! Thank you for continuing to be philanthropic pillars in our community.

Fetter Family Foundation:

The Fetter family has been a pillar in the Detroit Jewish community for many decades. Joseph and Frances Fetter supported many organizations both in the Detroit Metro area and in Israel, often asking for anonymity and contributing in a quiet way. Friendship Circle was honored to be one of the charities to have a special place in Joseph Fetter’s heart.

Philip & Estelle Elkus:

Philip and Estelle Elkus have been generous supporters of Friendship Circle for many years and donated the funds for the Elkus Gym in memory of Philip’s siblings that had special needs.

“Of all the charities I have ever supported, my wife and I get far more pleasure and “Nachas” from the gym than any other institution. It has made such a wonderful difference to so many and we derive such pleasure seeing it happen.” – Philip Elkus

The 1st Day

Our $360K goal seemed lofty when we got started, but we hit the phones in the volunteer lounge with the help of several volunteers and staff members. We also pushed social media posts across several social channels and asked people in our online community to donate and then share with their followers.

By 4:30pm on Tuesday afternoon, we had reached 50% of our goal and things were looking good for us to reach it within our allotted time. Then at 9:30pm, about 12 hours into our campaign, thanks to an outpouring of support from people across the country, we reached our initial fundraising goal of raising $360,000! We were delighted by our the support of our online community, the phonathon volunteers and the generosity of the donations that came in!


Bonus Round

By Wednesday morning, we were over our initial financial goal and the money was still coming in. Inspired by the tremendous support of the Friendship Circle community and by the more than 450 donors who had made a donation, Neil Fetter, Dan and Michelle Weiss and a few other generous sponsors agreed to match all donations 3-to-1 in a bonus round. The bonus round pushed our goal up to $425,000 before the end of the campaign. With just 9 hours to go in the campaign we launched the bonus round and all donations that came in at that point were being tripled by the bonus round sponsors.


By the end of the 36 hour time period, we had brought in $432,000!

Many Thanks!

To those of you that made a contribution to our goal, we are so very grateful for your generosity and hope that you take great pride in the important difference your gift makes to our organization and those we help support.

We are so awed by the continued assistance and generosity of our community of supporters, donors and volunteers. Friendship Circle could not help individuals with special needs without the active involvement of the people around us.

We thank you for your support in this and all of our campaigns and wish you and your family all of the best!


What Will The Money Be Used for?

1. After School Programs
Funds raised will go towards growing the capacity and quality of our after-school programming which currently has over 300 children and teens with special needs participating.

2. Soul Projects
Soul Projects currently has 50 artists and 15 Cafe trainees working at Friendship Circle’s Farber Center. 4Friendship funds will help us expand the amount of artists working in the Dresner Foundation Soul Center.

3. Summer Camp
Summer camp has expanded from a one week camp to a six week summer program for over 50 individuals with special needs. Funds will help us add more exciting activities and summer programming in 2017.

4. Lessons For Life
Lessons For Life is in the process of refreshing its program and curriculum offerings. 4Friendship funding will help facilitate these enhancements.

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:

Soul Studio Artist Spotlight : Cassandra Thomas

Creative inspiration can come from a great many different places. A person might see a sunset and feel the need to capture it in a photograph. Another person could have a passion for a specific game and chose to design a poster to tell others about it.

Watch our video see where Cassandra got the inspiration for her latest project.

Cassandra Thomas, a Soul Studio Artist, caught her inspiration to create her latest piece when she was listening to a song. She was sitting in the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio listening to, “Powerful” a song that was created for the Fox show, Empire. Thomas said, “I was listening to it and the idea just popped into my head. I added the words at the top of it and Adam [Lead artist in the studio] helped me with the fist part of it.”

Thomas started at the Dresner Foundation Soul Studio at the Farber Center this past summer. “My case worker told me about it. To be honest, I didn’t want to come,” Thomas said. “But, I decided to give it a try and now I like to see that I’m famous. I see my work everywhere now.” She said with a smile.

Cassandra and Stella working together

Cassandra and Stella working together

For this project, Thomas was partnered with Soul Studio volunteer Stella Johnstone. Johnstone is an art student and specializes in printmaking. “I learned about the Soul Studio from a friend in my art class. I thought it was something I would like to be involved in. So I went online and filled out the form. Bassie [Shemtov, Friendship Circle co-founder] contacted me about making prints for the art show and I said, I’d be here at 3pm.” Johnstone said on how she became involved with the studio. “I am used to the systematic approach to art in class. These artists totally break that for me. I am in awe of what they do everyday.” Johnstone said about her experiences in the studio.

