Linda Buie first met Steven when she took some South View students attending the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s Student Athlete Summer Institute to Fayetteville’s Dorothy Gilmore Therapeutic Rehabilitation Center.
To this day, she doesn’t know Steven’s exact age, but there’s one thing she does know about him.
“He would always say, ‘Hey, it’s my birthday,’” Buie said.
Thanks to Buie and her South View SASI students this year, it finally came true for Steven. As part of their action plan for SASI, Buie and her five South View students threw a birthday party for Steven, which was according to Buie the first one the young man ever had.
The party was held at the Gilmore Center, which provides recreation opportunities for people with disabilities.
While Steven may be classified as one of those people, SASI student Priya Mall of South View said you’d never know it by Steven’s demeanor.
“We made a strong connection with Steven,’’ she said of the group’s first visit to the Gilmore Center with SASI this year. “We were dancing together and he was so happy all the time. He thinks it’s his birthday and he hasn’t had a birthday party and we should throw them one.’’
That was the thing Buie appreciated most about the idea the students had for the party.
“They picked this,’’ Buie said. “It wasn’t a suggestion of mine. When the kids found out, they said, ‘we want to have a birthday party.’’’
And what a party it was, filled with things that are Steven’s favorites.
Among the items on the menu were pizza, Doritos, potato chips and cake. Most important of all, there were gifts.
Each of the students was charged with making sure to give Steven a different gift, with new clothes the focus of the gift-giving, Buie said.
“He doesn’t hardly have any clothes,’’ Buie said. “We wanted to try to help him a little bit.’’
Riley Caudle, another of Buie’s SASI students from South View, said the project tied in with the SASI message about being an effective leader.
The weeklong SASI gathering in this region has been hosted by UNC-Pembroke for many years. Students from high schools across the Cape Fear region are brought in for lessons on leadership and being alcohol- and drug-free.
“Everyone can work together and come together on one thing,’’ Caudle said.
Mall agreed with Caudle. “I think it does send a good message,’’ she said of the party for Steven. “As a leader, you should do the right thing, help out, do things for other people and not just be a stubborn leader.
“Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be in charge all the time. You can collaborate and talk about things with other people.’’
Photo: L to R: Lillian Flantos, Priya Mall, Davin Schmidt, Steven, Keshawn Dunham, Danielle Novak, Riley Caudle