2021 Grants Challenge

Building a Community for ALL Children

Friendship Foundation offers online and in-person programs for children with special needs in 40 schools throughout South Bay. Children with special needs build friendships with their student volunteers as they socialize, play games, and attend events as a group—a first-time experience for many children with special needs.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

South Bay

County of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

Children with special needs are 2-3 times more likely to experience bullying compared to their non-disabled peers. For the 175,000 children currently enrolled in special education in Los Angeles County, there are limited opportunities to experience friendships, socialization and participation in routines and activities. Their resources are often limited to doctors and therapists. Since 2005, Friendship Foundation has worked tirelessly to demonstrate that inclusive environments are mutually beneficial to students of special needs and volunteers who work alongside with them. Friendship Foundation addresses a critical gap in services for children with special needs and makes it possible for children with special needs to interact with people of all generations to experience social-recreational activities in a supportive, anti-bullying environment.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Friendship Foundation programs will make it possible for 500 children with special needs to participate in virtual and in-person activities in a safe, inclusive environment with student volunteers. Friendship Foundation will provide various activities during 2021: - Virtual School Clubs – 17 active Virtual School Clubs reaching approximately 340 students. When it is safe to provide in-person activities, Friendship Foundation will re-open 40 Friendship Clubs impacting students with special needs in 10 school districts. - Zoom Pals – A one-to-one buddy program where children and young adults with special needs connect to build a friendship. - Friday Adventures – A program takes our children through a virtual tour of national forests, zoos, and aquariums. - Chatter Box – A social skills class with each class having a particular goal, whether it is to teach how to greet a new person to how to continue a conversation. - Fitness Classes – 7 virtual fitness classes per week. - Drive-In Movie Nights – A drive-in-theater in our parking lot to bring an inclusive activity that brings all families together. - Sports Night – Hosted via Zoom, the students are invited to watch professional basketball, football, and baseball games. - Other programs include Zoom Movie Nights, arts programs, Healthy Habits Baking Class, Book Club, Drama Classes, Scavenger Hunt, and Game Nights.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,800

Indirect Impact: 7,200

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The vision of Friendship Foundation is to show the world that special needs really means special abilities. Our programs strive to model for our surrounding communities a lifestyle of acceptance and unity of the special needs community, fueled by the dedicated student volunteers. Friendship Foundation creates an environment in which friendships can develop between the general population and students in special education. Our programs are designed to meet the unique needs of people with special needs. Friendship Foundation will continue to develop programs that build on our existing peer-to-peer model by inviting children of all ages to learn skills alongside our students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Friendship Foundation surveys parents regularly to measure the impact of our programs. Our survey results show that students and families continue to benefit from our programs: - 81% of survey respondents reported they are extremely satisfied with the quality of Friendship Foundation programs. - 94% of the families were satisfied to very satisfied with the quality and delivery of our programs. - 95% of the families were satisfied to very satisfied with the quality of our staff. - 52% of the families said they had made a connection with another family through our programs. Parents and caregivers have consistently stated that the program has helped them get through their days. Many children only attend Friendship Foundation’s online programs and refuse to participate in other virtual programs.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Enrollment in afterschool programs

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to PLAY