May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

‘Lights and Laughter’ Celebrates LifeTown’s Creation

Livingston–The room resembled an upscale comedy club, but it wasn’t a Manhattan hangout. It was the Friendship Circle’s home in Livingston which was transformed for its third-annual Young Leadership Celebration. Community support and community building were key elements of this year’s “Lights & Laughter” Young Leadership Celebration.

Three hundred people turned out for the Dec. 4, pre-Chanukah event, which included a stand-up performance by comedian Elon Gold, who has made 10 appearances on The Tonight Show and was a regular on the TV series Bones. He told the JLNJ he met some of the Friendship Circle’s teen volunteers earlier in the day, and said, “I don’t know who I am more impressed with–the amazing, sweet volunteers or the special needs children the volunteers are working with.”

The event showcased LifeTown, a 45,000-square-foot facility that will offer social, educational, therapeutic, and recreational facilities for individuals with special needs that is slated for construction this spring. The centerpiece is Life Village, a functioning town square complete with streets, stores, and more that will serve as the venue for life-skills training.

“[LifeTown] is going to be a place for my child and me, where the whole community gets together and gets involved.” said Doron Barness of Short Hills, the evening’s emcee. Her son participates in Friendship Circle programming. “Be part of something magical,” Barness told the audience. “Be part of LifeTown. Be part of greatness.”

The message resonated with many in the audience who understood how critical LifeTown will be for individuals with special needs. They could visualize the opportunities it will present to everyone in the community.

Pointing to the photos of Friendship Circle children hanging on the walls, Jay Murnick of Short Hills asked the audience to appreciate what they were seeing: “Look at these [pictures], that’s why. Look at what they are physically building with LifeTown. That’s why.”

Meredith Friedman of Livingston, who knows a number of Friendship Circle participants, praised the Young Leadership Celebration and its goals. “When LifeTown is completed it will be a great facility that will attract families,” she said. “And, it will do so much for children with special needs. It is so nice to have it in our community, and I’m glad so many people have come out to support it.”

Steven Simon of Livingston says he and his family get good feelings from volunteering with the Friendship Circle and encouraged others to do the same. “Every time we come here, [we] just want to do more and help more,” he said. “This is a special place that makes you feel so special for helping.”

To learn more about the Friendship Circle log on to www.FCNJ.com, and for more about LifeTown visit www.LifeTown.com.

By Faygie Levy

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