The Friendship Circle’s Walk4Friendship event is designed to raise funds and increase awareness for individuals with special needs. This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 28.

The Friendship Circle’s Walk4Friendship event is designed to raise funds and increase awareness for individuals with special needs. This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 28.

Photo provided by Emily Hebert

Walk to benefit individuals with special needs set to take place in West Bloomfield

‘Imagine all these families that one day may have felt isolated do not feel isolated; they feel extremely loved, wanted and respected’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 24, 2022


WEST BLOOMFIELD — When the Friendship Circle introduced its inaugural Walk4Friendship event more than a decade ago, the nonprofit organization’s co-founder, Bassie Shemtov, said she “wasn’t necessarily optimistic” that it was going to be a success.

According to a press release, the Friendship Circle supports over 3,000 individuals with special needs by providing recreational, social, educational and vocational programming.

Walk4Friendship is intended to raise funds and awareness to help support the Friendship Circle’s mission.

As it turned out, when reflecting on the first event, Shemtov said, “We were blown away” by the number of people who participated.

“In our first year, we raised $100,000, which was a tremendous amount for our first year. And I think we had, like, 8,900 people,” she said. “Even after that, I never thought that it could grow like this.”

What it has grown into is an annual event that Shemtov estimated typically draws between 3,000 and 5,000 people and is the Friendship Circle’s largest annual fundraiser.

She said that, last year, $630,000 was raised.

This year’s walk is scheduled to take place Sunday, Aug. 28.

The walk is set to begin at the Friendship Circle’s Farber Center, located at 5586 Drake Road, and end at the Meer Center, located at 6892 W. Maple Road.

According to the release, it is a 2-mile walk.

Registration is scheduled to open at 10:30 a.m., with the walk beginning at 11:45 a.m.

This year’s Walk4Friendship event is set to be the 17th for the nonprofit, with “Built on Friendship” chosen as the theme.

Aside from there being no cost, other rewards are expected to be in store for participants.

“All the entertainment is free — all the food,” Shemtov said. “It’s full-excitement for the whole family. Everyone is invited and encouraged to celebrate this family of Friendship Circle. … We’ll be focusing on unconditional love and (a) non-judgement environment — celebrating the beauty and gifts that individuals with special needs have, in particular.”

Participants can also snag a free T-shirt at the event.

A rock-climbing wall, balloon artistry, face-painting, “water-play,” an escape room and “interactive sports blow-ups” are all expected to be part of the entertainment.

Shemtov said that this year’s fund-raising goal is $650,000.

The release states that the Friendship Circle “supports individuals with special needs, those struggling with isolation, addiction and other family-related crises.”

Shemtov said that funds raised at Walk4Friendship events are “super important.”

“It’s a pretty nice bulk of our annual budget,” she said. “We really rely on it.”

Those who attend Walk4Friendship are not required to donate.

“We encourage everyone to do their fundraising and donate, but it’s not a must,” Shemtov said. “So anyone that does not have the ability to donate or just wants to be part of the family — everyone’s welcome.”

For Shemtov, the Walk4Friendship event is about more than raising money.

“It’s not only about the funds. It’s also about the awareness,” she said. “We’re spreading awareness about Friendship Circle; spreading awareness about the importance (of) connecting and being a part of the lives of people that have special needs.”

From Shemtov’s perspective, community members can learn “from our special friends how not to be bogged down by materialism (and) superficial stuff and dig deeper and connect with people more deeply.”

Last year, West Bloomfield resident Michele Harris said that she has been part of Walk4Friendship events “since the beginning.”

“It’s exciting,” Harris said. “The feeling of camaraderie, the whole atmosphere of bringing people together and making such an important change in people’s lives — very gratifying.”

Aside from being a “crucial event on so many levels,” Shemtov thinks it is one that the community gets excited about.

“The feeling that you have hundreds, and thousands, of people that are so excited to be there. … That’s what our goal is for this walk,” she said. “Besides bringing important funds together, a big part of the mission is to bring that sense of community, where everybody knows that they could make a difference. Each and every one of us, by coming, is making a huge difference by adding to that family energy, that friendship energy, that sense that — imagine all these families that one day may have felt isolated do not feel isolated; they feel extremely loved, wanted and respected. It’s (a) very special environment, the walk.”