Finding and making friends can be tough for children with special needs. But since 2000, Best Buddies Arizona has been dedicated to making that a little easier one child at a time.
“Most people with intellectual disabilities, they are surrounded only by people in their class, their parents and people paid to be around them,” says Kathleen Rubi, state director of Best Buddies Arizona. “They just don’t have the opportunity to socialize like we do.”
Best Buddies creates those opportunities by pairing high school students with children with intellectual disabilities to enhance their lives and help develop important social skills.
Right now, the Best Buddies program reaches 31 Maricopa County campuses but needs $305,000 to expand it to five more schools. They hope to raise the money at the fourth annual Spirit of Friendship Celebration fundraiser Saturday.
This year’s event, “An Offer You Can’t Refuse,” is a Mafia-themed costume party where guests will dress as their favorite gangster and enjoy a dinner hosted by Scottsdale’s Pasta Brioni.
“Typically these fundraiser events are all so stuffy and boring,” says Rubi, who says she is a huge “Sopranos” fan. “I just really wanted to do something different and something everyone would get excited about.”
The event is being held at the home of Kenn and Tara Hitchcock-Francis, co-host of Channel 3’s morning show. Last year the couple hosted a safari-themed party that brought out local celebrities, including Cardinals and Diamondbacks players, Hitchcock-Francis says. “It was just an eclectic, fun mix of people,” she says. “Everyone seemed to have a great time.”
Additionally, the party-goers who attend the event are all passionate about helping
out such a worthy organization, she says.
“These children have struggles on a daily basis and being paired with a friend helps makes these struggles a little easier,” she says. “These are relationships that never would exist without this organization.”
Fourth annual Spirit of Friendship Celebration
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Private Scottsdale estate
Cost: $275 per person
Information: (602) 253-6301 or www.bestbuddiesarizona.org