A Night with the Stars is a dinner/dance prom-type party for mentally challenged and autistic children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend such an event.
"The thought behind this dance is to make them feel special and enjoy being the stars that they are," said Stephan-nie, a senior at Freedom High. "We want to let them know that someone cares. It's been a ton of work, but really worth it."
When a special-needs friend of Stephannie revealed the difficulties that attending her high school prom creates, Stephannie began thinking about her own mentally disabled brother and the challenges he might one day face at his prom.
"That's when we started thinking about a way to create a prom, or dance, where everyone would feel welcome and comfortable," she said.
Capitalizing on their talents, the girls quickly came up with a plan. Kim's love of cooking made her the natural choice as chef and menu planner, while Stephannie's organizational skills melded perfectly with her special-education background.
The result was a blueprint for an evening of music, dancing and delicious food. Combined with easily accessible seating and plenty of volunteers to help where needed, the event is designed to include everything needed for a family-friendly, stress-free party.
Dinner will include an easily-managed meal of chicken cacciatore, chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and dessert.
"I wanted to cook something that was easy and delicious for a large group. And also something that most kids like," said Kim, who plans to attend the Alameda Culinary Academy after graduating from Freedom.
Kim's mom, Michelle Buchholz, who is also the girls' Scout leader, said the time, energy and attention to detail the girls have put into this event is what makes the Gold Award so special and so difficult to obtain.
"The girls have worked so hard on this, and they are very passionate about it," said Michelle. "I'm very proud of them. They got together, came up with a plan and made it work. It's a huge commitment to get the Gold Award. They have definitely earned it."
A Night with the Stars will be held on Saturday, March 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. at O'Hara Park School. Tickets are $10 each. For more information, call 625-3718.