‘The Way It Should Be’

Community comes together for annual FCwalk

Eight hundred moms, dads, grandparents, friends and, of course, children, walked, ran and rolled at the annual FCwalk and carnival.

While some of this year’s walk participants participated in the annual event by walking around their neighborhoods, other Friendship Circle supporters met up at LifeTown where they completed the annual walk under team banners and, in some cases, with the support of canine companions. 

Each and every person, regardless of where they walked, came together to show their support for children, teens and adults with special needs and their families.

“When I look around I get excited,” said Tamara Jacobson, whose daughter Ella participates in Friendship Circle programs. “The walk brings awareness back to the community and brings our children back into the minds of typical children.”

According to Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, CEO of LifeTown and Friendship Circle, “There was amazing energy and excitement both online with the virtual walk and in person at LifeTown. Everyone who participated made a difference in the life of an individual with special needs by helping us raise needed funds for the ongoing and expanding slate of programming.”

Among the fundraisers was a group of about a dozen eighth-graders from Heritage Middle School who raised close to a thousand dollars on behalf of Friendship Circle. Two of those participants—Lily Mandler and Jacob Glazer—both volunteer at Friendship Circle regularly, while another participant, Avery Scherr said her brother, who is now in college, benefited from FC in the past.

“I feel like it made him part of a community when it was hard for him,” said Avery.

Her classmate Lily said, “I just wanted everyone to come together and understand what’s going on and how honored we are to be helping other kids.”

Jacob’s mother, Gail Glazer, who also attended the walk was “very proud” of what her son and his friends accomplished. “They could have been doing anything else on a Sunday and they choose to be here.”

Throughout the afternoon, the parking lot at LifeTown was a sea of smiling faces as children jumped their way across bounce houses, rode on a train, trotted on a pony, and sat for an amusement park ride into the air. For those who preferred quieter fare, there was face painting, sand art and carnival games. Kids even got to step inside the new Hatzaloh of West Orange and Livingston ambulance.

Topping off the afternoon was a Wacky Science show that had the children laughing in amazement.

Among the families who participated in the walk was the Haskell family—Dan and Ariella with their children Ma’ayan, 12; Liana, 10; and Erez, 3. They have been coming for the last five years to show their support to a friend’s daughter, a Friendship Circle participant who, according to Ariella, “gets the best activities and the best care at LifeTown.”

Dan Haskell said seeing everyone together “is the way a community has to be … the way it should be.”

As this was the first walk since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and it was also a chance for people to get together and have fun. Some adults sat around tables catching up with old friends, as their children ran around them. Others noshed on hot dogs, knishes and a favorite with the kids: popcorn.

As of press time some $175,000 was raised for Friendship Circle with donations continuing to come in. Funds are used for programming at LifeTown. 

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