Project Graduation a fun, safe night to remember

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Parents have been working on plans since September

By Ron Benningfield

Wanting to give this year’s graduating LaRue County High School seniors a “fun, safe night to remember,” several of those seniors’ parents have been working since September on this year’s Project Graduation.

Observed at many high school campuses throughout the nation after Commencement exercises, Project Graduation began more than 20 years ago in the northeast after several students died in alcohol-related auto accidents while celebrating their graduation.

The event, which starts around midnight and lasts until about 6 a.m., gives the new alumni a drug and alcohol-free opportunity to celebrate with several chances at prizes and valuable donated items.

“We feel we will pull 90 percent of this class into the event, since these seniors are really close,” said Sandy Kidd, co-chairperson with Theresa Banks.

With this year’s class of 201 seniors being one of the largest to graduate from the school, Kidd said there’s plenty of room for more parents to become involved and for the community to pitch in and lend a hand.

“Anything monetary would be a great benefit, as would donations of items from local businesses to put in “goody bags,” she said. “We have a core of about 40 parents now working on the Project and would love for more of these parents to be involved.”

She and other volunteers are working on ideas to relay the theme, “Nickelodeon,” chosen by this year’s seniors.

“Cindy Smith and her committee are working on murals and life-size characters from the Nik at Nite series,” Kidd said. “D.J. and Gary Canter have come up with some creative ideas for the entertainment that night.”

On the drawing board is a theme-oriented mechanical surfboard, much like a mechanical bull, in addition to inflatable games, a Velcro wall in which the participants don special clothing that allows them actually to stick, in a variety of positions, to an adhesive wall.

“We’re trying to come up with things that are on the series,” she said. “The characters like to slime people, and we’re considering how we can get that done.”

She envisions, Rugrats Go to Paris and Vegas, a Boardwalk, Rocket Power and carnival games, all of which the series viewers will be familiar.

Kidd said, with the sluggish economy, she is somewhat concerned about the amount of money raised so far (about $6,000).

“Others who have done this said they’ve had about that much collected at this time of the school year, but they didn’t have as large a class,” she said.

To raise funds, parents will conduct roadblocks and plans are underway (and sponsors needed) for a duck derby in which students or their patrons purchase rubber ducks which the seniors will release into the water at Creekfront Park with the fastest ducks downstream to the finish line garnering prizes for their owners.

Kidd said they also hope to have a Project Idol, similar to American Idol, to be held at the Lincoln Jamboree.

“Deborah Whitlock, our prize and finance co-chair, has talked to Joel Ray Sprowls who graciously consented to allow us to hold the event there and to give all admission proceeds to Project Graduation,” Kidd said.

Like their television counterpart, contestants will perform before judges in preliminary competition with the finalists competing at the Jamboree.

“The winner will receive a trophy, and I believe Joel Ray also will allow the winner to perform on his regular Saturday night show,” said Kidd, who added the committee is still determining the dates and times for the elimination and final rounds.

Those attending Project Graduation also enjoy a variety of foodstuffs. Kidd said Donna and Ronnie Chelf are coordinating that committee.

“They are hopeful they can find food donors so that we will have more money available for cash and other prizes for the participants,” said Kidd.

“We hope to offer a lot of attractive prizes, but the biggest things are the good memories which these young people can carry with them the rest of their lives,” Kidd said.