The Never-Ending Circle



Documentary on Friendship Circle airs Sept. 23 on Channel 7.

A screenshot from The Circle Never Ends

Since its inception in 1994, Friendship Circle of West Bloomfield has assisted tens of thousands of families that have children with special needs. Inspired to make a mark on the community, Bassie and Rabbi Levi Shemtov set out on a mission to help children of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. Now, the story of Friendship Circle is featured in a heartwarming documentary set to air on Sunday Sept. 23, at 5:30 p.m. on WXYZ-TV, Channel 7.

Friendship Circle offers therapy for children of all ages with a wide variety of medical issues ranging from autism to multiple sclerosis by teaching them essential life skills in “Lifetown,” a remarkable indoor city.

The documentary entitled The Circle Never Ends is produced and hosted by longtime Detroit broadcaster Eli Zaret, who takes viewers through Friendship Circle, interviewing the Shemtovs, the inspiring children of Friendship Circle, their parents and the dedicated teen volunteers who make it all possible.

Zaret, who made his mark in the broadcasting industry as a sportscaster, captures some beautiful moments in this fast-moving and emotional journey through the inner workings of one of Metro Detroit’s best‐kept secrets.

The production gave Zaret a new point of view. “My perspective on volunteerism was greatly altered,” he said. “Kids with special needs can be frightening, and some of the teens admit they were intimidated at first. But they quickly realized that unlike many of their peers, the kids with special needs passed no judgment on how they looked, who they knew, how much money they had or where they lived. The purity of the friendship overwhelmed many of them. The kids with special needs don’t even understand lying, coercion or deception. As teen volunteer Jenna Silverstein said, ‘They just want to be your friend.’”

The documentary shows that as volunteers began sharing their experiences about this special bond, the number of volunteers swelled, allowing the Friendship Circle to grow exponentially.

The project also affected Zaret’s views as a parent. “Parenthood is always wrought with challenges, but raising children with special needs goes beyond what anyone outside that realm can imagine,” he said.

“I realized that many parents of special needs children are prisoners in their own homes, unable to even get a baby-sitter in many instances. I learned that without outside assistance, these parents are quickly and tragically overwhelmed. It was both disheartening to realize the pervasiveness of this as well uplifting to realize that so many good people were willing to help.”

In the documentary, parent Julie Zorn, who has two sons with special needs, sums up the feelings of many families who rely on Friendship Circle. “There is just so much love, acceptance and affection here,” she said.

The documentary was made possible by generous donations from attorney Sam Bernstein, the William Davidson Foundation and several other benefactors. It came about after a visit by Zaret to Friendship Circle some six months ago at the urging of longtime broadcasting colleague Mort Meisner.

“When made aware of this remarkable, internationally renowned charity that was created in our own backyard, we felt compelled to bring greater awareness to it,” said Channel 7 General Manager Ed Fernandez.

If you miss the Sept. 23 5:30 p.m. broadcast, catch a repeat on Channel 7 Sunday, Sept. 30, at 3:30 p.m.

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