Sophie* loves board games. She loves to cook. She loves lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday night, and she loves it when her monthly invitation from Friends ‘N Fun comes in the mail.
“I got mail! Open it! Open it!” the twelve-year-old sings.
Friends ‘N Fun, a program of Sha’arim, pairs children with special needs with teen volunteers for an afternoon of guided socializing. Each month, participants receive a special invitation in the mail announcing that month’s location. Sha’arim also runs a similar program for adults with special needs, as well as vocational training and employment opportunities for that population, and inclusive Jewish educational support and social opportunities for school-aged children.
For kids like Sophie, Friends ‘N Fun is sometimes the only social event on their calendar.
“Sophie thinks everyone is her friend,” says her mom. “She is so loving and happy and carefree. But she doesn’t get invited to play with friends. She doesn’t understand why her brother keeps getting playdate invitations, and she doesn’t.”
When the Friends ‘N Fun invitation comes in the mail, Sophie and her mom tape the invitation to the inside of the cabinet and write the date on the calendar. As the day gets closer, Sophie proudly tells everyone “I have plans this weekend!”
But COVID-19 put Sophie’s social life on hold as Sha’arim was forced to pause most of its programming. “We lost the opportunity to do our second largest fundraiser of the year,” adds Layah Shagalow, Sha’arim’s associate director. “That fundraiser entirely funds the social recreational portion of our programming—like Friends ‘N Fun.”
When the pandemic is over, Sophie hopes Friends ‘N Fun is still around. She misses outings with her friends at the Mall of America and the Children’s Museum—normal social activities for most kids, but often the only time Sophie was invited out.
That’s why a gift to Kadima, which supports Sha’arim as well as more than 20 other Minneapolis Jewish organizations, is so important. Without funds from Kadima, Friends ‘N Fun may not be able to continue operating.
Agencies, schools, and synagogues across Minneapolis will need to recoup millions of dollars to keep their doors open. By supporting Kadima, you can help make sure that our Jewish community emerges from this pandemic stronger than before.
*name has been changed