Cassandra and Stella creating a poster print of I Am Powerful

Cassandra and Stella creating a poster print of I Am Powerful

Founded in 2015 Soul Studios is a project of Friendship Circle. Soul Projects gives adults with special needs the opportunity to be active, productive and most importantly, included members of society. Soul Projects offers three distinct programs: The Soul Studio, Soul Cafe Training and Friendship Bakery all offer a tailored approach to each individual participant.


Register Multiple Walkers – Instructions for adding people and shirt sizes

Here are step by step instructions for registering your whole family or group under 1 email address. This is the best option for people registering multiple walkers that are not going to fundraise. If your additions want to fundraise AND walk, they should register under their own email address to receive all the email notifications as a fundraiser.

If you are already a registered fundraiser and you want to add people under your name, skip to #11. 

1. Go to
1- W4F Website

2. Click the “Register” button
Register 1- Circled

3. Select one of the registration options: Walk, Fundraise or Walk & Fundraise.

4. Fill in the fields with your information
3-Fill in your information

5. Choose your option. For this step by step select “solo”.
5- Choose your option- Solo

6. Select YES or No for handicap parking. Then select your shirt size. Hit “continue”
6- Fill in your shirt size and if you need handicap parking

7. Review your information and if it is correct click “Complete Registration”
7- Review your information, Select complete Registration

8. You will see this pop up box thanking you for your registration and asking you to sign up for text messaging notifications for the day of the walk. We recommend that you sign up, click “continue”

9. You will be directed to your personal dashboard. To add more walkers and put in shirt sizes, click on the “RSVP for Walk4Friendship 2016” link in the right column of links.13-Your Dashboard- Link circled

10. You are already in our system- DO NOT PUT YOURSELF HERE! Add the additional family members or walkers that you are bringing to the walk. Fill in their names, shirt sizes and select “walk” for their registration type. ***If your additional people want to walk AND fundraise they should register under their own name.14-RSVP indiv

11. Name, shirt size and registration type14-RSVP- with instructions

12. When all of your additional people are registered, select “RSVP now”14- RSVP now

Your additional family members or walkers are registered in our system. If you have any issues or questions you can email [email protected].

iCanBike Program – 2016

Monday (33)

Since 2013, the Friendship Circle of Michigan and iCanShine have partnered together to offer a week-long program to teach children and teens with special needs how to ride a two-wheeled bike.  iCanBike is a program of iCanShine, a nonprofit based in Pennsylvania whose mission is to provide quality learning opportunities in recreational activities for individuals with disabilities.

This years iCanBike program ran from June 20th-24th at the West Bloomfield High School.  Participants were matched with volunteers who assisted them while they learned how to ride a bicycle.


“I’m very impressed.”

We spoke to Lynelle Healy; her son Garrett, 8, participated in the program this year. Healy said that her connection to the Friendship Circle began in 2014. Garrett, who has autism, attended the Life Skills program. Healy saw information for the iCanBike program on the Friendship Circle website and as soon as Garret turned eight, the minimum age for the program, she signed him up. He had been resistant to his parents taking the training wheels of his bike. Now, in just five days, Garrett is able to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels.

“It’s awesome… I’m very impressed.” Healy said of the of week long program. “He took right to it. He liked that there were no big surprises.” Healy says that Garrett has become more independent and confident and she believes it will help him to be included with his friends. “I would recommend it to anyone who needs help.”

Wednesday (1)_LR


“Now he’s willing to try anything.”

Delora Pierce brought her grandson Nathan, 16, to participant in the iCanBike program. The goal of enrolling Nathan in iCan Bike was to give him the ability to ride a two-wheeler, so he can ride alongside his older brother to school in the fall. “He’s very excited to be on a bike.” Pierce said.

Like Healy, Pierce believes that the five day program has made Nathan more independent. In the past, Nathan, who has moderate autism, had been unsure of himself. “Now,” Delora mentioned, “he’s willing to try anything. Now he wants to venture out and try new things.”

If you are interested in the iCanBike program, please visit our iCanBike page and sign up on the waiting list for the 2017 program.

IMG_0012- Blog Post


Watch our iCanBike video here:
children with #specialneeds how to ride a two wheel b…

Posted by Friendship Circle of Michigan on Sunday, June 26, 2016


MasterChef Moms Compete at Friendship Circle Mom’s Night Out

A special thank you to Andrea Birnbaum for photography of this event!

