Friendship Circle of Los Angeles kicked off the beginning of construction for a new all-inclusive playground on Sunday July 21, 2013 at 1952 South Robertson Boulevard.
The event marked the beginning of construction for “My Backyard”, a playground designed specifically for children who have physical disabilities and other special needs. Play structures and equipment were chosen by a team of skilled professionals and specialists based on years of experience with the special needs community.
The new playground will feature California’s first and only integration carousel, which whill allow children who are wheelchair-bound to roll directly on! Some other features included in the playground are a water and sand play structure, imperative for children who have sensory needs, an interactive raised garden that will enable children to enjoy gardening and watching the ‘fruits’ of their labor, a tricycle path with evenly spaced multi variation pavement for kids who require the stimulation of the vibrations and much more. Long term plans include curriculum where typical children will have the opportunity to play with children who have various disabilities by utilizing each component of the yard to its full potential. Furthermore, Jewish values, rituals and lifestyles will play a part in the plans to make the yard interactive and a place for physical, spiritual and communal growth. For example, the children will learn about the Jewish harvest holidays and then go outside and work in the Friendship Garden. These plans include opening up the yard to local schools and youth groups where they can be a part of this place of inclusion and life-long learning.
98% of Jewish children who have moderate-several disabilities in Los Angeles do not attend a Jewish school. The Friendship Circle, and now this playground, will be a Jewish ‘home away from home’ for these children.
The event included a breakfast for donors and a ceremony featuring speeches by founders Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy and his wife Miriam, Vice-President of Partnership & Innovation at the Jewish Federation Scott Minkow, parent and donor Bezhad Kianmahd, and Steve Bram, a representative of the R.P.O (Real Estate Principals Organization), which gave an $80,000 grant and ongoing consultation for the project. Children attending participated in art projects and were treated to a Mad Science show. Towards the end of the ceremony, the crowd broke into a dance at which point Director, Michy Rav-noy played a shovel like a guitar! Most inspiring, however, was the heartfelt and profound comment made by Mr. Kianmahd:
“I believe the G-d created each one of us with love….and no one is perfect…in that sense, we all have ‘special needs’. Nevertheless, G-d loves each and every one of us and takes care of our needs…that is the true message and embodiment to the Friendship Circle. This message is lived daily at the Friendship Circle. ”
The Friendship Circle of Los Angeles was initiated by Rabbi Michy Rav-Noy and his wife Miriam in 2003 to address the social needs of Jewish children with special challenges. Its mission is to provide these children with opportunities to engage with others through social, recreational, educational and Judaic experiences. At the heart of all Friendship Circle programs are its 420 teen volunteers from 58 schools around Los Angeles, who are paired with participating children to provide mentorship and friendship. It’s a win-win for everyone as the teens give of themselves and children are the recipients of all that love.
To learn about Friendship Circle of Los Angeles’ events and programs, become a volunteer or to register your child for one of Friendship Circle’s programs, please call 310.280.0955 or visit their website at www.fcla.org.
Phtotos by Yossi Percia