The three-month-long coronavirus lockdown has been tough on everyone, but perhaps more so for children with special needs and their families. In many cases, the quarantine has meant that they’re isolated from the social structure they’ve come to rely on.

For many, that social structure comes in the form of Friendship Circle, whose more than 80 chapters internationally create connections between teen volunteers and children with special needs. Deeply aware of the effects that the lockdown is having on local children with special needs, one rabbi created an event to unite and uplift them during this time, and it is being made available internationally for viewing on here after being streamed live on June 11.

Rabbi Zalman Grossbaum has long been at the forefront of innovation to improve the lives of individuals living with disabilities and special needs. CEO of Friendship Circle New Jersey, he recently made waves with the opening of LifeTown, an $18 million, 53,000-square-foot center that simulates real life in a safe and accessible environment.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, Grossbaum worked together with the Friendship Circles in West Bloomfield, Mich.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; and Pacific Palisades, Calif., to assemble a who’s who of celebrities and entertainers with careful thought to featuring individuals the kids can relate to.

The event featured actor and comedian Howie Mandel, who has spoken publicly about his life with obsessive compulsive disorder. Also appearing were master pianist Kodi Lee, who is blind and has autism, and comedian Lee Ridley, aka Britain’s Got Talent winner The Lost Voice Guy, who uses a device to speak.

Comedian Elon Gold brought his trademark humor, and basketball stars Scottie Pippin and Omri Casspi made appearances as well, while Jewish music stars Yaakov Shwekey and 8th Day peformed Shabbat songs specially written for the event.

“Despite the challenges of doing production during a pandemic, we were able to put together a great lineup of talent and content, through comedy, music and animation,” said the program’s producer, Chaim Marcus. “The celebrities we reached out to were so impressed with the program that they went above and beyond and are doing what they can to help.”

Actress, neuroscientist and author Mayim Bialik hosted the first-ever international pre-Shabbat candle-lighting event, beginning in New Zealand and concluding in Alaska. “I’m excited for the chance to connect with people across the world who share a passion for making the world a better place,” she said. “It’s a beautiful way to light candles together to illuminate these dark days.”

The Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—often spoke about the beautiful unique abilities individuals with special needs have. Similarly, there is nothing more beautiful than the light Shabbat brings into the world each week. Knowing that we could all use a little more comfort, beauty and light in our lives, what better way to celebrate Shabbat and Friendship Circle than to share our Global Shabbat Party with the world,” said Grossbaum.

Chabad centers and Friendship Circle branches worldwide had Shabbat kits available for members of their community who were looking to bring the joy of Shabbat into their homes.