February is not just for Valentine’s

February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month.  In honor of your (your child’s) upcoming bar/bat mitzvah, choose a mitzvah project related to helping those with disabilities or special needs.  There are many organizations with hands-on volunteer opportunities.

1. Social programs

The Friendship Circle is today’s fastest growing Jewish organization for children with special needs. With over 79 locations worldwide, the Friendship Circle has cultivated friendships between 5,000 special children and close to 11,000 teen volunteers.  The Friendship Circle’s unique approach brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship. These shared experiences empower the children, our special friends, while enriching the lives of everyone involved.

Go to their national website to find a chapter near you.

2.  Sports volunteers

The United States Tennis Association holds programs for adaptive tennis.  Search their website for a program near you.

TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers. Search in your area to find out how to volunteer for TOPSoccer.

Special Olympics is a national program whose mission is to  provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.  To find your local chapter, go to specialolympics.org

3.  Advocacy

Support, learn and educate those around you about disabilities.  Choose a cause such as National Federation for the Blind or the National Association for the Deaf.  Contact their local leaders and find our how you can help them spread the word!

Even after Jewish Disabilities month has passed, choose to continue helping others throughout the year.  Instead of simply doing this one time volunteer project, your year-round volunteerism can have quite an impact on someone else’s life, as well as your own.

TheMitzvahBowl.com has many more ideas in honor of Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month!  Scroll through the list to find an organization you would enjoy supporting.