Home Community FCVA’s featured Friendship – Alex, Hailey, and Rudu; Introducing Friendship Circle’s...

FCVA’s featured Friendship – Alex, Hailey, and Rudu; Introducing Friendship Circle’s new Director of Engagement


By Tanya Buresh-Werby, Assistant Director, FCVA

Lasting friendship is what sets Friendship Circle of Virginia apart and makes this organization stand out.


Friendships blossom when people are connected to one another through trust, caring, and consistency.

Friendship Circle pairs neurotypical teens (Teen Friends) in the community with a child or teen with a disability (Friend) and nurtures these relationships in hopes they create a bond wherein a meaningful connection develops.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Alex Heyman made the decision to start increasing his involvement with Friendship Circle.


He thought that joining the virtual Friends@Home program would be the most beneficial option. Alex, along with his friend Hailey, were soon paired with a friend, Rudu.

The trio quickly became close, despite never seeing each other face to face. After meeting virtually for about six months, they were finally able to see Rudu in person, even when they were socially distant.

“Rudu met Alex and Hailey during the pandemic. Initially they met over video calls and it was super cute to see the efforts put by Alex and Hailey to make each meeting so meaningful and fun.”

“They bonded over a matter of months and they would drop in with surprises for birthdays and made it so memorable. Rudu cherishes their friendship and he always wants to share anything big that happens in his life with them.” – Rudu’s mother, Shruthi.

“Since the first time we had met I would not have thought how long-lasting our friendship would be with Rudu. We have been friends for over three years now. Although I started college this year, I still intend to keep up with him, and hopefully get to meet up a couple of times during breaks.” – Alex

The need for a dedicated staff member to help facilitate friendships such as Alex, Hailey, and Rudu’s has grown exponentially at Friendship Circle.

It is now the sole priority of Friendship Circle’s new Director of Engagement, Alana Miller.



Alana joined FCVA in August of 2023 and dove right in to reaching out to all of the families and teens to get to know each and every one, and to ensure every person feels heard and knows that they belong.

Alana Miller is a dedicated advocate and founder of Say Hello Threads.  She brings a wealth of experience in therapeutic foster care to her work.

With a passion for supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities, Alana’s journey was inspired by her own son’s experiences.

Her commitment to fostering inclusivity and raising awareness within the Disability community drives her efforts, making her a compassionate and impactful figure in the field.

Visit friendshipcircleva.org to learn more about how our non-profit facilitates friendships and social opportunities for people with and without disabilities via our free programs such as Birthday Circle, Friends@Home, and Friends with Pens – enriching lives and building an inclusive community one friendship at a time.

Help keep Friendship Circle of Virginia’s programs free by donating to their annual Charidy campaign at charidy.com/fcva, or becoming a member of their monthly “Giving Circle” at FriendshipCircleVA.org/donate.