Fundraiser for Annual GMHS Graduation Party Set for Saturday
Special to the Falls Church Times
April 20, 2016
For the 27th year, the George Mason High School All Night Grad Celebration is being planned for this year’s seniors. To help defray the cost, organizers are holding a fundraiser Saturday from 3 to 6 pm at Clare & Don’s Beach Shack on North Washington Street.
Called the Byrd Feeder after Mason Principal Ty Byrd, the fundraiser will feature a silent auction hosted by Mr. Byrd. It’s an event for the entire GMHS parent community, featuring auction items donated by GMHS families, local organizations, and other businesses. The Byrd Feeder netted more than $6,000 last year.
The all-night party, known as the ANGC, had its start 27 years ago, when GMHS parents, concerned about the risks of alcohol, drugs, and unsafe driving at traditional “grad night” celebrations, decided to offer new graduates a fun, safe alternative.
Now a cherished tradition with participation rates averaging more than 90 percent over the last several years, ANGC boasts a certain mystique that keeps the kids engaged and eager to sign up year after year. Outgoing seniors share stories of the activities and entertainment with underclass students but are asked to keep mum on certain aspects in order for each class to enjoy some surprises.
For virtually all GMHS grads, the ANGC is exactly how they want to celebrate the milestone of high school graduation. And in the 27 years ANGC has been held, the Falls Church City community has not experienced a single accident or fatality on graduation night.
Upon their return to GMHS after the graduation ceremony at DAR Constitution Hall on June 22, at 11:15 p.m. the new graduates will reconvene inside GMHS to party the night (and morning) away with their classmates. While some schools that host all-night grad parties allow non-graduate guests, at GMHS the focus for the new grads is enjoying their last hours together as a unified class.
This year’s ANGC will feature entertainment by an illusionist, casino games and unique attractions, plus many chances to collect raffle tickets toward fabulous door prizes, many of which have been donated by the local business community. At 5 a.m. on June 23, the graduates will leave GMHS for the very last time as a class – and most will head right home for a well-deserved nap. (GMHS opens as usual shortly afterward for the arrival of faculty, staff and underclass students.)
An event of ANGC’s scale comes at a high price. Despite an all-volunteer team of parent organizers contributing their time and talent, significant cash outlays are required in order to secure quality entertainment, keep hundreds of active grads nourished and hydrated for six hours of partying, and to ensure top-notch safety and security from start to finish. To that end, ANGC aggressively fundraisers throughout the school year, starting with a letter mailed to GMHS families in the fall. Committee members reach out to local business for corporate sponsorships and prize donations, publicize restaurant fundraisers, host at-home special events, and keep up the buzz on social media and FCCPS communications.
For almost a year, George Mason High School parent Julie Donnelly has been in charge of planning this year’s event. It requires coordination of food, entertainment and prizes, as well as the less-glamorous but vital elements of security, insurance and fire safety. Donnelly supports and cheerleads dozens of team members tasked with securing cash donations and items to be auctioned off in support of the event, dedicated fundraising events, prize collection, publicity, decorating, volunteer coordination and bookkeeping.
But here’s the kicker: Mrs. Donnelly’s own kids can’t attend this event – at least not this year. Her kids, Maeve and Erik Donnelly, will have their chances to attend the ANGC in 2017 and 2020, but their mom has devoted hundreds of hours, and counting, to planning the event of a lifetime for this year’s seniors only. Due to the massive scope of the event as well as the flurry of activities parents of graduates must manage, the chair of ANGC is traditionally the parent of an underclass student, and it’s a role Donnelly has performed with efficiency, grace, good humor and endless patience.
“The ANGC is an all-year commitment, but after having been involved as a committee member last year and seeing the result of our work, I was happy to take on the chair position and work with parents who feel as strongly as I do about the importance of providing this kind of event,” Donnelly says. “It’s exciting and rewarding to work with the talented ANGC team to organize a fun, memorable and safe ANGC – one that we hope all of our seniors will always remember.”
GMHS parents are encouraged to volunteer, and anyone may donate to the cause. For more information, click here: http://www.georgemasonhighptsa.org/all-night-grad.html
By Stephen Siegel
April 20, 2016