Philly Friendship Walk Supported Youth with Special Needs and Their Families

Torell Family PhotoGathered at the Philly Friendship Walk held Sunday, Nov. 7 at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr are (from left) Anthony, Matt, Esme and Juniper Torell of Kennett Square. Esme is a member of the Philly Friendship Circle and the walk raised funds for the organization, which connects teens and young adults to youth with special needs and their families through a full range of social offerings and programs. (Submitted Image; Photograph by Aaron Benau)

PHILADELPHIA, PA — More than 300 participants joined together at the Philly Friendship Walk, Sunday, Nov. 7, in support of the Philly Friendship Circle, the unique organization that connects teens and young adults to youth with special needs and their families through a full range of social offerings and programs. The walk took place at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr.

The walk is an annual fall event raising crucial funds and community awareness for Philly Friendship Circle, which builds inclusive friendships in the Jewish community. Inspired by the power of genuine friendships, Philly Friendship youth volunteers cultivate understanding, kindness and responsibility while ensuring a caring and inclusive community.

Approximately 300 youths with and without disabilities are served by Philly Friendship Circle.

“The Philly Friendship Circle is a rare community that truly accept everyone, which is hard to find nowadays. It’s so important to me to have an outlet where I can genuinely be myself,” said Alexa Verne, 17, of Gladwyne, one of five youth co-chairs of the Philly Friendship Walk.

Verne and her co-chairs, Gabrielle Dorfman, 17, of Bryn Mawr, Ben Wolf, 17, of Wynnewood, Fallyn Zeitzer, 21, and Carly Zeitzer, 21, both of Huntingdon Valley, planned the event, raised money for the walk, recruited participants and reached out to fellow youth to be involved with the campaign. They were also the public face of the walk on social media.

“Through the bonds of friendship and shared experiences, Friendship Circle epitomizes ‘love thy neighbor.’ We are thankful for the reminder that our similarities will always be stronger than our differences,” said Eve Kovsky of Bala Cynwyd. Kovsky and her husband David are co-chairs of the Philly Friendship Walk with Ali and Lee Sussman of Bryn Mawr and Renee and Michael Zeitzer of Huntingdon Valley.

“One of the challenges of being the parent to a child with special needs is the feeling of being very alone. Everyone always loves my daughter, but it can feel like nobody understands what we need to do to take care of our child, who is so very different from all the other children out there. As transplants to this area, nobody is really there to help us take care of her. In seeking support and solace, one of the things that became apparent was that I needed community, especially as someone not native to this area,” said Matt Torell, who moved to Kennett Square in 2013 and who has raised more than $2,500 for the walk. “Friendship Circle was recommended to me as a means for that community, and I have to say, that is really what we found. Friendship Circle has become part of my extended family.”

The Family Fun Fair included an ultimate bungee trampoline and obstacle course, a magician, crafts, a caricature artist and an opportunity to meet a lizard brought by Jake’s Critters.

For more information about the Philly Friendship Circle, visit

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