ERIC CZARNIK candgnews.com
Thousands of family members and activists are expected to show their support for special needs children during a Walk4Friendship charity walk held by the nonprofit group The Friendship Circle Sept. 13.
The Walk4Friendship will give activists a choice of two fundraising options:a five-kilometer walk or a one-mile Family Walk.
Levi Stein, a spokesman for the Walk4Friendship event, said he expects the day to attract a uniquely large turnout of more than 5,000 participants.
“In West Bloomfield, these things don’t happen,” Stein said.
In 2008, more than 3, 000 people took part in the Walk4Friendship and raised more than $360, 000. The Friendship Circle hopes an increased turnout this year will produce at least $400,000.
The Friendship Circle also says they have received donations for the walk from 38 out of the 50 United States.
Organizers hope they can get at least one from every state.
The following states are missing: 1. Alaska 2. Maine 3. Idaho 4. Iowa 5. Kansas 6. Mississippi 7. Montana 8. Nebraska 9. North Dakota 10. Utah 11. West Virginia 12. Wyoming
In addition, the day will offer entertainment, music and Mojo from Channel 95.5 FM’s Mojo in the Morning crew. U. S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also plans to join the festivities.
Kodi Lee, 13, of Utah will entertain the walkers with his singing and piano playing. According to The Friendship Circle, Lee has overcome autism and legal blindness to pursue his passion, and he is working with Stevie Wonder.
“He is a prodigy,” Stein said. “He’s recording now with some big people.”
The Friendship Circle was founded in West Bloomfield in 1994 and has spread to more than 72 locations worldwide, Stein said.
The organization’s volunteers befriend special needs children and relate to them so that they feel like welcome members of society, he said.
“It pairs up teenage volunteers with special needs children,” he said. “Close to 1, 000 volunteers volunteer on a weekly basis.”
On the Meer Family Friendship Center campus in West Bloomfield, the Friendship Circle works with special needs children in the 23, 000-square-foot Ferber Kaufman LifeTown building that is home to Weinberg Village. The village, an indoor microcosm of a city, has rooms that simulate a movie theater, a bank, stores, a dentist’s office and more. The simulation helps the children adapt to the outside world, Stein said.
“They learn how to behave and how to adopt real-life skills,” he said. “They say almost 3, 000 kids go through this building annually.”
Zoe Pinter, 17, of West Bloomfield plans to attend the Walk4Friendship. She said she has volunteered at The Friendship Circle for five or six years, mainly through a home visitation program called [email protected]
Pinter said volunteering has taught her the importance of pay- ing attention to others.
“Normally, I’m caught up in a teenager’s everyday occurrences, and through volunteering, I see that it’s not all about me,” she said.
“These kids, they are extremely special, and each and every one of them have impacted me.” The Friendship Circle of West Bloomfield’s Walk4Friendship will be 2 p.m. Sept. 13. It will start at the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road, and conclude at the Meer Family Friendship Center, 6892 W. Maple Road.
Admission is free, and registration starts at 1 p.m. Walkers are also asked to register online. For more information, visit www.walk 4friendship. org or call (248) 788-7878, ext. 210.