The Friendship Circle’s 18th Walk4Friendship fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27. The fundraiser is set to benefit individuals with special needs.

The Friendship Circle’s 18th Walk4Friendship fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27. The fundraiser is set to benefit individuals with special needs.

File photo provided by Emily Hebert

Community invited to join Walk4Friendship event in West Bloomfield

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 6, 2023


WEST BLOOMFIELD – A good time in support of a good cause could be in store for thousands of residents later this month.

The Friendship Circle of Michigan’s 18th Walk4Friendship fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27.

The walk is approximately 1.7 miles, with the route scheduled to start at the Friendship Circle’s Farber Center and end at the Friendship Circle’s Meer Center.

The Friendship Circle provides recreational, social, educational and vocational programming for individuals with special needs.

According to a press release, fundraisers such as Walk4Friendship help to support the nonprofit in its mission of providing friendship and inclusion to nearly 3,000 individuals with special needs.

This year’s theme, “As You Are,” embodies the principles of inclusion and serves as a reminder that the Friendship Circle is a place where kids and adults alike are accepted, valued and celebrated, the release states.

According to Bassie Shemtov, who is the Friendship Circle’s co-founder, last year’s Walk4Friendship broke a record by raising $750,000, which surpassed the nonprofit’s goal of $650,000.

Walk4Friendship is the Friendship Circle’s largest fundraiser, and this year’s goal equals the amount raised last year.

“Fundraising at the walk makes everything happen — everything from our children’s division, our teen volunteers, our teen mental health, our vocational programs for our adults,” Shemtov said. “So literally everything we do, the walk is a real chunk of the budget, and besides being a super-important fundraiser, it’s also our key way of getting the word out to the community, to realizing the beauty of people with special needs, and as well as, it’s (in) the community’s best interest to have people with special needs as part of their workplace, and bringing them into their community, their family, and realizing that we all have a lot to gain from it.”

Shemtov estimated that 3,000 people attended last year’s Walk4Friendship, and with a “tremendous effort” to get the word out, this year’s event could attract even more people.

The Friendship Circle has been reaching out to different groups, such as men’s and women’s clubs, and marching bands, and according to Shemtov, for those that bring at least 10 people, the Friendship Circle will make iron-ons with logos that go on the sleeves of T-shirts provided to walkers, allowing the groups to represent their “mini-community.”

Aside from a free T-shirt, attendees are also treated to food and entertainment.

Scheduled entertainment this year includes rides, a zipline and a scavenger hunt.

“Nothing costs,” Shemtov said. “In fact, the scavenger hunt, if you find all of the seven parts, you get a very cool Friendship Circle cap. It’s (going to) be a fun event.”

West Bloomfield resident Lori Ellis worked in speech and pathology for more than 35 years, including approximately 30 for Royal Oak Schools, before retiring about five years ago.

Since retiring, she has authored “educational and fun” children’s books to help children with disabilities, as well as general education students, including one she co-authored with Lisa Sherbel titled “Speech Tips with Spunky Monkey.”

Ellis is a supporter of the Walk4Friendship events.

“I feel like it’s a great fundraiser,” she said. “It helps out the community. … It’s very rewarding to see that this is available in our community, and it helps out so many families and children.”

Hosting an event that attracts thousands of people is not something that Shemtov anticipated when the nonprofit was started.

“It’s not something I ever thought would happen, so it is inspirational on a daily basis to see how people with special needs affect our community,” she said. “It’s invigorating and exciting every day to continue to do the things that we are doing together.”

The level of support that the community has shown for individuals with special needs by participating in events such as the Walk4Friendship has not gone unnoticed.

“They feel like they’re the celebrities in town,” Shemtov said. “People with special needs around here are adored, loved, respected (and) appreciated. People see that they have that special (something) inside that, unfortunately, us more typically developing people don’t have — that beauty that they have.”

Ellis said the Friendship Circle plays a huge role in the community.

“It provides such support for families that are looking for some additional support,” she said. “It provides a social aspect (and) educational support. … This walk is so important because they need those donations to help with these programs.”

From Shemtov’s perspective, participating in the Walk4Friendship is like joining a community that is changing the way the world sees people with special needs.

“Seeing the floods of purple T-shirts walking together is beautiful, and I feel like the energy, you feel it,” she said. “Everyone’s happy to be there. Everyone’s excited to make the difference. It’s a very special, positive energy. … As the name of this year’s slogan is ‘As You Are,’ we’re asking everyone, as they are, to kinda step up to the plate and join the community in making the world a better place.”

To register for the walk in advance or make a donation, visit

Registration is scheduled to open at 10:30 a.m., followed by the opening ceremony at 11:30 a.m. and the walk at 11:45 a.m.

Parking is available at Temple Israel, located at 5725 Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield.