October 22 will be an exciting evening for KidsPeace children in the KidsHope Program on the Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, PA. From 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m, they will be operating their very own Italian Restaurant in the Northwest unit of the KidsPeace Psychiatric Hospital. This will be the third year the children have held this event to raise money for their annual Christmas trip. What is so special about this dinner is that it is also a teaching tool for these teenage boys who have mental health issues and full scale IQs of 50-70. Guided by their counselors, the youth plan the meal, shop for the supplies, cook the food, set the tables, and serve the meals to the associates who attend. Some prepare carry-out orders for those who are taking the dinners home. The meal will consist of a salad, entree and dessert. The boys will also clean up after the dinner is over.

According to Child Care Counselor John Brennan, this annual fundraiser is also an important lesson in life skills. "The boys are in charge of the whole event. They have to plan the menu, purchase the right amount of food, follow recipes to prepare the meals, set the tables and make them look attractive, serve the associates who attend, make change when patrons pay, be friendly and welcoming and then clean up the dining area and leave it in the state they found it. These skills will certainly help them when they get older and may even turn into career paths for them once they become independent."

The dinners will cost $7.50 per person. Once the boys have paid for the supplies they used, they will use their profits to take a trip to New York City to see the lights and decorations at Christmas time. "These dinners have become more popular each year," John says. "The kids really enjoy it and can see how their hard work pays off in a fun reward. They also get to meet KidsPeace leadership and associates from other programs and practice their social skills, so it is a pleasurable and educational experience for all."