Twenty young people of all abilities from The Friendship Circle—an organization that builds inclusive friendships and community through social programs—spent an unseasonably warm afternoon on the ice on Sunday, January 31. Clad in t-shirts and sunglasses and using a variety of adaptive skating equipment, they soaked up the sun and kept cool for Group Friends@Home Day at Schenley Park Skating Rink.
The event brings together all 28 small groups from The Friendship Circle’s oldest and most popular program, Friends@Home. For this program, staff matches members with special needs with pairs of teens for relaxed and fun home visits. Each week after being matched, a pair of teens visits their friend in their home to hang out and get to know each other. The family coordinator, Stacy Miller, oversees these visits, and provides activities to get the groups started. Eventually, though, the friendships take shape, and the participants determine their weekly activities on their own.
The goal of Friends@Home is to provide social opportunities in the most natural, comfortable environment for children and teens with special needs. The Friendship Circle addresses the social problem of isolation that youth with special needs face. Due to a lack of integration in school and community settings as well as a lack of opportunities for accessible recreation, many youth with special needs have difficulty making friends and participating in activities young people typically enjoy—including play dates.
Group Friends@Home Day events allow the small groups to learn new things about each other by trying new activities together and interacting with other familiar faces from our circle. The next Group Friends@Home Day will be a trip to the zoo on Sunday, April 17.