No Grad Left Behind in Herndon
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No Grad Left Behind in Herndon

Parents raise $7,500 at Casino Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser for HHS Class of 2020 grad celebration.

From left: Rosemary DeBenedittis and Joan Koss of Herndon watch as Scott Steiger of Herndon hands Jarrett Goldfedder of Vienna and Susanna Blackman of Herndon their wrist bands, "$25k in Casino Cash" and drink tickets at the annual Casino Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser. The event is a fundraiser by the Herndon High School Class of 2020 All Night Grad (ANG) Committee.

From left: Rosemary DeBenedittis and Joan Koss of Herndon watch as Scott Steiger of Herndon hands Jarrett Goldfedder of Vienna and Susanna Blackman of Herndon their wrist bands, "$25k in Casino Cash" and drink tickets at the annual Casino Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser. The event is a fundraiser by the Herndon High School Class of 2020 All Night Grad (ANG) Committee. Photo by Mercia Hobson.

The 33rd Annual Herndon High School All Night Grad (ANG) Celebration for the Class of 2020 is a parent organized and self-funded event scheduled in the evening following graduation ceremonies on Tuesday, June 2. Hosted by Herndon Community Center from 10:30 p.m. - 5 a.m., the celebration does not receive financial assistance from Fairfax County Public Schools but instead relies on donations and community fundraising efforts, to make the all-inclusive celebration a reality.

With only 16 weeks and counting down until graduation, on Saturday, Feb. 8 the Herndon All Night Grad (ANG) Committee presented the Casino Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser to help support expenses for the All Night Grad Celebration. Held at "Mile 20 at Mediterranean Breeze" in Herndon, parent Gretchen Nedzi of Reston said, "I'm here to create a community with fellow parents and raise money for a successful, all-inclusive graduation party.” Julie Saylor of Herndon, who staffed the welcome table, added, "Because we love them all.” Restaurant owner Phil Orme has been a supporter of the Casino Night and Silent Auction Fundraiser for decades. He said he welcomed the opportunity to support the biggest fundraiser for the All Night Grad party, "one that keeps students safe."

The goal of the celebration is to give all Herndon High School Class of 2020 grads a memorable and safe after graduation event, one to which they will say yes to attend and be with their classmates in an alcohol and drug-free celebration during a high-risk night. However, a party such as this, one that could entice reticent Herndon High School grads to forfeit any possible combination of partying, alcohol, drugs and driving, takes dollars to produce. According to organizer Joan Koss of Herndon, the cost is upwards of $35,000 or more depending on the number of ticket holders.

"Activities include an internationally renowned illusionist, casino, large inflatable games and obstacle courses, airbrush tattoos, photo booth, massages, music and lots of food. Prizes are given out all night long, and those who stay for the entire evening have a chance to win grand prizes. Think flat screen TVs, iPads, gift cards, and so much more," promoted the event website herndonang.org.

With the price of the ticket currently $72 if purchased online, the price tag could be a hardship and deterrent for students eligible for free and reduced price school lunches based on household income and family size. According to the online ticket site, if a student receives free/reduced lunch, the ticket price is free or reduced to $25 respectively. "We cover their ticket price, so no student is excluded due to lack of funds," said Koss. The ticket price increases to $82 on March 1. It includes all activities throughout the evening, food and prizes. “History indicates 60 percent of graduates will attend the All Night Grad party, but we would love every senior to attend and celebrate with their class," said Koss.

Upstairs, cards and strategy flashed at the Black Jack and Texas Hold ’Em tables, and chance dictated where the ball rolled at the Roulette table. The silent auction lured guests to outbid even their closest friends but all for a good cause. By Monday morning, the initial tallies showed the event raised $7,500, according to Koss. Additional donations are needed. Visit www.herndonang.org to donate or for more information.