Andrew Kukes Foundation Support to Help Expand Friendship Circle Teen Mental Health Program


Kristin Sokul, [email protected], 248.626.0006

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (August 14, 2017) – The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety (AKFSA) and Friendship Circle announced they will partner to expand Friendship Circle’s UMatter program, focused on teen mental health. AKFSA will co-sponsor the program, providing a $250,000 grant in a five-year commitment.

The UMatter program strives to help teens and young adults who find themselves in isolation with a variety of programming focused on the idea that everyone truly matters. The program is facilitated by the UMatter Teen Leadership Board, which is a group of teens from area high schools who assist their peers by working to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health to provide support and friendship.

“When I began as director of our Daniel B. Sobel Friendship House, which focused on isolation and life crises, my attention was drawn to the great need for teens to have positive messages about mental health issues. Out of those conversations, U Matter emerged,” said Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, director of Friendship Circle’s teen division of the Morrie and Sybil Fenkell Volunteer Club.

UMatter was launched in 2015 with one teen adviser and 15 teen leaders. In 2016, UMatter trained more than 300 individuals in suicide prevention and hosted four successful events, including No More Running: Living with Social Anxiety Disorder – An Evening with Ricky Williams, sponsored by the evolving partnership with AKFSA.

In 2017 and 2018, public high schools and private middle and high schools are examining relationships with UMatter. Walled Lake Consolidated School District, among the largest districts in Oakland County, already has confirmed participation at all three of the district’s high schools for a UMatter Week. West Bloomfield High School and three other districts in the tri-county area also are considering hosting UMatter Weeks.

“With the support of The Andrew Kukes Foundation, we are focused on introducing 10 new high schools to hosting UMatter Weeks to reach more of our young people with the message that they are not alone and mental health deserves the same attention and care as our physical health,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive director of Friendship Circle.

“We started the Andrew Kukes Foundation six years ago, not only in tribute to our son Andy, but to help families and friends understand they need to be aware and involved in the mental health of those they care about, rather than just hoping things will work themselves out. To honor Andy’s memory, it is important to us to support young people engaging their peers because the younger they receive support, the better the outcome,” said Jeff Kukes, co-founder of AKFSA.

The Andrew Kukes Foundation was started in memory of Andy Kukes, who took his own life after searching for years for the proper diagnosis and treatment of his social anxiety. Mental health professionals agree that the transitions from middle school to high school and high school to college are especially difficult for teens coping with mental health issues, and early intervention is critical in helping them make overcome those challenges.

More information about UMatter is available at

You can download a brochure about the UMatter program here.


Those interested in participating in UMatter or hosting a UMatter week can email [email protected] or contact Yarden Blumstein at [email protected] or 248-788-7878 ext. 208.


In the Media

The UMatter program was featured on WWJ 950 ‘Making the Grade’. Listen below:


The UMatter program has also been featured in Detroit area publications:


About The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety

The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety’s mission is to educate social anxiety sufferers, mental health professionals, physicians, teachers, coaches, clergy, friends, family and the general public about the diagnosis and treatment of social anxiety. For more information, visit

About Friendship Circle

What we do
Friendship Circle provides assistance and support to 3,000 individuals with special needs and their families by providing recreational, social, educational and vocational programming. In addition to helping those in need, the Friendship Circle enriches its vast network of volunteers by enabling them to reap the rewards of selfless giving. Friendship Circle also provides support to individuals and families struggling with isolation, addiction and other family-related crises.

Our Mission
Friendship Circle creates friendship in the lives of individuals with special needs and those facing isolation while providing an opportunity to become a contributing member of the community. Through our programming, Friendship Circle aims to promote an inclusive community that values all individuals regardless of the challenges they face.


Comments are closed.