The Chai Center of Dix Hills, NY was approached about 8 years ago to help children with special needs and Ariella's Friendship Circle emerged soon after. "We didn't find it, it found us," said Chai Center Rabbi Yaakov Saacks. "Half Hollow Hills is known for its stellar reputation of dealing with children with special needs."
Ariella's Friendship Circle is a non-profit organization that offers support to children with special needs and their families, involving them in a full range of social programs. It prides itself on providing friends to children with special needs, pairing them with teenage volunteers who are dedicated to making a difference.
To create awareness and raise funds for children with special needs, Ariella’s Friendship Circle hosted its first annual Walk4Friendship on June 3, 2012 from 9:30-11:30am. The walk started and finished at Candlewood Middle School.
The Chai Center has about 70 trained teenage volunteers who visit homes of children with special needs weekly. The Chai Center also brings in counselors and therapists to lead sensitivity awareness trainings and teach teens how to deal with children with an array of disabilities. "The parents of children with special needs get a respite for an hour," Saacks said. "It changes their life completely. It's no cost to the families because we understand they have other costs to pay for and we know what they're going through."
The group has also developed bowling and gymnastics programs for children with special needs. "Everyone involved benefits," says Program Coordinator Nati Einav. “Teens have the chance to give and affect a child's life, parents get a little break and children with special needs receive a friend."