This non-profit organization educates teen volunteers about special needs and empowers them to befriend a child with special needs who may not otherwise have a friend.
This non-profit organization educates teen volunteers about special needs and empowers them to befriend a child with special needs who may not otherwise have a friend.

Be a friend. Go yellow.

“Yellow is the universal color of friendship and happiness. (Think yellow roses for a friend, yellow smiley faces, yellow sunshine in the summertime.) We like to think we provide those things: friendship, smiles and warmth.”

So says Ashley (Heavner) Doringo (daughter of Denette Heavner, who owns Denette’s Golden Mirror in Garrettsville). Doringo graduated from James A. Garfield High School in 2006, went on to earn a degree in psychology, and now serves as a Program Coordinator for the special needs organization, Friendship Circle of Cleveland.

This non-profit organization educates teen volunteers about special needs and empowers them to befriend a child with special needs who may not otherwise have a friend. Doringo explains, “The children we serve spend so much of their time in therapy and special ed school settings without much inclusion. They aren’t always able to participate in things their peers do to make friends, and if they do, sometimes they struggle to fit in. So, my job is to create social programs and activities for the teen volunteers and children with special needs to enjoy together. Our motto is simple: Everyone deserves a friend!”

Friendship Circle’s annual fundraiser, MyWalk4Friends, is coming up on September 6. In preparation for the walk and to raise awareness with the hopes to increase participation, a “Go Yellow4Friends!” Day will be held on Monday, August 10.

Domingo is asking businesses and organizations in Cleveland and surrounding areas to go yellow and post pictures on social media with #MyWalk4Friends and #Champion4Friends. The Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland will be lit up in yellow in support of the cause. Local business owners Monica Potter with Monica Potter Home and Denette Heavner of Denette’s Golden Mirror have already signed on to Go Yellow. Both are “going yellow4friends” by wearing yellow on Monday, August 10, snapping photos, and sharing to social media with #champion4friends and #MyWalk4Friends.

“Our hope is that with each business we get to join us in going yellow, the more people will see what we do, and the more children we will be able to serve with our programs. We sincerely believe in our motto, Everyone deserves a friend, and work hard to provide just that. The community as a whole can get involved in the same way, joining in “go yellow4friends” and everyone can be a huge help by visiting www.MyWalk4Friends.com to make donations in any amount. We are a non-profit, so everything we do depends on the help we get from our supporters,” Domingo says.

Friendship Circle of Cleveland is located in Pepper Pike. This Jewish outreach accepts any child or teen with special needs who would like to participate in its programs. However, only Jewish teens are accepted as regular volunteers, as many volunteers are sent into Orthodox Jewish homes for the program,  “friends@home.” If a family would like more information about participation in our programs, email info@friendscleveland.com and visit www.FriendsCleveland.com.

The organization currently serves 140 children and teens with special needs with 250 teen volunteers. The organization is 12 years old, starting in 2003 with five children and 10 volunteers.

If anyone wants to attend our walk (loads of fun) and make a walk team, visit www.MyWalk4Friends.com or give us a call the office at (216) 377-3000 , Monday through Friday, 9:30am-4:30pm.