Site last updated: Friday, February 23, 2024

Log In

Reset Password
MENU
Butler County's great daily newspaper

“Friendship Circle” celebrates two retiring members

Founders of the Butler Friendship Circle group Nancy Robertson and Christine Braho
Founders of the Butler Friendship Circle group Nancy Robertson (left) and Christine Braho are retiring from their posts. Chris Leisie/Special to the Eagle. 12/3/23

Christine Braho and Nancy Robertson started the “Friendship Circle” in 2009 to unite high-functioning mentally challenged adults. In its early days, the group had only four members.

On Sunday night, Dec. 3, more than 20 showed up at a year-end gathering of the Friendship Circle at the Butler YWCA to send Braho and Robertson off. Both are stepping down from active leadership of the group at the end of 2023.

Braho said the group began roughly 14 years ago with an idea that the two shared over lunch at an Eat ‘n’ Park. At the time, Braho’s son, Phil, who has cerebral palsy, had trouble making friends. Phil was in his mid-20s at the time and is now 39.

“My son said, “I just want a telephone friend,’” Christine said. “My friend, Nancy, said, ‘Let's make a support group for higher-functioning, mentally challenged adults, 18 and over.’ And that's how we started.”

“The whole idea is to make friends and come together as a group. That's what we want to do,” Robertson said. “We're looking for anyone over the age of 18 who would like to join a social club.”

The Friendship Circle holds regular meetings once a month at Abba’s House in Saxonburg. In addition, the group holds a series of “game nights” and other special events throughout the year. Next month, the group is scheduled to have a bowling night at the Belmont II Bowling Center on Sunday, Jan. 21.

“One time we’ve gone on the Gateway Clipper,” Braho said. “We like to go to Waldameer (Park & Water World) every summer.”

At the time the group first formed, Braho was working as a speech therapist, while Robertson was working as a special education teacher. Today, both have retired.

Stepping up to the plate in the wake of Braho and Robertson’s departure are two new leaders, Danielle Nath-Bauer and Carrie Mitchell.

Nath-Bauer only joined the group in the past year. Like Braho and Robertson before them, Nath-Bauer was intrigued by the idea of a like-minded social circle for her child to find a social outlet — in this case, her daughter, Rachel.

“The group is advertised among the community with people who are adults with special needs,” Nath-Bauer said. “That's how my daughter got involved.”

When they learned that Braho and Robertson were stepping down, Nath-Bauer and Mitchell quickly volunteered to take their place. Nath-Bauer will focus on organizing community activities, while Carrie Mitchell will focus on coordinating the group’s monthly meetings in Saxonburg.

“We didn't want to see the group stop,” Nath-Bauer said.

Both Braho, 72, and Robertson, 70, had similar reasons for stepping down from the Friendship Circle.

“We’re just getting older and feel like we’re overwhelmed,” Braho said. “It's time for somebody else, who's younger and has more energy, to take over.”

“We decided we’d go out together when the time was right,” Robertson said. “We have two wonderful parents taking over. We're just getting older and it's time for somebody else to take over.”

Christine Braho and Nancy Robertson reminisce over Butler Eagle articles over the past 20 years
Christine Braho (left) and Nancy Robertson (seated husband Alan Robertson) reminisce over Butler Eagle articles over the past 20 years since they founded the Butler Friendship Circle. Chris Leisie/Special to the Eagle. 12/3/23
Butler Friendship Circle members
Many of the current members of the Butler Friendship Circle gathered to show their love for founders Nancy Robertson and Christine Braho, who are retiring from organizing the group. Chris Leisie/Special to the Eagle. 12/3/23
Butler Friendship Circle members
Family and members of the Butler Friendship Circle gathered to celebrate the retirement of Nancy Robertson and Christine Braho on Sunday at the Butler YWCA. Chris Leisie/Special to the Eagle. 12/3/23

More in Community

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

* indicates required
TODAY'S PHOTOS