FC Delivers Winter Fun for Hundreds of Children

As her car pulled up to a stop at the door at LifeTown. Sharon Stoch rolled down her window and greeted the teen volunteers, who disappeared back into the building. From the backseat, her son, Aaron, waited to see what was coming. All they knew was Friendship Circle had a gift for them for Chanukah and the upcoming winter.

The teen volunteer returned a moment later carrying a giant four-foot sled wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow. Through the wrapping it was clear the sled was laden with gifts; a pillow, scarf, smores-making kit, hat, games, snow-building materials and more.

“This is all for you,” the volunteer told Aaron.

Aaron started jumping up and down with excitement. It is hard to say whose smile was brighter in that moment, Stoch or her son.

“It is so wonderful to have a Chanukah experience that is special for Aaron,” Stoch of Livingston said. “It was nice to see his face light up as we drove to LifeTown and when the sled was brought out to the car. We appreciate that they have been very sensitive to finding ways to tailor activities during the pandemic to keep people safe, but to feel they are part of an extended community.”

It was a scene repeated over and over again at LifeTown, nearly 200 times on Sunday and Monday, as families with a child with special needs were gifted a “Friendship Circle Winter Fun Survival Kit,” a project made possible through the generous support of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest.

“This sled and ‘stuff’ are simply wonderful!” said Jessica Wilson of Caldwell. “Jasper especially loves the reading pillow and is using it everywhere. We are looking forward to making s’mores and cookies, and playing some games and doing the puzzle. Hopefully it snows this winter so we can go sledding and also use the snow brick mold.”

Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, Friendship Circle’s CEO, noted that finding creative ways to reach out to families this year is more crucial than ever.

“During this season when everyone is faced with not only the traditional hardships of winter—less hours of daylight, the cold, more time indoors—but also the global pandemic that is keeping so many people isolated, we wanted to do something that would bring a ray of light and happiness to our families,” he said. “We hope to inspire the community at large to find ways to pay it forward and help others facing isolation this winter.”

The Winter Fun Survival Kit is the latest project undertaken by Friendship Circle to ease the isolation and loneliness families with special needs members feel amid the ongoing pandemic. Other activities have included drive-by car parades, summer CARnivals outdoors, holiday food packages and ongoing social programs and get-togethers via Zoom.

Throughout the Chanukah holiday Friendship Circle will be offering creative COVID-safe opportunities for the families and community to celebrate. Visit www.FCNJ.com/Chanukah2020 for more information.

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