It was a day made for sunshine and smiles as more than 3,000 people gathered for the third annual Walk4Friendship on Sunday, September 7.
When the day began with dark clouds and raindrops, a mass email was sent out, stating that the Walk4Friendship would be held regardless of weather and encouraging everyone to show up, rain or shine. Before it was time for the opening ceremony, the day had turned bright and sunny.
Walkers could choose between a 5k walk and a one-mile family walk, beginning at the Jewish Community Center and ending under a balloon arch at the Meer Family Friendship Center. The one-mile walk was led by the uniformed West Bloomfield High School Marching Band, whose enthusiasm remained undaunted by the afternoon heat.
The Friendship Circle campus had a carnival atmosphere, with a variety of activities for kids of all ages; including a giant bubble machine, a moonwalk, a BonZi Bike amusement park style ride, a petting zoo, and a BMX stunt show.
Inside The Shul, younger walkers enjoyed serving as the playing pieces in a life-sized game of holiday-themed Candyland. The giant game board was surrounded by tables of various arts and crafts projects relating to the High Holidays. With the help of patient volunteers, children made their own working Shofars, created holiday jewelry, assembled edible cookie Sukkot, and made Jewish New Year’s cards and gift packages for soldiers and families of terrorist victims in Israel.
Walkers of all ages feasted on hot dogs, knishes, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, and corn-on-the-cob, provided by food sponsors Detroit Popcorn, Whole Foods, and Jewel Kosher Catering. Absopure Water made sure that everyone remained well-hydrated throughout the day.
“Jewish soul food – kosher hot dogs and great knishes,” said Pam Salba of Farmington Hills.
“Leave it to Bassie and Levi…for them, the grey skies open up and the sun shines through,” said Andi Gold of Novi, whose daughter, Alyssa, has been involved with the Friendship Circle since its inception. “Every year they seem to top themselves.”
The crowd included people from the entire community, including Friendship Circle “veterans” as well as newcomers to the organization.
“This is our first time, but we’re definitely going to be regulars,” said Jan Weiss Dembs of Huntington Woods, who came with cousins and long-time Friendship Circle supporters Carolyn and Michael Morris of West Bloomfield.
More than $300,000 has been raised so far through contributions from individual and corporate donors. In order to meet the initial target of $500,000, the Walk4Friendship fundraising campaign will be extended until October 8th, the eve of Yom Kippur.
“Our work is not done yet,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Friendship Circle Director. “Because of the current economic situation, many of our past
corporate sponsors and supporters were not able to contribute at their previous levels. To consider this year’s Walk a complete success, we still need to reach our original goal of $500,000.”
“To be part of this walk is unbelievable,” said Sheryl Kaminer of Oak Park, who became involved with Friendship Circle when her 20-year-old daughter, Elana, was only five years old. “It gets better and better each year. You have to be there to feel the love.”