by Leeza Raffel

Editor’s Note: Our August jkidphilly Venturer theme is Reut, Friendship. Click here for resources on learning about friendship with your jkids.

This blog originally appeard in the Abington Patch.

George, a 13-year-old boy with special needs from Elkins Park, struggled to make friends, missing out on companionship that many kids take for granted. Then he was paired with Abington teenager Arie Dash, who came to his home each week to ride bikes, play video games and do art projects through a unique program called Friends at Home offered by the Friendship Circle Philadelphia Region.

Since their pairing, Ari and George have forged an unbreakable bond. Every Sunday for six years, George has patiently waited, peering out the window, for Ari to arrive. Because George and Arie meet up in the place where George feels most comfortable – his home – the social anxiety he might otherwise experience has been eliminated, allowing him to focus on building a meaningful friendship with Arie. To both families, this type of bond is truly “a friendship revolution.”

Founded by Lubavitch House in 2004, The Philly Friendship Circle aims to build a better world for children with special needs. Envisioning a world where people with special needs and their families experience acceptance, inclusion, and friendship is just a small piece of their puzzle. The Friendship Circle advocates a world full of love and respect for everyone.

Friends at Home is a weekly program allowing volunteers to socialize with a Friendship Circle participant in the comfort of the participant’s own home. Together they can play games, make crafts, play sports, read books, or whatever else they want to do.

The demand for Friends at Home teen volunteers is great. The nonprofit organization works hard to identify effective matches between teen buddies and program participants and to provide sensitivity orientation.

Another unique program offered by Friendship Circle is Sunday Circle. Rotating between Eastern Montgomery County and Lower Merion-area locations, the two-hour program functions like a therapeutic camp, providing a series of scheduled activities – Jewish holiday crafts, music, recreation – in which participants and their teen volunteers rotate together. A quiet room is available for participants who prefer a less social setting to interact with their teen buddies.

“The Friendship Revolution is communicating that even if children are not able to engage in friendship in a typical way, there is still room for them to have friendship,” says George’s mom Gabrielle.

As a teen mentor, Arie has experienced a commitment to a friendship of a different sort. “A lot of teens don’t typically associate with kids and teens with special needs. The revolution comes when the experience of volunteering changes your opinion of who can become your friend,” he explains.


The Friendship Circle Philadelphia Region South connects teens and young adults to youth with special needs and their families. The organization offers a full range of Jewish and social experiences including creative arts group activities, Jewish holiday celebrations, weekly playdates and more. These mutually rewarding relationships foster the advancement of a caring, supportive community. For more information, visit