by Rina Szwarc
When she was 9, Chloe Dahan, now a local high school senior, decided to volunteer for San Diego’s Friendship Circle – a non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities.
The experience transformed her. She decided to combine her love for the performing arts and her dedication to helping those who have been excluded from our community.
Now – seven years later – Shooting Starts is a vibrant program that has taken off and expanded. The program – which serves about 15 special needs teens and children – gives 30 teen volunteers a chance to form friendships that transform both through the medium of the arts and Jewish culture.
The first program of 2018 had 30 participants – of all abilities and ages – stretching and performing an expressive dance to the Israeli song – “Golden Boy” in one of the community rooms at La Jolla’s Jewish Community Center.
Dahan said the program has doubled in number of people served and people wanting to help. She created the program when she was 11. The goal was and is a place where children with developmental challenges can express themselves with dance, crafts, music and song. Shooting Stars is an off-shoot of the San Diego Friendship Circle and celebrates Jewish culture.
Dahan said her work with the San Diego Friendship Circle sparked her interest. Chloe and a friend, Jamie Zimmerman, spent a full year planning to ensure the program’s success. Chloe – first hand – knew the healing power of the performing arts. She credits theater camp with helping her find her voice and public confidence.
The program is open to all volunteers from
all walks of life and culture, yet the focus
is primarily Jewish.
Chloe has won prestigious recognition for her accomplishments: the national The Power of Jewish Children Award and the local Peter Chortek Teen Leadership Award.
What is on her wish list for the future?
While raising funds for more programs is essential, Dahan hopes that more people will join and more children and teens will have the opportunity to develop their confidence and skills.
“We have community involvement across the board. That is what makes the program,” she said. Following the theme of using the performing arts to enable the Friendship Circle’s participants to reach their potential, two stars from the TV reality show Born This Way will be the keynote speakers at this year’s Friendship Circle Appreciation Event, a brunch on Sunday January 27.
For more information on this or any of the Friendship Circle’s programs please go to www.FriendshipCircleSD.org or call 858-487-4879.
Friendship Circle of San Diego is a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to providing friendship and support to individuals with special needs and their families by providing recreational, social and educational programming. In addition to helping those in need, the Friendship Circle San Diego enriches its vast network of volunteers by enabling them to reap the rewards of selfless giving.