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  • Writer's pictureFriendship Circle International

Sam, The Friendship Circle Volunteer

We’re doing a recap of our past decade here at Team Friendship to celebrate our 10th birthday, and today we’re taking it back to 2019. 2019 was an awesome year overall, with 404 athletes ranging from ages 11 (Raphael Eagle) to 72 (Marica Ufberg) participating in 8 different events and raising a total of $1,065,110.16 for friendship!

Yet another unforgettable experience: our first Extreme Hike! While Hike 4 Friendship has been around since 2013 and has become one of Team Friendship’s most popular annual events, with multiple breakaway trips each year, our first Extreme Hike first took place in 2019. It involves a super intense trek that’s perfect for more experienced hikers seeking a challenge. We’ve since held 3 extreme hikes, and they draw hikers from all across the USA.

Sam Goto of Friendship Circle Central Jersey, a longtime FC alumnus, and volunteer who has Koolen de Vries syndrome (KdVS), ran across the finish line of the Miami Marathon with FC volunteer Liz Newman. He and his mom also took the stage at our pre-race banquet to talk about his experience and share his story. Sam really stole the show that night--we even lifted him on a chair in the center of the circle when we hit the dance floor!


Miami Marathon 2019 Keynote Speech.

By: Stacy Goto

Good evening. My name is Stacy Goto. I am the mother of Sam Goto, a Friendship Circle participant, and volunteer. It is an honor to speak to you tonight about friendship, specifically the unconditional friendship provided by this organization to people who really need it and benefit from it. We all understand that friendship is not a luxury. It’s not the frosting or cherry on top. It is an essential part of a healthy society. Everyone needs a friend and everyone needs to be a friend; friendship is everyone’s responsibility. Friendship makes all of us stronger and better!

To begin, I want to thank all of you for your time and dedication to Team Friendship. Besides the time you’ve taken to fundraise, you’ve spent considerable time training for this event. I admire the dedication it takes to be able to run any distance longer than what I can run, which is only from my car into the store or my house when it’s freezing cold outside. You are not just marathon runners, you are marathon runners with a cause – Friendship – and for that, I am truly grateful. Remember, friendship is not a luxury, it’s everyone’s responsibility. Friendship makes all of us stronger and better!

As a person with Koolen de Vries syndrome (KdVS), Sam craves social situations. He loves being with people. As a young child with a disability, his peers were politely social but they never sought him out. No one called to say let’s play or meet me outside. At that point, we saw the significant role a friend would play in Sam’s life, to no avail. By word of mouth, another parent heard of Sam’s need and shared her knowledge of the remarkable program called the Friendship Circle. Sam finally heard the unspoken words he craved to hear – not just one friend, but an entire circle of friends! Overjoyed, he (and I) eagerly joined the circle. Our Friendship Circle journey began here to read the full story...

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