Print MADD's Mingus graduation party at risk
Written by Greg Ruland   
Thursday, 21 April 2011 00:00

The parent group that produces Operation Graduation might cancel the event this year if parents and businesses fail to come up with enough donations to make it a party, according to Denise Vertist, a teacher aide who volunteers each year to help organize the event.

“That’s a distinct possibility. Things are rolling very slowly,” Vertist said. “We’re not getting hardly any response because of the slow economy.”

“Senior parents need to donate, and we need businesses to donate, and if we don’t get enough funding in then this will have to be canceled,” she said.

In 2010, Operation Graduation provided more than 500 seniors with a safe alternative to graduation parties where alcohol is often served, she said.

More than $2,000 was raffled off last year along with a number of other prizes including bicycles, movie passes, free dinners and more. The catch: Seniors must be present to win and the raffle doesn’t take place until the wee hours of the morning.

While waiting for the raffle to take place at Cottonwood Recreation Center, seniors and their friends swam, played basketball, climbed a rock wall, danced and ate mounds of donated food.

This year’s event Friday, May 27, may be expensive and time consuming for volunteers but could save a senior the pain and embarrassment of a graduation night DUI, alcohol-related injury or even death.

“We do this to keep the students off the streets and out of parties where alcohol is being served — to keep them safe,” Vertist said. We provide a very safe environment. They have a lot of fun. They get to be with their classmates for the last time. It’s a lot of fun and they really do enjoy it.”

The recreation center will serve as Operation Graduation headquarters again this year, but only if enough volunteers show up. Between 20 and 30 parents are needed as chaperones through the night and many more are needed to set up, clean up and prepare food, she said.

The Operation Graduation celebration usually begins around 10 p.m. and ends around 5 a.m.

For more information, call 649-4418.