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Since moving to Madison six years ago, Keiler Snow has volunteered in bringing Nite in Hand’s theme to life for graduating seniors. (Photo courtesy of Keiler Snow )
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In 2012, Keiler Snow’s oldest son, who is now in college, was just beginning his freshman year at Hand and one of Keiler’s friends invited her to a meeting for Nite in Hand.
“I definitely had never heard of anything like that growing up and I didn’t see it before I’d started working on it, so I had no idea how it would all come together,” says Keiler. “I’d just moved to town and had no idea what I was getting into. I was blown away by what materialized.”
Keiler grew up in the Boston area and moved around the East Coast for school. She went to grad school at Yale University, where she met and then married her husband 22 years ago. For the next 15 years, the couple then lived in London where their three sons were all born before returning stateside and settling in Madison in 2012.
According to the Madison school district’s website, Nite in Hand—now in its 22nd year—allows “Madison’s graduates to spend the entire night celebrating together in a safe, substance-free environment.”
We try to raise the bar every year and this year’s theme is really exciting,” Keiller says.
Over the years, Keiler’s role with the event has increased and she now chairs the decorating and building committee with Jennifer Dums, a parent of a Class of 2018 graduate, and Ron Botelho, a teacher at Polson.
“Neither have kids in school anymore, but they volunteer their time to help bring these designs to life,” says Keiler. “We work really collaboratively. They’re both really artistic and it’s exciting to see things come together.”
The planning begins in September with monthly meetings being held to discuss theme ideas and fundraising activities, such as a silent auction and a graduation sign sale. Once the theme is decided, the work begins. By February, the building and decorating committee is in full swing.
The group rents a studio space as well as three storage units for storing the finished pieces as well as other items used in the past. Every week, studio hours are posted for volunteers.
“We try to have day and night hours to accommodate people’s different schedules and we post the hours so they can drop in and help,” says Keiler, who is an administrative consultant for a school in the UK. “Luckily I work part-time from home so I can juggle my schedule. It’s an exciting time right now because things are really in the final stages and coming together.
“We’ve had some amazing artists involved,” adds Keiler. “Madison’s quite the little haven for talented artists and we’ve been fortunate that a lot of people have volunteered their time to make the designs really come to life.”
While the theme has been decided for some time, only the volunteers know what it will be. Keiler noted that this year has been especially tricky to keep the secret because her middle son is a senior.
“He’s been actively trying to guess what the theme would be,” says Keiler. “It’s been hard to keep a secret because I’m constantly bringing things in and out of house. I can’t really say what we’re doing or what we’ve built, so I don’t give it away.”
One of Keiler’s favorite things about being involved with Nite in Hand is watching the seniors’ reactions when they arrive at the beginning of the night.
The seniors aren’t the only ones who are curious about the theme.
Every year, there is a preview of Nite in Hand that is open to the community. From 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 14, Madison residents are invited to see the transformation of the high school. Past themes have included Once Upon a Time, Around the World, New York, New York, Myths and Legends, and L.A. Nights, which was the theme the first year Keiler was involved.
“We always have an amazing turnout for the preview,” says Keiler. “I know people who say they’ve gone every year since it started. It’s a tradition for a lot of families.”
Another benefit of the preview for the public is that it helps to draw new volunteers. Keiler notes that one of the most active volunteers this year started after visiting last year’s Nite in Hand preview.
“She was so blown away by what she saw last year and really wanted to get involved and be creative,” says Keiler. “We are happy to have any and all volunteers. It’s great to have a creative outlet. Being new to town, it was a great way to meet people and have time to chat with other parents about how to navigate this whole high school thing.”
There are many volunteer opportunities with Nite in Hand. In addition to the actual building and decorating of pieces, volunteers are needed to pick up materials, help with fundraising, and more. There are also things that can be worked on from home.
“Even if you can just give two hours every two weeks, it’s still a huge contribution to us,” says Keiler. “People can help out as little or as much as they want. We appreciate any level of support.”
This year there have been more than two dozen volunteers working on creations for the 2019 theme. Many pieces have been finished to decorate the different areas of the school. In addition to the decor, the school will be full of activities for the senior class, including a DJ, bingo, inflatables, food, carnival games, a hypnotist, and more. Parents have also created photo boards for their graduates that will be on display.
“It’s a last chance to really celebrate together as class and we always have really good attendance,” says Keiler. “It’s really important that the kids have a safe place to go together. It’s such a tradition for the kids. I just bought paint from a guy who was reminiscing about his experience at Nite in Hand in 2008.”
Keiler’s volunteer work doesn’t stop with Nite in Hand. Over the years, she has worked with the booster clubs for soccer, track, and music programs with which her sons have been involved.
She has also been the treasurer of Madison ABC House for the past five years and she and her family have a host son, who has spent every third weekend with the family for the past four years. He will also be graduating with Keiler’s m middle son this year.
“It’s been a really rewarding experience to watch him grown and take advantage of everything Hand has to offer,” says Keiler, whose oldest son just finished his sophomore year of college and whose youngest son is finishing his freshman year of high school. “My host son hasn’t seen any previews in the past, so I think he’ll be blown away. My kids do appreciate that I’m involved. My son knows I’m working hard so he and his friends enjoy their night.”
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