The Highland Friendship Club (HFC) was created early in the summer of 2002 by two mothers of teenagers with disabilities. They sought to expand their sons’ social opportunities by starting a club for kids with disabilities. The club’s beginnings were as simple as making calls to the parents of their sons’ fellow classmates at Highland Park Senior and Junior High School to try to get them interested in the idea.
HFC started out small, by making a list of community and service projects to do around the city, as well as doing age-appropriate group activities. In 2004 HFC became an official nonprofit organization. This move allowed the club to expand its fundraising efforts to include contributions from local businesses, individuals, foundations and various grants, ensuring that no member would be excluded from participating due to money issues. A board of directors was established, along with the hiring of an executive director.
In recent years the club has partnered with Cretin-Derham Hall and the Jewish Community Center of St. Paul to provide facilities for various activities, as well as having students volunteer with part-time staff members in club activities.
The club sponsors many activities involving the arts. Early in its history, HFC put on a sock-puppet play entitled, “Sockarella.” This production involved making the sock puppets, props and sets. Another original activity that continues to this day is regular music -therapy sessions resulting in one or two shows per year. These shows take approximately twelve weeks to put together. Another annual activity is art nights that culminate in an art show in the spring to help raise money for various programs.
Many club activities take place in the summer. These include trips to museums, zoos, sporting events and outdoor picnics. In addition, for the past two years the club has organized a bell ringing day at the Mall of America during the holidays for the Salvation Army, and this past November the HFC had their first bowling fundraiser, featuring Joe Mauer along with other sports personalities.
From its small start in 2002, the club has expanded to approximately 150 members throughout the metropolitan area, with a goal of having over 200 members in the near future. As mentioned earlier, no member is excluded from participating in any club activity simply because they cannot afford it.
I have been involved with the Friendship Club since it started. My favorite aspect of HFC is the ability to choose my own activities. A list is regularly provided to the members who choose what they want to do. Their decisions are based on whether they are physically able to do the activity, what they enjoy doing the most and whether their schedule permits participation, not on financial or administrative factors.
I particularly enjoy the art activities and the music program. I am very fond of the music instructors and love picking my own songs and singing on my own. I have one of the loudest voices in the group.
I like interacting with people that are facing the same challenges as I am because then it makes me aware that I am not the only one going through it. I also love to laugh and that’s one thing the Friendship Club is all about.
For more information, contact HFC at www.highlandfrienshipclub.org