On April 29, the fourth annual Walk4Friends will e held at Vonage. The event raises funds for children with special needs.
According to Rabbi Shmaya Galperin of the Chabad Jewish Center of Holmdel, more than 800 registered walkers are expected to participate in the event this year, which will take place at 23 Main Street, Holmdel at 1 p.m.
Sponsored by the Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey, the event aims to raise close to $150,000 for special needs youth. The Friendship Circle of Central New Jersey provides innovative program for more than 100 teenagers and children with special needs, as well as for their families.
This year, the Goto family of will join the walk in honor of Sam Goto, 16, a special needs boy who has participated in the program for four years.
“He constantly checks the calendar on our wall to make sure he doesn’t miss anything,” Sam's mother, Stacy, said. “The socialization of Friendship Circle is very important to him. If we didn’t have these activities, there would be a tremendous void in his life and ours.”
Chanale Wolosow of Manalapan directs the Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization, with the help of over 100 high school volunteers. The volunteers administer weekly visits to the homes of special needs children and aid in running their recreational activities.
Sam's favorite part of being in the Friendship Circle is spending time every week with his Friends at Home volunteers, Nate Cohen and Andrew Polkowitz, who are seniors at Marlboro High School. Sam plays video games and performs musical shows with them. Nate plays several musical instruments and will play off of sheet music that Sam prints out for him. They have even ventured to iPlay America and went on the bumper cars, according to Sam.
Nate feels that he gets as much out of the experience as Sam does. “In order to have a friend, you must be a friend, and that feeling of a true friendship is exactly what I get from Sam,” Nate said. “Once I took him to the mall and he bumped into some kids from his school. When he introduced me to them as his friend, I was beside myself,” said Nate. “This program is extremely valuable for everyone involved.”
Parents of special needs children are able to get a much-needed reprieve and able to unwind while their children participate in the Friendship Circle programs and special events.
This year the Walk4Friends is taking place during Autism Awareness month bringing an awareness to autism and helping develop a stronger sense of community while showing support for special children and their families, according to Wolosow.
Walk4Friends, taking place on April 29, kicks off with an opening ceremony and pep rally at 1 p.m. and is followed up by a one mile walk. After the walk, there will be refreshments, entertainment, and other family-oriented activities including rides, side shows, and an open air market offered until 4 p.m.
"Wacky Chad", a funny show for all ages, will be the featured entertainment of the day.
All walkers must register by April 17 and will receive a Walk4Friends T-shirt; registration is free. Registering on April 29 opens at noon on the Vonage Campus.