PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Everyday, Lauren Kehoe is the first one in and the last one out at the Nova Individualized Learning Center in Phoenix, a private day school for students who need a more therapeutic approach to learning.

It’s a safe place for disabled children to learn life skills to become well-functioning adults.

Currently, Lauren is teaching students the life skill of cooking. But how do you teach culinary arts without no cookware or dishes?

“Hi, I’m looking for Lauren Kehoe,” said 3TV’s Gina Maravilla, as Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad entered the classroom. 

The students pointed to their teacher Lauren, as she stood by Donna, the co-worker who nominated her.

[MORE: Arizona's Family Surprise Squad stories]

“Hello, Ms. Kehoe,” said Maravilla. “How are you? You’re not sure what we’re doing here?”

“No,” said Lauren.

“Well, let me ask you this,” said Maravilla. “What are you doing here today?”

“Currently we’re working on culinary arts,” said Lauren.

“Are you guys cooking and baking?” asked Maravilla.

“No,” said Lauren.

“Why are you not cooking and baking?” said Maravilla.

“We have a limited amount of resources, so we have to get a little bit creative,” said Lauren.

“We would, Lauren, like to outfit your class,” said Maravilla.

Maravilla was cut off mid-sentence when Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad rolled in a cart loaded with kitchen equipment, while the class and teachers gasped.

“Oh, wow,” said Donna.

“With a fully outfitted kitchen,” continued Maravilla. “Come here. Dishes, utensils.”

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Lauren. “This makes a huge difference for the school as a whole but for every kid in here.

"We have a lot of interest, especially in the culinary arts right now, and they’re really trying to build an entire transition plan for when they do leave high school and they’re ready to go. So, this means so much to them as well.”

Maravilla asked the class what they thought of their gift and they cheered, applauded and shouted thank you.

The teachers stepped up to the cart and surveyed all the kitchenware.

“We needed these because we were about to fillet a fish with a butter knife,” said Donna picking up a cutlery set.

Everyone laughed.

Maravilla pointed out the full set of cookware. Then she pulled back a tablecloth to reveal ten large gift bags.

“We’ve got a few other things,” said Maravilla.

The students gasped at the reveal and the bags were distributed to them.  Each bag contained an apron, saucepan, mixing bowl, whisk, spatula and tongs.

The students were very excited and grateful.

“This is actually pretty cool,” said one of they boys. “For the first time ever.  It’s just one of the coolest things.”

“Thank you,” said another boy hugging Maravilla.

The students then carried all items to their second-floor kitchen. When they were settled, Maravilla had another surprise for the class.

“We wanted to bring in a world-class chef, who is a master culinary teacher,” said Maravilla. “Could you guys help me welcome Barbara Fenzl?”

“I’m so excited for this,” said Barbara to the class. “We’re going to have a little cooking class. I’m going to teach you how to make omelettes and salad dressing and salads. And then we’re going to eat them together. Won’t that be fun?”

While Fenzl taught her class, Lauren shared more about her students.

“A few of them have mentioned that when they’re home, if they don’t make something for themselves, that that’s it,” said Lauren. “They have to kind of fend for themselves, but they don’t know how to right now. So, being able to show them that they can have so much bigger and better than they think life consists of, is huge.”

When class was over, Fenzl gifted everyone with a copy of her book, Savor the Southwest.

“We have one more surprise,” said Maravilla, handing Lauren a box. “That’s 500 dollars’ worth of ingredients for your class for your cooking.”

The class cheered.

“Flip the page,” said Maravilla. “And that’s for you, personally.”

“Oh, my goodness,” said Lauren when she saw the gift was 1,000 dollars.

“Thank you so much,” said Lauren. “I’m shaking.”

“You deserve it,” said Maravilla. “Thank you for what you do for these kids and for our community.”

“By the time they get here, they’ve had so many settings that have basically said that they’re unwanted or you can’t be here. We can’t help you,” said Lauren.

“I want to say thank you very much for the stuff,” said a student. “God bless, you.”

“It’s definitely going to help us and inspire us,” said another boy. “That because you guys are willing to help us out and help people and give people stuff, it’s going to also teach us that we should be able to give something to someone without expecting anything back.”

Several boys approached Maravilla for a hug.

“Group hug!” shouted Maravilla as the whole class surrounded her.

“There’s some days where these kids make you cry because you just care about them so much,” said Lauren. “They make you laugh and come up with the craziest things. But by the time they get to the end of the year, seeing all the progress and the growth that every one of them does, it’s worth it.  This is actually life changing for these kids.”

If you would like to help Nova student, too here’s a link to their Amazon wish list.

Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad is sponsored by your Valley Toyota Dealers.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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