It’s not every night you get to compete and participate in a reality food competition! That is precisely what happened on Wednesday, January 20 for over 30 mothers of children with needs.

Friendship Circle arranges over 15 mom’s and dad’s nights out throughout the year which are designed to provide much-needed respite and relaxation to parents of children with special needs.

Wednesday’s event took the definition of a mom’s night out to a whole new level. The event, called MasterChef FC, was held at the beautiful Henry Ford West Bloomfield Demo Kitchen and featured delicious wine and salads for the moms to enjoy.

The Main Event

FC MasterChef Mom Contestants

Contestants from left to right: Melanie Maas, Deanna Granitz, Jennifer Moss, Lisa Labelle, Stacy Larson, Jen Lovy.

The main event featured a MasterChef-style contest where six moms were divided into three teams of two people each.

Competition among Friendship Circle moms was nothing short of fierce on Wednesday night when three teams of “chefs” squared off in Henry Ford Hospital’s Demonstration Kitchen for the chance to be crowned Friendship Circle MasterChef. This talented group of amateur chefs – and by talented, we mean they didn’t burn down the kitchen – had 30 minutes to wow a panel of celebrity judges with their culinary skills and creativity in the kitchen.

Moms Masterchef

Deanna Granitz removes the mystery box and reveals the ingredients she will use.

Each team was given a mystery box with multiple ingredients and instructions to use at least three of the ingredients. They were also given access to a stocked cabinet and the option to use salmon or chicken. As fellow Friendship Circle mom’s watched from the audience, the blue, red and yellow teams chopped, mixed, cooked and sautéed a unique signature dish. The results were nothing short of… unique.

FC Masterchef

The Judges

The Judges

To judge the contestants Friendship Circle brought in a trio of celebrity chefs with extensive experience in the Metro Detroit Area.

Hunny Benarroch

Hunny Benarroch
Hunny grew up in an observant Jewish family, where her cultural roots were expressed in the form of authentic recipes from Morocco, Israel, and Spain. From a young age, Hunny closely watched her mother prepare these dishes from scratch. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she began to recreate these dishes with her own approach, but still maintain classic flavors and techniques she had grown up with.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Business and Communications, Hunny decided to hone her culinary skills by enrolling in the Art Institute of Michigan’s Culinary Arts program.  This invaluable experience has allowed her to work with countless inspiring chefs, clients, and organizations. She strongly believes in the importance of sustaining life through eating well. She will be the Executive Chef of Friendship Circle’s Soul Cafe when it opens in the spring of 2016.

Hassan MusselmaniHassan Musselmani

Born in Detroit and raised in the Metro Detroit area, Chef Hassan Musselmani’s extensive culinary background and passion for food started as a young man in his family’s kitchen.

Working in the culinary world since the age of thirteen, Hassan has continued to gain knowledge and experience that has lead to his opening of several Metro Detroit venues and to being an integral part of the accomplishments of many popular local restaurants.

Hassan is currently competing on Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Brandon Schatko

Brandon Schatko

Brandon Schatko has extensive experience and is renowned as one of Metro Detroit’s top executive chefs.
After graduating from Wayne State in 2011, Brandon immediately assumed the role of executive chef and has developed and managed some of downtown Detroit’s finest restaurants.
Brandon has experience as an executive chef in a number of different environments including golf clubs, hotels and even assisting in the planning and execution of the Belle Isle Grand Prix, feeding 18,000 People.

The Dishes

The contestnts

Dish #1

Lisa Labelle and Jennifer Moss of the Blue Team, managed to impress the judges with their wildly imaginative presentation of salmon, fig couscous, stir fry and star fruit.

Dish #1

Dish #2

Melanie Maas and Denna Granitz of the Red Team, worked feverishly on their signature dish – a chicken slaw with peanut sauce. Like the Blue Team, they also garnished their plate with star fruit.

dish #2

Dish #3

Stacy Larson and Jen Lovy rounded off the competition as the Yellow Team.  Together, they prepared an Asian-inspired salmon and stir fry. This dynamic duo was the only team to prepare a dessert to accompany their entrée. Unfortunately, their chocolate covered strawberries failed to impress the panel of judges because one Yellow Team chef failed to realize the chocolate was unsweetened and in desperate need of sugar – lots of sugar.

Dish #3

The Winner

Despite the dessert debacle, the judges found the Yellow Team’s salmon the most palatable and well-presented dish of the evening.


Bonus Round

Little did the judges know that a surprise was in store for them. After the winners were announced. the judges were asked to cook a dish of their own! Check out all the pictures below.