By Darren Lum
High school students are welcoming the public to participate in an online auction that will help to raise the spirits of this year’s graduating students, who have endured the challenges of attending school with the constraints of the coronavirus.
With the support of local businesses, the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Prom Committee is hosting an online auction that includes 12 gift baskets, starting with one a day for 12 days through its Facebook page www.facebook.com/hhssprom2021/) starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Co-chairpersons of the committee Megan Klose and Daniella Meraw said this initiative will help to bring some light at a time of such darkness.
“I know the 2020 grads felt a lot of sadness over everything of theirs being cancelled and we know that we can’t have that [too], like a real prom, so we wanted to still have something leaving with positivity from our high school. We don’t want the same as last year’s class,” Meraw said.
The prom committee chairpersons said the money will enable the purchase of special keepsakes for graduating peers. Among the things they’re considering are a set of graduating class sweaters and a premium prom package for anyone who wants it.
The Grade 12 students credited this idea to Terri Mathews-Carl, co-owner of the Rhubarb Restaurant,’who answered their questions related to holding their own auction based on what she has done in the past.
In past years, fundraising was often conducted internally at the school, Klose said, but with the constraints of the pandemic the support of the community has been necessitated.
“We really wanted to involve the community and not just fundraise from our school. So, yeah, especially during COVID, it’s important to connect our school to the community in ways we really can’t do otherwise during a pandemic,” Klose said.
The co-chairpersons have been happy with the support that has been displayed online for the auction in the days leading up to the start and appreciated the way the businesses have responded, despite the financial challenges threatening the economy.
“We were nervous to ask because of a pandemic and we know especially in our small community it’s been challenging for everyone, but the response has been amazing. So many businesses have been willing to donate and help us out and excited to donate,” she said.
The list of businesses that have donated includes the Pharmasave Dorset Village Pharmacy, McKeck’s Tap and Grill in Haliburton, the Rhubarb Restaurant in Carnarvon, and Artech Studios in Tory Hill.
Once an item is posted anyone can make a bid in the comments related to the post.
There will be a minimum bid to start and subsequent bids will be in increments of $5 or $10 depending on the item. By the end of the 48-hour bidding period the item will be won and then picked up at the school. Multiple items will be available at once.
For each day of the 12 days the silent auction runs there will be a different gift basket filled with various items related to different themes, such as “summer camping, arts and crafts, from the heart of Haliburton, date night and self-care.”
Klose said getting to do this for her graduating peers has a value that fulfills her.
“It’s really special we get to plan something and help other people plan something. I know a lot of people have just been thinking ‘there’s a pandemic there’s nothing we can do about it.’ But I think being able to really do something about it and make it a positive thing is really awesome for us,” she said.
Working on this effort has been therapeutic for Klose, Meraw and the other committee members, who are Logan Heaven and Emma Mitchell.
“A lot of us are finding ways to make it much more enjoyable. Even by just simply planning things at our meetings, we have so much enthusiasm for making things much better than they are right now in reality,” Meraw said.
With COVID-19 protocols in place at the school, the four members of the prom committee have had to meet virtually through an online venue. In September, when it was warmer, the group met outside and socially distanced.
The group work the past few months has reclaimed what was lost when the pandemic hit Ontario and left students learning from home alone online.
“Just being able to connect with our friends this other way is so special being with our prom committee. When it shut down in March, I felt we were all really isolated and didn’t get to talk to anyone and work together to create something, so I think it’s really special and helping all of our mental health to be in a group working towards a goal,” Klose said.
She adds the committee believes their efforts will contribute to a sense of unity and bring about a feeling of positive energy.
“We all need to come together during these hard times and not separate ourselves due to any views we have. Just to come together and celebrate the happiness that we have and obviously it will be a different holiday season so just doing what we can do to spread joy and happiness,” she said.