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Project Graduation on the money
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Kenzi Deason, left, and Autumn Parton flash big smiles after winning 32-inch TVs at Project Graduation. - photo by James Clark

TVs, iPads and even Bonnaroo tickets were hauled out the door as dawn approached Saturday morning.

It was the culmination of another successful Project Graduation that saw 350 seniors and their guests enjoy a safe night after graduating from WCHS.

Generating the money needed to make prizes flow like tap water wasn’t easy. It was a 10-month process that began in August and didn’t end till early May. Right at $65,000 was raised for the all-night celebration.

“Seeing the kids smiling and having fun made it all worthwhile,” said Project Graduation chair Wanda Cantrell. “Fundraising was such a big part of it. Trying to find fundraisers the students would participate in was one of the main challenges. The nursery sale was the big one. That’s what really carried us.”

The annual nursery sale held over Easter weekend was the No. 1 fundraiser, generating $15,741. Sales of Rada products was the No. 2 fundraiser with $5,050 raised.

At No. 3 was the golf tournament with $4,802 raised. No. 4 was Dr Pepper sales which raised $4,581, and No. 5 was the car show which raised $3,904.

“We give a big thanks to the businesses and the community for their support,” said Cantrell. “We purchased a lot of the prizes, but many of them were donated to us and we are certainly very appreciative of that. A lot of kids left with a lot of prizes and that was nice to see.”

Several area restaurants donated 10 percent of their sales to Project Graduation on designated nights. Money from Prater’s BBQ, Mud Bums, Gondola, Topz, and Pizza Hut generated a combined $2,784.

With construction closing the Civic Center, it was the first year for Project Graduation to be held at WCHS. The gym, auxiliary gym, and gym lobby were used.

“Overall, I think the high school worked very well and it was nice having the food right there in the concession area when you walked in,” said Cantrell. “If there were any issues, I wasn’t made aware of them.”

Students were required to sign in by midnight Friday and were greeted by a wide selection of games, inflatables, and food once inside. DJ Jason Gross of The Sound Machine kept the crowd energized with a creative blend of hit music.

The joust was by far the most popular game. Students made their way onto an inflatable ledge and engaged in combat, trying to knock their opponent onto a soft mat below. It resulted in some memorable battles.

By the time prizes were distributed and the doors were opened for students to leave, it was nearly 5 a.m. Kenzi Deason, with a 32-inch TV in hand, summed up the overall feeling of exhaustion best when she said, “Right now I’m just ready to go home.”