Sensitivity, care and awareness. Three words that carry the gift of happiness and acceptance for the physically challenged children and adults of Mercer County. These mighty warriors battle valiantly for their everyday needs, as they watch those around them do so with ease.
The marathon of life, from groceries to appointments and from carpool to the gym, tends to keep one on the go with no time to pause to assist those that are lagging behind. an unprecedented attempt to raise awareness and care, the Friendship Circle of Mercer County was born.
Their slogan and mission statement
is simple, without the glamour and glitz of catch phrases and marketing
fanfare. A circle of sincere and loving friends, a true circle where no one is
on top or greater; everyone is equal and deserves the very best.
In the weekly programs, like the “Mini Chefs” cooking experience for kids where they learn the very best in healthy cuisine, and the entertaining game nights for adults amidst an abundance of healthy snacks and smiles, to mention just a few, are only a scratch on the surface of the many other events and services they offer.
Success need not be measured on a giant scale in the center of busy Times Square, or on the front page of a local newspaper, success comes in the form of every additional smile on the face of an adult or child with disabilities. For that boy or girl, a new breath of life is given to them each and every time someone showers them, not with looks of pity, but with true care and friendship.
In 2012, on the 28th of October, the Friendship Circle proved that it had impacted the greater Mercer County with a positive blow. On that same day, as New Jersey along with her neighboring states were gearing up, for what would be the ferocious and vicious Super Storm Sandy, the Friendship Circle was preparing for its first ever expo dubbed – Expo:Friendship. More than 45 vendors were slotted to come, yet as the storm surged forward and the forecasts were becoming more foreboding, the attendance to the event seemed rather bleak and not very promising. However, the directors – Rabbi and Mrs. Wilhelm, refused to raise their hands in defeat and the in-fatigable couple ploughed on. The storm did end up coming in all its fury, but at the same time more than two hundred and fifty people came to the expo, each one gaining tremendously.
It was strikingly clear; the general public was greatly interested in helping, they just needed to be educated.
The unexpected numbers spurred the organization to prepare the expo once again, this time with new ideas and on a grander scale.
Expo:Friendship the second, like its predecessor, is dedicated to benefiting the people with special needs and their families. “It is an event to raise awareness for people with special needs in Mercer County,” commented Rabbi Shmuel Wilhelm, the director of the event and organization.
One of the unique presentations at the event will be the ‘Experience Dyslexia®’ simulation. This revolutionary concept gives the typical person a real life experience of the challenges that a dyslexic person must contend with on a day to day basis. Those that have gone through the simulation admit how a new world was opened up for them, leading to heightened levels of understanding and sensitivity.
In addition, there will be two outstanding speakers who will address areas of primary interest to parents caring for children with special needs. The first informative session is entitled “Accessing Supports that Lead to Success” and will be presented by Hillary D. Freeman, Esq. She will be followed by Scott Leshin, Founder and President of SJ Personal Healthcare Advocates, on the topic of “Navigating the Health Insurance Bureaucracy”.
The event is scheduled for Sunday, May 4, 2014. The expo will take place at Princeton Day School and begin at 10:00 AM with a variety of family activities, entertainment, and refreshments ongoing until 3:00 PM. Entrance is free and all are encouraged to join and show support to a group of individuals whose souls’ shine so freely. There will be a drop-off program for children with special needs and many activities for the whole family. Many vendors will be present with an array of products and services to browse through.
The Friendship Circle is dedicated to putting smiles on the faces of those who may be physically handicapped, bringing out the true joy in life. With the commitment of committed volunteers, the organization continuously strives to find new ways to help the genuinely special members of the Mercer County community.
For more information, please call 609-683-7240 or email ExpoFriendship@aol.com or visit www.ExpoFriendship.org.
By: Rabbi YK Chaiton