WESTON, Conn. Being a teenager in Weston can be hard. There's pressure to keep your grades up, pressure to do well in sports and pressure to get into college. And there's social pressure. But many Weston special needs teens have difficulty making a social connection, which is why a local organization is looking for teens to be that someone to one of the many special needs teens in town.
The goal of Circle of Friends is to create a bond between a teen volunteer and a peer with special needs. Through home visits and social outings, the volunteer will help a special needs person understand the meaning of having a friend.
We started this program to bring inclusion and friendship to children with special needs, said Freida Hecht, director of the Circle of Friends.
What we found is that this program really transforms all kids involved. We give kids that special moment of having a friend, and in turn, we train kids to be benevolent as adults, Hecht said.
Currently, 50 Weston families are taking part in the Circle of Friends program and 100 Weston teens are volunteering, but there aren't enought of the latter. I have at least 10 families on the waiting list, Hecht said.
We are looking to provide real friends," she said. "We want the kids who get involved to see that being a true friend means that you are accepting of others, whoever they are.
The program helps pair teen volunteers with children and young adults from ages 3 to 25, Hecht said. Circle of Friends also offers family-oriented programs such as a sibling support group and life-skills classes.
A Circle of Friends volunteer must be responsible and understanding of those with special needs, Hecht said. They also must be willing to devote quality time to their new friend.
Circle of Friends is about creating a community and friendship. It means so much to the kids that are involved. It really transforms the kids, the families and the community, Hecht said.
Anyone interested in getting involved with Circle of Friends can call 203-293-8837.
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