MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hundreds of people laced up their sneakers for a good cause on Sunday and took part in the 12th annual Walking 4 Friendship 3K at Tropical Park.

The event was put on by Friendship Circle Miami which provides resources and programs for those with special needs.

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This year was even more exciting because it was a chance to gather safely in person.

This year’s theme was, appropriately, “together again.”

“Today is a day of hope and a day of feeling like our prayers were answered. Finally, we can come back together as a community to give support to the children,” said Rabbi Yossi Harlig.

CNS4’s Lauren Pastrana was the emcee for the event.

“I am so excited to be here in person. How great does that feel? No Zoom, no Facetime,” she told the enthusiastic crowd.

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Benedict Eberhagen was selected as the “Distinguished Front-Runner” this year. He started volunteering with Friendship Circle four years ago where he was matched with his friend Diego who has autism.

“He’s one of my closest friends,” said Eberhagen.

This past year, Eberhagen raised $1,600 dollars for Friendship Circle while battling and recovering from spinal cancer.

“I went through a difficult time and I received a lot of support. So for me, it’s important to help out where I can help out,” he said.

For the last 12 years, the walk has been Friendship Circle’s main fundraising event. The money raised is going toward building their brand new campus.

“Art circle and cooking circle and a kitchen and a playground and really be a home away from home for children, teens, and adults with special needs,” said Friendship Circle co-director Nechama Harlig.

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Over the years, the walkathon has raised over $1.2 million for programs that uplift children and teens with autism and other special needs through one-to-one friendships with teenage volunteers.

Karli Barnett