Last month, The Park At East Hills was home to Go Long For Luke, the annual flag football fundraiser, named for Luke Greenfield, a Roslyn special needs student.
On Friday, Oct. 10, there was more positive activity for local special needs students as Friends For Friends (FFF) held their first social gathering, also at The Park At East Hills. Friends For Friends is the brainchild of two Roslyn brothers, Landon and Jarred Allen. Specifically, it is a peer-mentoring program with autistic and special needs youngsters.
No one knew what the night would bring,” said Jodi Golden, a member of the FFF’s Adult Committee. “The high school volunteers were clearly there because they wanted to be not because they had to fill a graduation requirement. They were there because they are leaders and want to set good examples for their peers to follow. The kids had so much fun cheering themselves on psyching themselves up both before and after the gathering.”
The organization was born of a death that has turned into a life-affirming project.
The Allen brothers, Golden said, brought everyone together because of a vision and a very special promise. The brothers recently lost their mother Linda to breast cancer.
During her illness, Linda Landon asked the boys to carry on her legacy of helping others in all ways possible.
And so, Oct. 10 brought together not just special needs students and their families, but also such local dignitaries as East Hills Mayor Michael R. Koblenz, Kids in the Park Chair Stacy Siegel, Village Attorney William Burton, Village Trustees Brian Meyerson and Many Zuckerman, plus Northern Shore Autism presidents Amy Greenberg and Lori Hason. In addition to Jodi Golden, the adult committee includes Trustee Clara Pomerantz, Andrew Meyerson, Dori Meyerson and Landon Allen. They donated of the beverages and snacks for the evening. Landon Allen, Robbie Pomerantz and Andrew Meyerson as the chairs of the committee.
“Everyone that attended watched unexpectedly in awe,” Golden said. “For most of the night adults stood back and watched the kids take over. The night even brought tears on one of the parents’ eyes. She stated that her 18-year old son had never interacted with peers before. She stated she didn’t know he could and that no one has ever taken the time until now.”
The teenagers created a party-like atmosphere with music, games, dancing, crafts and great snacks.
“We expected to be very busy facilitating that night but we too stood back and watched the younger volunteers take control of the night,” Golden added. “It was clear that every one of the kids that were there wanted to be there. They were hanging out and having fun no one was looking at the clock to leave.
“Landon and Jarred have incredible plans for Friends For Friends,” Golden concluded. “Fine tuning it will be a process in the beginning everyone is excited for their next gathering hopefully bringing together even more kids. The most important thing is the message this sends out and it’s clearly is acceptance. FFF will meet again before the Thanksgiving Holiday the date will be announced soon. What incredible examples these kids are setting for others to follow.”