ENTERPRISE, Ala. – Rachael Ray made sure that the students who lost eight classmates and their school in a tornado got a senior prom, her publicist confirmed Thursday.
The celebrity chef planned the menu and helped prepare dinner at Enterprise High School's prom, according to a statement from Ray's publicist, Georgianna Dente. The star of the syndicated "The Rachael Ray Show" paid for the dance and filmed it for an episode to air this month.
"The students of Enterprise High are so courageous, given all that they've gone through," Ray said in the statement. "When I heard about what happened to their school and classmates, we wanted to help.
"The prom was all about celebrating their accomplishments and honoring the classmates who tragically lost their lives," she said.
Earlier in the day, Ray appeared with Gov. Bob Riley and Enterprise Mayor Kenneth Boswell to greet students at an assembly.
The prom, held at Fort Rucker, was themed "Caught in a Moment." Photographs of seniors Jamie Vidensek and Michael Tompkins — two of the students killed — lined the dance floor, the Eagle reported.
Senior Mitchell Baker, 17, said the prom was bittersweet after the death of his friends.
"It makes it a little harder for me," Baker, 17, told The Dothan Eagle newspaper. "I'm used to all of them being around."
The governor on Thursday signed a bill that appropriates $32 million to rebuild Hillcrest Elementary School and Enterprise High School. The schools were damaged in the tornado March 1. Classes resumed March 14 at a community college.