At John’s Crazy Socks, we’re spreading happiness through socks and one way we do that is by meeting with groups that support special needs students. Recently, we met with Musia Laufer the Friendship Circle Coordinator at the Chia Center of Dix Hills. Of course, John came bearing socks. We learned about the program they run and shared information about John’s Crazy Socks.
The Friendship Circles are a worldwide effort to connect teenage volunteers with special needs children to engender friendship and fun. Everyone benefits from these connections. Musia coordinates Ariella’s New York Friendship Circle at the Chia Center of Dix Hills, which is located on the corner of Vanderbilt Parkway and Deer Park Avenue. The participants come from all around Long Island and the program is growing as more people discover its positive impact.
We loved hearing about the programs they support. There are dance classes, which had John smiling because he loves to dance, cooking classes and just afternoons of social time that allow volunteers and their buddies to spend time together. Some of the upcoming events include Zumba, Yoga, Puppie Fun, Soccer Stars and some hangout sessions. The Friendship Circles programs are open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation, and John is hoping to make it down for some of the sessions.
What does this have to do with John’s Crazy Socks? As a young man with Down syndrome, John demonstrates the possibilities when a person is empowered and supported. Not even 21 years of age, John has co-founded his own business and works in it every day in activities ranging from helping pick out socks to sell to writing thank you notes to customers to bringing packages to the Post Office and meeting with community groups.
John has benefitted from school and extracurricular programs that have challenged him to push his boundaries and supported his efforts to explore and test his abilities. Each business meeting is important to John. It allows him to represent his company so he can talk about the socks we offer and the service we provide. John loves telling folks about the thank you notes he writes. Every day, John takes time to write thank you cards and loves knowing that it makes a connection with his customers.
Each business meeting also allows John to grow, to learn how to answer questions and make presentations. Like all of us, he learns from experience, yet it is focused experience. After every meeting, he has a conversation to assess how he did and what he could learn to do better.
We learned about the many programs and services offered by the Friendship Circle. We heard how the special needs children look forward to the weekly programs and relish the chance to play and spend time with their volunteer buddies. But the teenage volunteers benefit just as much or more and they too look forward to the weekly events. The volunteers acquire increased empathy and learn to appreciate the value of giving to others and making a difference for others.
Muisa shared with us ten things to know about the Friendship Circle. This included that the program is open to all regardless of their religious affiliation. The Friendship Circle is a welcoming and supportive environment where everyone is recognized and celebrated for whom they are. The events allow volunteers and their special needs buddies to come together so everyone can expand their social circle and make new friends. The setting empowers the teenagers to set a clear agenda to make a difference for each other and in the world around them.
We loved seeing the positive work that Musia is doing with the New York Friendship Circle.