Archive for Thursday, October 27, 2005

Parents, volunteers plan last hurrah for Class of 2006

October 27, 2005

Most high school seniors would agree that a $15,000 graduation party isn't too shabby.

Seniors at Lansing High School receive such a gift every year from the parents who put on Operation Graduation, an annual event beginning at 10 p.m. the night of graduation - May 20 for the class of 2006 - and lasting until the wee hours of the morning. It will be held at Harney Sports Complex at Fort Leavenworth.

The goal of Operation Graduation is to "provide a non-alcoholic, drug-free, safe environment for our graduates as they celebrate one of the most important milestones of their lives together," according to the mission statement of the planning committee, made up mostly of seniors' parents.

Parents and a few other volunteers planning Operation Graduation 2006 have been meeting since July and won't be finished until June, when they evaluate the success of the event and pass along what they've learned to a new crop of parents.

Rick McKee, a chairman of the operation, said the event is a Lansing tradition that requires a lot of time, money and volunteers to put together. He estimated that 50 volunteers were currently working on committees such as decorations, entertainment, food, fundraiser, gifts and prizes, safety and solicitations.

The fundraising and solicitations committees are in charge of the task of coming up with the $15,000-$16,000 for the budget. The solicitations committee sends letters to local businesses asking for donations of money or prizes. The fundraising committee is responsible for the main source of revenue, selling raffle tickets. The ticket sale ends Oct. 31.

Karen Averill, fundraising committee chair, said each student's parents receive 10 tickets to sell for $10 each. Ticket-holders can win cash prizes throughout December. Dec. 1-11, the prize is $25; it increases to $50 Dec. 12-23 and Dec. 26-30. The prize is $75 Dec. 24, $200 Dec. 25 and $100 Dec. 31.

Averill said she hopes to raise $16,000, which would be $100 per senior, through the fundraiser.

"We ought to come really close if everyone sold 10 tickets," she said.

The prizes amount to $1,500. Another source of revenue offsets the expenditure: McKee said the event receives a $1,500 grant from Leavenworth County for holding a drug- and alcohol-free event.

The money from the grant, fundraiser and donations pays for activities, food and prizes for the students. Vickie Kelly, a member of the entertainment committee, said this year's event would include inflatable games, a casino run by Lansing Lions Club, a racquetball-court-turned-movie-theatre and various types of games. My Last Day, a band of three LHS students and a 2005 LHS graduate, is scheduled to perform, and a magician will also make an appearance, Kelly said. A pancake breakfast will be served about 3 a.m., Kelly said, and when students finish eating, it's time for prizes.

McKee said the majority of the event's budget goes into prizes and gifts for the students. Each graduate will receive some type of gift geared toward life after high school, he said.

"Every kid will leave with a bag or box of stuff," he said.

The students also can win larger prizes like TVs, microwaves, mini fridges or gaming systems at a raffle or auction at the end of the night. There will be "literally hundreds of prizes" given throughout the night, McKee said. Kelly said seniors would receive raffle tickets for attending the event; they can earn more tickets by winning in the casino.

McKee said he hoped the event and the prizes would appeal to all of the seniors so that all would attend.

"(There are) lots of things for all the kids, no matter where they're going," he said.

Darlene Dean said last year, about two-thirds of the senior class attended the event. Dean, whose daughter graduated in 2005, participated last year in planning the event and is helping again this year.

"I just really enjoyed it," she said. "I loved being a part of it and seeing the kids : It was just really nice seeing all these teenagers, and they were having a good time."

Kelly also attended last year as a volunteer the night of the event. Her shift lasted only three hours, but she said she could tell which parents were in for the long haul.

"Some of those parents looked like zombies," she said.

This year, it's Kelly's turn to stay up all night with the students. She said she wants to be there at the end, but the end is a turning point for her - her oldest son, Javen, is graduating and plans to attend college in the fall. Kelly said sometimes she is torn between the sadness and excitement of her oldest child leaving the nest, but she said she's glad she has the event planning to keep her busy.

"It's bittersweet," she said about Javen's graduation. "It's been helpful to do this."

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