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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011 6 years ago

Compeer program builds friendship, lends support

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

For two months in 1965, Bunny Skirboll lay confined to a hospital bed in the intensive-care unit in Rochester, N.Y. She’ll never forget the near-fatal automobile accident that landed her there — causing a fractured femur, crushed chest, collapsed lung, fractured pelvis and internal bleeding.

But she will always remember that not a single day passed where she didn’t receive a visitor, card or gift.

“I was so fortunate to have the support of friends,” Skirboll said. “It meant so much to me. It increases your self-esteem, self-worth and makes you feel like you’re a worthwhile human being. These are the things we gain when people believe in us.”

Experiencing firsthand the healing power of friendship and with a background working in the mental-health field at the Rochester Psychiatric Center, Skirboll sought to found a community service program for children and adults that brings friendship and mentoring support to people undergoing treatment for mental illness. That program is called Compeer, and now in its 36th year, it’s an international non-profit organization with more than 80 locations. The organization strives to empower people to become more socially integrated while combating the effects of mental illness — typically, loneliness, isolation and a lack of connectedness.

“Through the years, I’ve been so fortunate to see the changes in the lives of people who have been positively impacted,” Skirboll said. “What I feel proudest of is that Compeer stood the test of time. This is a very complicated and stressful world, and people need to know they are cared about.”

After living on Longboat for the last 30 years, Skirboll is excited to bring the program closer to home to the Senior Friendship Centers, because of its strong history in volunteering.

“I was so impressed how the Philadelphia Compeer made such an improvement on the mental health of my family member who was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia,” said Ann Hartka, who, along with Skirboll, helped bring the program to the Senior Friendship Centers. “He is now a member of society, gainfully employed and consulting for the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health. He is a speaker for Compeer about the impact it made on his life.”

: Compeer breakfast
When: 9 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27
Where: Senior Friendship Centers Friendship Café, 1888 Brother Geenen Way
Cost: Free
Information: Call 556-3266 or visit

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected]


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