Circle of Friends (COF) is a non-profit organization that was started to help promote friendships between children with autism facilitate friendships with other children with and without special needs. COF was founded in January 2002 by two families with teenagers with autism and five high school volunteers. The parents of children with disabilities desired for their children to having meaningful friendships both with other children with autism and other developmental disabilities as well as peers who are typically-developing. From a humble start of two students with autism and five volunteers, Circle of Friends has grown to a program that serves 30 adults and children with special needs and 45 student volunteers, 16 adult volunteers, and two college interns. The group began meeting at Grace Fellowship Church in Rowland Heights but was relocated to a bigger church to accommodate the growing community of the organization. COF not only serves children but also adults with special needs and their families, in order to accommodate and bridge the gap between the growing population of those with special needs and their communities.
Currently, COF meets every Monday and Wednesday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Good Stewards Church in West Covina. COF started out as a program for Korean-American children and families but has branched out to other Asian-American and minority communities. The program includes various activities in music, art, and sports exercise: hand chimes, music time, bowling, mini Olympics, running, ceramics, jewelry making, and crafts.
The majority of the current operating expenses are donated by individuals and by churches to meet the financial needs of the organization. Student volunteers and the families of our children with special needs donate $120 per year for the cost of food, crafts, and field trips. The waiting list for high school volunteers who want to participle in COF continues to grow.