Friendship Circle Holds Drive-By Carnival


Imagine a carnival where you can play all the games from your car. That was the goal of Friendship Circle of Baltimore’s Drive-By Carnival July 5.

It offered a coin toss, spin the wheel for a prize, a balloon artist, a clown on 10-foot stilts, a juggler, cotton candy, a guessing game for a lollipop, and giveaways.

Friendship Circle’s Rabbi Eli Solomon was inspired to put this event on a few weeks ago when he saw other Friendship Circles succeed at this. At the same time, Sharon Seigel, JCC senior director of outreach and engagement, was also looking for innovative ways to keep programming going.

Drive by carnival, by Nori Leybengrub
Drive by carnival, by Nori Leybengrub

“I reached out to Rabbi Solomon and his wife Chana when I was looking for ways to keep the participants of our adult programs engaged in a safe and meaningful way,” said Seigel. They both agreed on holding the carnival, but with a special intention. “The intended audience is KLAL participants and other groups of individuals with disabilities whose programming was interrupted by COVID-19.”

KLAL (Keep Living and Learning) is a JCC summer program focused on recreational, social, and vocational activities for young adults with learning, developmental, social, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Solomon also reached out to additional special needs families and organizations in the community to invite them to this event because “special needs families rely heavily on programs for schools and socialization. Now they feel that loss even harder than most,” said Solomon.

Masked volunteers gave one single goody bag to each car from start to finish with everything (i.e., coins) needed for games already included. Cars drove from booth to booth, each six feet apart. To lower contamination risks, volunteers were grouped with those from their own family.

While 40 families RSVP’d, more than 200 people in total attended, including every Jewish Community Services group home.

Drive by carnival, by Nori Leybengrub
Drive by carnival, by Nori Leybengrub

“We just got so many smiles on all their faces,” said Seigel. “It was a hot afternoon on a holiday weekend where there wasn’t that much for them to do, so it was special for them to have.” She believed the highlight was that families were able to see familiar faces they hadn’t seen in so long.

This was the first event of its kind for the Friendship Circle and the JCC.

“This is something small we can do. We hope to do more future collaborations and future experiences,” said Solomon.

Seigel agreed. “As soon as we recovered from the heat yesterday, we started talking about future plans.”

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