Wednesday, June 23, 2021

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Help Branford Project Graduation 2021 Raise $10,000

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The community can get involved by either sponsoring some Balloons for Seniors (shown here in 2020), by making a direct donation to the cause, or by supporting fundraising events.

Photo from Project Graduation 2021

The community can get involved by either sponsoring some Balloons for Seniors (shown here in 2020), by making a direct donation to the cause, or by supporting fundraising events. Photo from Project Graduation 2021)

While the pandemic has one again pulled the plug on the possibility of holding an all-night event this year, Branford Project Graduation has some big plans for the Branford High School (BHS) Class of 2021, and a goal of raising $10,000 from community contributions.

Although Project Graduation is a separate entity that's not part of Branford Public Schools, this year's increased effort to coordinate ideas with members of the BHS administration  hopes to up the fun factor and help the Class of 2021 safely celebrate graduation time together, which is the mission of Project Graduation, said  Project Graduation group organizers and parents of BHS juniors Lauren Loomis and Katina Gionteris.

Most recently, the all-volunteer parent organization has been working with the BHS administration to coordinate a grouping of events sponsored by Project Graduation 2021 during school, including a newly-developed off-site daytime event for the seniors at years' end.

Last year, while dozens of BHS Project Graduation's fundraising red and white "Balloons for Seniors" could be spotted outside every graduate's home, the program's traditional night-into-day, substance-free graduation night celebration for the senior class had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

"Getting the balloons out  last year, with help from the Fire Department and the school bus drivers, was pretty much the only big thing we were able to do," said Loomis.

Gionteris and Loomis are both moms of three sons, including current BHS juniors, and among a handful of parents sharing core duties of Project Graduation 2021, which also has the support of many other parents pitching in to help. The success of each annual Project Graduation effort also relies heavily on generating outside support from fundraising efforts and community contributions.

After last year's cancellation of the traditional Project Graduation night, even more parents wanted to help ensure this years' seniors get a safe, memorable send-off from Project Graduation, said Gionteris. She said a social media post seeking helpers that was shared by another Branford group brought in 30 senior parents in one fell swoop.

"Generally, it's the underclassmen parents that get involved; so that by your kid's senior year, you're able to enjoy it a little bit," said Gionteris. "I think this year, everybody wants to be able to do something for these seniors."

Right now, the parent group is involved in the heavy lift of meeting its goal to raise $10,000. The money will not only help make up for last year's loss of fundraising opportunities and support this year's program, but will also help seed future Project Graduation events, Loomis explained.

"Project Graduation is a cumulative project, with a rolling budget we fundraise for," said Loomis. "And we've lost momentum, for the past two years, really, because of COVID. So if people think, 'Oh well, they can't do it this year, so I don't have to donate,' -- it's actually the exact opposite. We want to do as much as we can for the seniors this year; and then we also need to get the pot going up again. Because next year, when we can do something, we want to make it better than ever."

Project Graduation recently sent out its annual spring mail appeal to local businesses. Meanwhile, the community can get involved by either sponsoring some Balloons for Seniors, by making a direct donation to the cause, or by supporting fundraising events.

Seasoned parent volunteer Karen Erickson continues to lead Balloons for Seniors,, which is accepting payments by Venmo (@balloonsforseniorsbranfordct ) or check to "Branford Project Graduation" mailed to Balloons for Seniors c/o Erickson, 169 Hotchkiss Grove Rd., Branford, CT 06405. For information on the program or to receive an order form, email Balloonsforseniorsbranfordct@gmail.com or visit the Project Graduation website on Facebook (@BHSprojectgraduation2021).

General donations can be made via PayPal to "Branford Project Graduation" and by check to "Branford Project Graduation," mailed to Project Graduation, 185 Main St., Branford, CT 06405.

On Thurs., May 6, Ashley's Ice Cream, 1016 Main St., will donate a portion of proceeds from sales made between 4 – 8 p.m. (mention Project Graduation). In April, similar programs at Branford businesses Jiffy Lube and Chipotle's helped give a boost to fundraising for Project Graduation. Through May 15, a Color Street Dry Nail Polish fundraiser sponsored by Tina Holt (https://linktr.ee/tipsntoesbytinah) will generously donate all proceeds to Project Graduation.

Additionally, for the month of May, the Project Graduation sneaker drive will take place with a collection site BHS. All old and used sneakers donated to Project Graduation will earn anywhere from $1 to $7 depending on the brand and condition.

For additional information visit: https://branfordprojectgraduation.weebly.com/and Email general questions to Katina Gionteris branfordprojgrad@gmail.com.


Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

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