New Center for Individuals With Special Needs Will Serve Thousands of Families in South Florida

Posted at 3:31 PM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 15:31:48-04

Ellie Bolduc has been attending Friendship Circle Miami for eight years.

Ellie's mother, Stacy Bolduc, thanks the program for helping her daughter create lifelong friendships.

"She does the 'Friends at Home' program where friends come to our home and spend time with her and they developed beyond just coming to our house and playing games," said Stacy.

Stacy believes there are limitless possibilities for educational and social growth at Friendship Circle for Ellie, who has down syndrome. Stacy said her daughter has made great strides there.

"Ellie went with the group to the city commission to present the Friendship Circle cause. She spoke in front of a thousand people and basically said please support us we need you. Not many kids with down syndrome get these opportunities," said Stacy.

The nonprofit is launching their “We Belong” campaign at their third annual Heart and Soul Gala, which is being held this Thursday at the Fairchild Botanical Gardens.

The goal is to raise awareness and funds for their new campus.

"Designated rooms like a parent lounge, a volunteer lounge, an art room, a life skills room, a cooking circle room, [and] a bakery. There’s going to be everything that we would love our children, teens and adults with special needs would enjoy," said director of Friendship Circle, Nechema Harlig.

Research shows, autistic individuals tend to be lonelier than their neurotypical peers and this loneliness may contribute significantly to depression and anxiety. Having more and long-lasting friendships may ease the loneliness.

Friendship Circle Miami aims to provide those easy friendships.

"The gift of friendship and feeling accepted and feeling like you belong, that’s something that helps a person thrive and really the sky’s the limit once they feel accepted and embraced," added Nechema.

"Every single one of these kids are different. Sometimes friendships are hard and sometimes they’re not and some are more isolated than others. What’s nice about this place is that it’s inclusive and everybody can fit where they belong," said Stacy.

The new Friendship Circle campus will serve thousands of children and families. If you can’t make it to the gala, you can donate at