Graduate Hailey Reinke and Karrah Waganat strike a pose.
Graduate Hailey Reinke and Karrah Waganat strike a pose. (Photo courtesy of Friendship Circle)

Graduates held up homemade posters, families posed for pictures, and the Friendship Circle ice cream truck handed out sweet treats

Ice cream, smiles and proud graduates were all part of a special day-long celebration June 4, courtesy of Friendship Circle. The West Bloomfield-based nonprofit, which serves more than 3,000 local families of children with special needs, put together a social distancing graduation parade that made stops at the homes of 20 elementary, middle and high school graduates.

At each location, graduates held up homemade posters, families posed for pictures, and the Friendship Circle ice cream truck handed out sweet treats.

“We recognized that because of [COVID-19] and social distancing, kids might be feeling isolated in their homes,” said Bassie Shemtov, executive program director at Friendship Circle. “The parade was a way for everyone to connect and share the celebration safely.”

This was the first-ever Friendship Circle graduation parade. Many of the organization’s teen volunteers also took part and got to see their buddies for the first time in months, even though they were wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.

“Thank you so much for being such an important part of our life,” said Mara Freund whose son Andrew is graduating from Walled Lake Central High School. “Andrew loves his awesome friends from Friendship Circle.”

The parade also made a stop at the home of Eli Menuck of Birmingham who is graduating from fifth grade and heading to middle school next year. He’s been participating in Friendship Circle programs since he was 4 or 5 years old.

“It was really special,” said his mom, Lisa. “Eli, and I am sure many of his peers, don’t understand the concept of graduation and how so many things will be different next year. He’s had the same special ed teacher and classroom since kindergarten. They went above and beyond to make him and others feel celebrated. So much enthusiasm.”

To learn more about Friendship Circle, visit friendshipcircle.org.

Hannah Craft gets some ice cream from the Friendship Circle ice cream truck
Hannah Craft gets some ice cream from the Friendship Circle ice cream truck. Courtesy of Friendship Circle
Summer Brown wears a graduation cap and homemade sign
Summer Brown wears a graduation cap and homemade sign. Courtesy of Friendship Circle
Jill, Lisa, Casie, and Jessica Menuck with 5th grade graduate, Eli
Jill, Lisa, Casie, and Jessica Menuck with 5th grade graduate, Eli. Courtesy of Friendship Circle
Ellie Uhlarik holds up a graduation certificate from Friendship Circle.
Ellie Uhlarik holds up a graduation certificate from Friendship Circle. Courtesy of Friendship Circle
The parade of cars, seen from a side view mirror
The parade of cars, seen from a side view mirror. Courtesy of Friendship Circle

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