Ariana Rosenfeld, 16, walked out of her house on a Thursday afternoon to find a red carpet, balloons, and personalized video and letter from Gov. Tony Evers.
“I knew they were doing an award, but I thought they were just going to hand me a sheet of paper,” Rosenfeld said. “I did not think they were going to go above and beyond that much.”
Rosenfeld is one of twelve teens on the Teen Leadership Board of Friendship Circle, a Jewish non-profit that fosters friendships with people who have special needs. Evers awarded the teens congratulatory proclamations in early June.
Friendship Circle directors Levi and Leah Stein, along with police escorts, drove to each of the teen’s homes to bestow the awards in-person. Though hosting a typical award ceremony was not possible due to COVID-19, Rabbi Levi Stein said he wanted to ensure the occasion would still be “memorable” and “royal.”
“Five years from now, when they think back to the COVID days, they’ll have this memory ingrained into them when they got this award,” Stein said. “And that will have a chain reaction to them in remembering the impact they had through volunteering.”
Friendship Circle volunteers visit children with special needs to hang out as friends, as well as attend special events like art night, movie night, and Torah and tea. Those on the Teen Leadership Board also help with recruitment and programming.
Rosenfeld said she loves seeing her special friend, and they always have “so much fun.” To her, the award represented a glimmer of hope in the midst of the pandemic.
“People are still trying to make the world a better place,” Rosenfeld said. “Friendship Circle’s mission will never stop, no matter what’s happening in the world.”