As her car pulled up to a stop at the door at LifeTown, Sharon Stoch rolled down her window and greeted the teen volunteers, who disappeared back into the building. From the backseat, her son, Aaron, waited to see what was coming. All they knew was Friendship Circle had a gift for them for Hanukkah and the upcoming winter.

The teen volunteer returned a moment later carrying a 4-foot sled wrapped and tied with a bow. Through the cellophane, it was clear the sled was laden with gifts: a pillow, scarf, s’mores-making kit, hat, games, snow-building materials and more.

“This is all for you,” the volunteer told Aaron, who started jumping up and down.

Stoch, of Livingston, N.J, said “it was nice to see his face light up. We appreciate that they have been very sensitive to finding ways to tailor activities during the pandemic to keep people safe, but to feel they are part of an extended community.”

Putting the gifts into action a few days later. Credit: Friendship Circle New Jersey.

It was a scene repeated over and over again at LifeTown nearly 200 times on Sunday and Monday, as families with a child with special needs were gifted a “Friendship Circle Winter Fun Survival Kit,” a project made possible through the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest.

“The sled and other stuff are simply wonderful!” said Jessica Wilson of Caldwell, N.J., the mother of Jasper. “Hopefully, it snows this winter so we can go sledding and also use the snow brick mold.”

In fact, it did snow along the East Coast a few days later.

Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum, Friendship Circle’s CEO, noted that finding creative ways to reach out to families this year is more crucial than ever.

“During this season when everyone is faced with not only the traditional hardships of winter—fewer hours of daylight, the cold, more time indoors—but also the global pandemic that is keeping so many people isolated, we wanted to do something that would bring a ray of light and happiness to our families,” he said. “We hope to inspire the community at large to find ways to pay it forward and help others facing isolation this winter.”