My name is Valerie Lane and I have a daughter, who is nineteen, her name is Lauren Ettinger. Lauren is cognitively impaired and she has ADD and Obsessive compulsive disorder, just to name a few things.
When Lauren was about 8 years old, she participated for the first time in the Jewish Hall of Fame games (Special Olympics). While there, I ran into a friend who also has a child with special needs. She and another girl were talking about someone who offers them respite care for their child on Sunday's, when a volunteer teen comes over and plays with your child. I thought this sounded like something I should look into. They kept mentioning someone by the name of Bassie. I said I had to meet this "Bassie".
Later that afternoon, I was introduced to Bassie. Not knowing it then, but that was the introduction that changed our lives. Bassie had someone contact me and we set up a meeting with a young lady who would befriend Lauren.
Over the years, we have had quite a few volunteers, many of whom have gone off to college, but they still keep in touch with Lauren. As a matter of fact, we just got an e-mail from Eden Litt, her friend from 4 years ago, who is in Australia going to school. She mentioned how much she misses seeing Lauren, and that she looks at her picture often to keep her from getting homesick.
I have to say that each and every volunteer that has worked and played with Lauren is special in their own way. They all have a bright light around them, and their enthusiasm and genuine acceptance for Lauren, makes me Thank G‑d for the Friendship Circle and all that they do. Lauren participates in almost all of the programs. She has found a special home at Bassie's & Devorah's for Shabbat Dinner, at Lifetown for all the wonderful programs & activities it has to offer and The Shul, where she is as comfortable as she is in her own home.
The love and warmth that we both feel when we are with anyone from The Friendship Circle can only be compared to that love you get from your own family.
After meeting with many mother's of children with special needs at the Sunday Program, I decided to start our own group called "The Friendship Circle Mom's", where we meet once a month for dinner and talk about our kids to other mother's that truly understand what you're gong through on a daily basis. We talk about our challenges, our hopes, schools, camps, medication (that's a huge topic) and other pertinent information. These women have become my close circle of friends. And in time of crisis, I know they are there for me, as I am for them.
I have been so blessed in my life for becoming involved with The Friendship Circle, I know my life is so much better because of The Friendship Circle, all the fabulous volunteers are in it.