East side teens, empowered by 'Friendship Circle,' strive to support special youngsters: Romona's Kids

Updated: Nov. 30, 2017 at 10:17 PM EST
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PEPPER PIKE, OH (WOIO) - For children with special needs, it can be difficult to make and keep friends. So a group of local Jewish teens is stepping in to bring happiness to their younger buddies.

Last year alone, they volunteered over 17,000 hours at Friendship Circle.

Friendship Circle was started by Rabbi Yossi Marozov and his wife, Estie, in 2003.

It's now in 80 communities around the world. The teens and children do activities together, like art, music and movement.

"You can see how happy they are and it's contagious, and spreads onto me and other people," said Justin Helfman.

"Coming in and seeing your friend smile when he sees you,  is the best part about it," said Matthew Friedman.

"It makes me feel great to come here just to see my friends face light up," said Tyler Fertel. "He's really kind and nice and he always gives people Avengers names, so I'm Iron Man and he calls himself Hulk."

"Being here for four years, you get to see how much their social skills have improved and it's awesome," said Rachel Podl.

Some of the volunteers even make home visits.

"I go to her house with another volunteer and we just help her specifically and it's great because it's a very nurturing environment with her mom there and she feels a lot of support when we come there and it's great," said Emily Glazer.

"It's really nice, you are the one helping the kids but you feel they're doing everything for you, you really are impacted from them," said Danna Zlatin.

"Friendship Circle is inspiring me to want to go into the field of occupational therapy, where I could help others every day," said Morgan Krantz.

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