Summit parents, alumni create fundraisers to benefit students |

Summit parents, alumni create fundraisers to benefit students

Local parents create 5K virtual fundraiser to make up for loss of last year’s after-prom auction

Summit High School senior Gray Wasson runs down the Roberts Tunnel trail in Dillon with his dog, Bentley, on April 2. Wasson ran 5 kilometers Friday as part of the Summit Parent Teacher Student Organization's fundraiser throughout the month of April to raise money for the 2021 graduating class.
Photo by Ashley Low / Ashley Low Photography

In her family’s home, Summit Parent Teacher Student Organization Vice President Alaina Brenner refers to this stretch of schooling as “the empty year.”

Brenner, the parent of a 2021 senior, has seen how the lack of normalcy in response to the novel coronavirus acutely affects soon-to-be graduates. For seniors like her child, that extends beyond the two days of in-person education seniors are able to attend.

For Brenner, the empty year includes not stepping foot on campuses as college visits are going virtual. The empty year has seen colleges’ standardized testing requirements, such as for the SAT, completely changed, leaving some seniors worried about how colleges will weigh their merits. The empty year has also been without a homecoming weekend, Friday night football games and pep rallies.

That reality is not lost on district parent and organization President Naomi McMahon.

“I think people have kind of forgotten about them because it’s become the new normal for the entire country, not just Summit County,” McMahon said.

There’s one other thing the 2021 graduates missed out on: the traditional after-prom fundraiser during the spring of their junior year. Each year, the rising senior class’s after-prom live-auction at the Silverthorne Recreation Center brings in thousands of dollars. The fundraiser helps to bankroll as much as $5,000 for things like class scholarships and the senior class’s gift — such as a park bench, mural or artwork — back to the school.

Since the district did not host a prom last spring during the pandemic, the 2021 senior class entered this school year without funds. That means the class had just a few hundred dollars in its coffers to not only go toward scholarships and the class gift, but also to include pandemic-friendly elements for their coming graduation day, such as financing a video livestream of commencement. Brenner said auction funds also help pay for extra class materials and activities.

“It usually covers everything so nothing needs to come out of the parent’s pocket,” Brenner said.

So McMahon came up with the idea of setting up a remote exercise challenge. The fundraiser, which runs the month of April, invites anyone — whether they live near or far — to complete a 5K in their preferred fashion. That could be by running, biking or skiing, all in financial support of the senior class fund.

McMahon and Brenner said the goal is to raise $5,000 through the fundraiser. McMahon said she and other parents are hopeful the event is successful enough this year to continue it in future years, perhaps even with a vertical-feet of skiing component as well.

After McMahon came up with the idea, Brenner created a website and promotional materials for the virtual fundraiser in her new role this year as the organization’s liaison for the 2022 senior class. McMahon said the group came up with the expanded role “because we knew they’d need more attention than senior classes have had in the past.”

McMahon said the fundraiser has been the main focus of the parent-teacher-student group, which consists of more than 400 members. McMahon said about 20 have been highly active at virtual meetings amid the pandemic.

“This is a good fundraiser for our community, especially during COVID, because they can do it at their own pace whenever they want,” Brenner said.

How you can help

Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Click here to donate or sign-up to take part in the Summit PTSO 5K.

And click here to sign-up and donate to the SHS Class of 2001’s Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Along with the parents, some alumni have come up with creative ways to raise funds for current students. That includes 2001 Summit High graduate Neta Hodson. Hodson led the 2001 class’s decision to pivot from a 20-year reunion to a virtual fundraiser to help local families who are struggling to pay out-of-pocket for academic fees, class materials and activities.

Hodson hopes their fundraiser can lead to an alumni association for the high school that can help current students and their families every year. The class of 2001 is recommending a donation of $20.01 — in honor of their graduating year — though all donations are welcome.

For 2021 seniors like Gray Wasson, prom — potentially at the Copper Mountain Resort’s conference center — and graduation at Summit High School are the few rite-of-passage events they will experience as a class, even if COVID-19 rules significantly alter both experiences due to limited group sizes and capacity maximums of two-per-student for attendees.

Gray Wasson and his mother Shelly Wasson, a member of the group, said after last year’s graduating class saw a huge communitywide effort to recognize them — including a parade down Breckenridge Main Street – they are worried that with this year becoming “the new normal,” the 2021 class “might be in the shadows more than last year’s class was,” Shelly said.

“I think that it’s just important to think about us,” Gray Wasson said shortly before starting his 5K run on Friday from Robert’s Tunnel. “We haven’t had the same experiences as a normal senior class would, so it would be important to finish strong.”

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