Agoura Hills, Calif. (PRWEB) March 22, 2006
The Conejo Valley Friendship Circle, a local nonprofit organization that pairs teenage volunteers with special needs children, will hold a Walk-A-Thon, Sunday, March 26 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Agoura High School track (28545 West Driver Avenue, Agoura Hills).
Through the Friendship Circle, teens develop friendships and share activities with kids with Down's syndrome, autism, ADD and other emotional or physical challenges. Families of special needs children also receive support in the program. The money raised from the Walk-A-Thon will help underwrite the teens' training as well as support other child-centered activities including special outings, fitness programs, camps, fairs and festivals.
The Conejo Valley Friendship Circle began in 2003. Currently 125 families throughout the Conejo and West San Fernando Valleys with special needs children participate and 250 teenagers are volunteers. "Many organizations focus on providing therapeutic care, "says Rochel Bryski, director of The Friendship Circle. " We offer love, companionship, friendship and activities that are child-driven. Teens can reach children in ways that professionals, or even family members, cannot. The program also has a profound effect on the teenagers themselves by instilling within them the values of giving and gratitude."
The first lap of the 5K walk will begin at 1:15 p.m. and it will be reserved for special needs kids and their families. "It's a chance for these kids to be the center of attention in a very positive way," says Bryski. Once the first lap is completed, kids can take part in face painting, a moon bounce and other kids-oriented activities. Barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers will be served throughout the event.
Robin Felton is the mother of nine-year-old Jonah who has autism. Jonah has participated in The Friendship Circle for two years. Once a week, teen volunteers Sarah Weisman and Jenny Silver, seniors at Oak Park High School, spend an hour with Jonah. "Sarah and Jenny are like Jonah's big sisters," says Felton. "They play games with him, sing songs, decorate cookies, go to the park; it's whatever he wants to do. They give him unconditional love." Felton's two other children also have the opportunity join in. "It's good for Jonah's sibling to see Jonah treated as a friend, as just a normal kid."
"Being with Jonah is pretty amazing," says Jenny Silver. "We see what the power of friendship can do. After the third meeting, Jonah knew our names and felt completely comfortable with us."
"Jonah has given me a new appreciation for life," explains Sarah Weisman. "When he's holding your hand, you know you may not be changing the world, but you're having a positive effect on a child and his family." Silver and Weisman will be participating in the Walk-A-Thon under the team name "Team Oak Park."
The Friendship Circle is currently signing up walkers to participate in the Walk-A-Thon. Those who want to make a donation but cannot participate can go to http://www.friendshipwalk.org to pledge to a specific team or call 818-865-2233 to make a donation.