Montreal’s Friendship Circle, a branch of an international Chabad-Lubavitch network that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs, broke ground on Canada’s first fully-functioning indoor city and activities center for children with special needs.

When built, the multimillion dollar Friendship Center and Life Village will occupy 26,000 square feet of space and offer therapeutic and recreational facilities. It’s centerpiece, modeled after the LifeTown center developed by the first-ever Friendship Circle – a suburban Detroit institution established by Rabbi Levi and Bassie Shemtov – will be a full-scale, indoor mock city designed to help children acquire necessary life skills.

“With the Friendship Circle’s incredible success, and the dramatic expansion of services over the past few years, the Friendship Circle and Life Village is an absolute necessity for the growth and continuation of the organization in Montreal,” said Sima Paris, founder of the local Friendship Circle and co-director of Free Hebrew Schools For Juniors-Lubavitch. In addition, the center “will serve as an important resource for the community at large.”

“The Friendship Center and Life Village will serve as a model, not just for other Friendship Circle chapters in Canada, but for other organizations dedicated to children with special needs across the country,” said Friendship Circle honorary president Dr. Douglas Avrith. “This facility will help children with special needs achieve their highest potential. It also gives teenage volunteers an exceptional first-hand experience with community service, helping to instill the commitment to giving back to community.”