June 17, 2002

PARENTS ALL OVER the Bay Area are creating all-night graduation parties to keep kids sober and off the roads. This works - the number of fatalities and serious injuries after high school commence-ments has dramatically decreased since Grad Nights became popular. My daughter, Allie, graduated from Foothill High School Friday afternoon, and that night I drove her to the school gymnasium. There, waiting for her and her fellow graduates, was an amazing Grad Night event organized, created, and run by loving parents, some of whom worked on this project for months.

Most of Sunol Glen's graduates go to Foothill, and several of the volunteers for Grad Night have also given selflessly for many years here. Paulette Beemiller, proud parent of graduate Spenser, chaired the decorating committee for Grad Night, just as she did for our kids' Sunol Glen eighth-grade graduation dance. And just as they did then, Leslie Roberts, proud parent of graduate Stephanie, Sue and Art Gwerder, proud parents of graduate Sarah, and Paulette's husband, Gerry, pitched in to help create the extraordinary setting for Foothill's party. Leslie also served as Treasurer for the event. Sunol Repertory Theatre's Patti Balch, who gives so much time and talent here, lent Grad Night a perfect backdrop used in the Foothill gym.

Although this column is about Sunol, our kids wouldn't have had this very special night if not for the many Pleasanton parent volunteers. Kim Curry co-chaired the event with Paula Tuggle and Paulette, orchestrating committees for prizes, food and beverages, decorations, games, corporate fundraising and more. The theme for the night was "It's a Jungle Out There!" and the inspired parents transformed Foothill's gym and multi-purpose room into a fantasy jungle filled with teen-friendly entertainments. Another Pleasanton parent, Michael Faber, provided two garages on his property for the building and storing of most of the props and decorations, and was also chairman of the clean-up crew.

Friday evening, a 30-ft. gorilla balloon (donated by Shamrock Ford of Dublin) rose above Foothill High holding a banner that read, "Congratulations Class of 2002." The jumbo simian greeted the graduates for a night of safe, sober fun from 9:45 p.m. until 5 a.m. The gym had been turned into a jungle playland, with amazing murals, props and structures. Pleasanton Artist Barbara Daggett did much of the remarkable artwork.

The gym boasted a Tarzan-worthy tree house with a caricaturist inside, an airbrush tattoo artist, and a D.J. providing dance music, prizes and contests. Terrific prizes and a cash give-away were made possible by generous corporate donations. Jean Gilbert and Kathy Deenihan's entertainment committee rounded up great games, including sumo wrestling rigs, human fooz ball, an obstacle course, motorized toilet races (don't ask!), and even a mechanical bull. Across the quad, the Foothill multi-purpose room was transformed into the "Zebra Lounge", housing casino games and a make-your-own-video booth. Sandwiches, pizza, soft drinks, ice cream and more, all donated by area businesses, were available to fuel the fun all night.

In addition to those mentioned above, thanks go to Grad Night committee members Patty Frankson and Laura Orenberg (secretaries and donation chairwomen), Sheree Birch (volunteer coordinator), Donna Cook (prizes), Don and Michelle Lewandowski (security and check-in), Lauren McCarthy and Amora Worall (food and menu), Rosemary Wylie and Nancy Scotto (photo memories), Gloria Patak (program), and Robin Neal (fundraising).

Other dedicated volunteers included Sally Martin, Gina Tannahill, Kay Dorp, Sheng Shen, Diana Michaels, Jani Alverson, and Jerry Cederquist. A special thank you goes to Pat Smith of the Foothill office staff. There were many more volunteers who are not mentioned above, simply because the list grew each day, but you know who you are and you are FABULOUS!

In one of the many e-mails Paulette sent to rouse, cheer and thank the volunteers, she wrote, "When I start dragging, someone miraculously appears and tells us how much they appreciate us doing Grad Night. Yesterday that 'angel' was Mr. Hayes (a longtime Foothill math teacher), who reminded us of how many senior fatalities there used to be in the valley before there were Grad Nights for them to go to. If we save one young life, that's more than enough to keep me going."

Amen to that, and a huge hug of gratitude for all of you who made this wonderful night a reality.

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