“What we do at The Friendship Initiative (TFI), a 501c3 charitable organization, is celebrate the differing abilities of all children and young adults. In multiple programs we create fun and challenging environments that foster friendships between the special needs and typical populations,” according to Jeb Niewood the founder of The Friendship Initiative. TFI has experienced dramatic growth in its number of programs, those served, people who have joined their team and network of supporters. Currently offering completely innovative programs in music (Rock Dreams), fitness (Fit Friends), art (Art Works) and reading (Reading With Friends), 2018 will bring continued excitement and growth. Two new programs will be offered, one in yoga and the other in dance with more programs in the planning stages. In addition, TFI has concepted the nation’s first totally inclusive community park. Working with the internationally acclaimed landscape architecture firm, EDSA, a prototype has been designed. The Friendship Initiative and EDSA are interested in partnering with a municipality willing to join in the creation of Friendship Park, a place where every element within it can be shared by the special needs and typical populations.
Jeb started his mission of joining together children with special needs with their neuro-typical peers nearly sixteen years ago when he created a sports program called Soccer Buddies in 2002. He then expanded that single program into year-round sports programming when he created Parkland Buddy Sports. With the success of that organization, in 2009, Jeb started planning the next step in the evolution of creating a single community comprised of the special needs and typical populations. In 2011 the organization now known as The Friendship Initiative was started. Jeb credits the success of TFI to its board members: Samantha Novick is a Speech Language Pathologist and Owner of Bridge Therapy; Juan Velazquez, has focused on fundraising for TFI and is the father of Matthew who has autism and Christian a neuro-typical volunteer for TFI; Kelli Yselonia, a long time ESE educator for Broward County Schools and currently a Specialized Pre-K Teacher; Scott Brook, former two time Mayor of the City of Coral Springs, Founder and CEO of the extraordinary networking group Premier Networking Alliance and currently a partner at the law firm of Brodzki, Jacobs and Brook, specializing in family law; Ann Berg, the former Educational Director and Principal of Crestwood Country Day School in New York and former Director of The Cambridge School at Coral Springs; Jason Novick, in charge of Strategic Partnerships at the internet company TapToBook, Inc. and Karen Wilson, CPA and Treasurer of TFI.
The Friendship Initiative’s program partners include School of Rock Coral Springs; All 4 One Fitness of Coral Springs and Art Paper Scissors in Parkland. According to Niewood, TFI has also benefitted immensely from the fundraising support of Franklin Templeton and the extraordinary networking group, Premier Networking Alliance.
As its board members, families, volunteers and other supporters know, The Friendship Initiative is much more than a charity. It is also a movement. Anyone interested in learning more about or donating to The Friendship Initiative can visit its web page: www.thefriendshipinitiative.org and The Friendship Initiative Facebook page. You can also contact Jeb Niewood by email at [email protected] or by phone at 954-464-6078. Dream Big with The Friendship Initiative!