Friday, March 11, 2011
Every time my son asks for a playdate, my heart breaks a little. Adi is seven years old. Although he is sometime invited to the birthday parties of my friends’ children, he is usually overlooked. Although my five year old son is often invited to someone’s house to play, Adi is always left behind. We try to arrange occasional interactions for Adi with his peers, but it’s asking a lot of a first grader to play with a child with special needs whose speech isn’t always intelligible, who can’t play the way other children do, who is clearly, visibly different.
The first time I heard about the Friendship Circle, I was skeptical. Teens were going to come to my house and play with my son for an hour? My son could go to activities and someone else would interact with him while I had a cup of coffee and chatted with other parents? Maybe it sounds cynical, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up.
If I say that Friendship Circle has changed my life – and my family – you will think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you that I am not. For three years now, Monday afternoons are filled with anticipation in my home. From the moment Adi returns from school, he announces, “Dean’s coming!” And when Dean arrives – the jubilation is tangible.
Dean is happy to do whatever Adi wants to do – watch videos of garbage trucks on YouTube, play in the park, act out episodes of Blue’s Clues – whatever Adi wants, he gets, for that hour. Most exciting, of course, is that he gets a friend. He gets a playdate. And it is amazing.
When we go to Friendship Circle activities throughout the year, Dean meets us there and whisks Adi away to have fun. At first, I was nervous, but I’ve learned to let them go -- not that Adi gives me a choice. “That’s my Dean,” he tells me. “Not your Dean.”
People who don’t know me know Adi from Friendship Circle and greet him warmly when we are out and about. Sometimes I feel like wherever I go in Houston, Friendship Circle is there, a small but shining presence that lightens my step, that makes my days easier.
I was surprised to learn recently that just to break even with their current programming, Friendship Circle of Houston needs $80,000 annually. And they have plans for expansion – but those plans take money, of course. When you donate to the Friendship Circle, you help support the programs that already exist, and you help build the vision that is slowly coming to life. You give Adi, and other children like him, playdates. You give respite to parents, support to siblings, and you give the world a chance to see my son’s smile.
Our family is participating in this year's Houston Friendship Walk. We need your support to reach our goal! Please make a secure online donation today.
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