Friendship is essential for all of us. But during the pandemic, children with intellectual disabilities have needed friends more than ever.
The Friendship Circle of Illinois, based in Northbrook, pairs children with special needs with teen volunteers to create lasting bonds. The volunteers enjoy being mentors and the children, mainly ages 4 to 12, are eager to see their friends each week, says executive director Zelik Moscowitz.
Participants forge connections through the group’s Friends@Home initiative. Volunteers travel to children’s homes every Sunday to spend time with them, plus they attend group outings and activities together.
But during the early days of the pandemic, normal activities stopped. “The main thing people were suffering from was isolation,” Moscowitz says. Friendship Circle chapters around the world came together for daily Zoom activities, which were “a lifeline for many families,” he says.
While activities are designed to support the Jewish community, the local Friendship Circle is open to everyone, Moscowitz says. “The main goal is to bring friendship to individuals with disabilities.”