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As co-chair of Guilford High School Project Graduation (GHSPG) restaurant fundraising events, Kelley McDevitt-Hooker is busy drumming up support for Silent Auction and raffle prizes for GHSPG’s Wednesday, March 20 fundraising night at Guilford Mooring restaurant. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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After two years volunteering to assist Guilford High School Project Graduation (GHSPG), if Kelley McDevitt-Hooker had one take-away she could share with parents of Guilford Public School (GPS) students, it would be this:
“I didn’t realize, until I started volunteering last year, that the funds we’re raising for Project Graduation carry over, so all of Guilford’s students are benefiting from what we are raising from the community for support. So it’s not just Project Graduation 2019—it’s Guilford High School Project Graduation. It’s a community fund and event,” says Kelley, who is co-chairing this year’s GHSPG restaurant fundraiser events together with co-chair Yvonne Shoff.
“If you think about it, kids who are in 5th grade at Baldwin are benefiting from what we’re doing right now. This is all one,” says Kelley, who has enjoyed volunteering with many programs as a parent of two students who came up through GPS: her son Michael (GHS Class of 2018) and daughter Katie (GHS Class of 2019).
The mother of two was a 5th-grade teacher up until her youngest child’s arrival, at which point Kelley became not only a busy mom, but an active volunteer in her children’s lives. A Guilford native, Kelley remembers her own mom serving as PTO president at Calvin Leete Elementary School, which is the same role Kelley was honored to fill when her children were attending Leete.
“I remember doing the 4th-grade float, and I remember saying, ‘We’ll probably all see each other volunteering for the 8th-grade Dinner Dance and Project Graduation. And here we all are, the same enthusiastic parents, and doing really what we love for the kids,” says Kelley.
This time around, Kelley is drumming up support from the community to turn out at Guilford Mooring restaurant, 505 Whitfield Street, on Wednesday, March 20 from 5 to 9 p.m. for a night of food and raffle and auction items, all in support GHSPG. Guilford Mooring will be donating 10 percent of the evening’s proceeds to GHSPG. Kelley thanks Guilford Mooring for once again opening its doors to the event, which she attended at the dockside restaurant last year.
“It’s wonderful. The seniors are excited and people come in droves to support the cause, to raise funds for a wonderful substance-free evening for the kids,” says Kelley. “You don’t need to purchase tickets—just come, support, have dinner, and participate in our silent auction and raffles. We have wonderful donations from the community and local businesses.”
Kelley welcomes even more contributions for the night’s silent auction and raffle prizes from any businesses or individuals who might want to contribute. The group welcomes theme baskets of items, gift cards, event tickets, and any other creative offerings. For example, GHS freshman Jadeyn Violette is donating her artwork, a rendering of Guilford’s Grass Island Shack. Interested donors can contact Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The auction is really where we raise most of our money that evening,” says Kelley. “Last year, we raised over $1,600. That goes directly for our cause, to provide for a substance-free, safe, wonderful event for our kids.”
She also thanks another Guilford restaurant, KC’s Restaurant & Pub, for offering its site for another GHSPG fundraising night this year, set for Sunday, May 19. For more information on both restaurant fundraising events, and other ways to support GHSPG—from making a donation to purchasing (when available) a GHS Class of 2019 congratulatory lawn sign—visit www.GHSPG.org.
Kelley first signed up as a GHSPG parent volunteer last year, when she helped to gather volunteer parents to chaperone the night-into-day event. She and her husband, Stephen, were also among the volunteers who turned out to greet the graduates, including their son, as they returned to GHS in the early morning hours following the big night.
Recalling the buses rolling in and her son arriving safely home that morning, Kelley says, “I thought it was wonderful, because I knew how much love and support they had, and it was community-based. And of course, he was exhausted!”
To get kids off safely to Project Graduation, all student participants must come to GHS a few hours post-graduation, to depart by bus at 10:30 p.m., knowing they won’t return until the buses bring them back at 5:30 a.m. the next day. This year’s event will once again take place at Chelsea Piers, Stamford, where the Class of 2019 will be treated to food stations, snacks, beverages, and activities and entertainment including a trampoline center, ice rink, rock-climbing, turf fields, basketball courts, batting cages, and more. The early morning hours include a hypnotist show that’s always memorable for the seniors, says Kelley.
“That morning with the hypnotist—that is so fun and entertaining,” she says. “It’s now almost nine months later, and my son is still speaking about it and what a great experience he had. What more do they want? They want to spend that last evening, and their summer, with their classmates.”
Parents of seniors who have not yet registered for GHSPG Class of 2019 can download the forms at www.GHSPG.org. Early bird registration, $60 per student, ends Friday, April 12 ($75 registration remains open thereafter). For more information, visit www.GHSPG.org or find Guilford High School Project Graduation 2019 on Facebook.
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