New York City is home to numerous charities that I’m proud to support through the Charatan/Holm Family Foundation. Some of the closest to my heart are initiatives that aim to help special needs children, as well as those that enrich the Jewish community. The Friendship Circle NYC does both, which is why I believe it’s such a noble cause. This nonprofit helps to empower special needs kids, teens and their families so that they build the self-esteem needed to become productive members of society.

According to Friendship Circle’s website, “The Friendship Circle of NYC was founded on the idea that within each person is a soul, regardless of any limitations that may surround it, regardless of whatever natural gifts we may have or lack, regardless of what obstacles and challenges we may confront, our souls are sacred and worthy of boundless love.”

This applies especially to young people with special needs, who have trouble gaining access to the same opportunities as members of the general public. Their extra challenges and limitations make navigating society more difficult, and their endurance reflects on the strength of their souls. They are just as capable as anyone at offering and receiving love and acceptance. With a bit of help this truth can be fully realized.

The Friendship Circle, by providing social and recreational services, builds inclusion and friendship–the essential tools for success later in life. For members of the Jewish community with special needs kids, their services are a blessing that take the burden off of families and individuals by providing a support system that lifts those in need.

One of the Friendship Circle’s key initiatives pairs special needs children with young adult volunteers to the benefit of the kids and teens they are paired with. While special need children get a sense of involvement, engagement and fun, the young adults are instilled with a better sense of responsibility, empathy and direction.

Founded in 2008, the Friendship Circle was inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who embodied the notion that “no one of us is complete unless all of us are included.” This spirit of Jewish unity became the core of the Friendship Circle’s mission to bridge the gap between families of children with special needs and the general community. For those like myself that care about the strength of families, young people, and the Jewish community, the Friendship Circle is a wonderful cause to contribute to.