By unanimous declaration, everyone loves Operation Graduation because it is, as graduate McKinlee Kendall summarized, “One last chance to be with friends and make memories.” Before Kendall heads off to UVU to study nursing, she has one last night to enjoy her high school friends and have fun.
Jacob Harris, who plans to work for Jason Morgan Farming driving and fixing tractors, agreed and added, “Free food and the Amazing Race!”
Harris and Kendall were only two of the many graduates polled who praised Operation Graduation as a final opportunity to spend time with friends while having fun, eating great food and earning great prizes.
With 15 different activities and 12 food stations, graduates had a myriad of activities to choose from and plenty of food to keep them fueled. Inflatable soccer, ping pong, basketball, Amazing Race, Spike Ball Tournament, Karaoke, money vault, bungee run, mechanical bull, laser tag, climbing wall, 4-wheelers, bowling, Wii and Scavenger Hunt were the available activities for all graduates. At the inflatable soccer, the participants had more fun bumping into each other and falling than actually playing soccer. Verlene Johnson, who was stationed in the wrestling room with laser tag, explained, “We’ve had kids in here all night. It has been fun to watch them. Some play as individuals and some as teams.”
Food ranged from Chick Fil-A and pizza to the candy store (every kids’ dream), soft ice cream bar and mini corn dogs. Lani Beardall and Joey Hardy headed up the Food Committee. Beardall noted, “We received so many donations: Subway of Morgan, Associated Foods gave us candy, Chick Fil-A, pizza came from two private donors, Rose Hill Dairy donated the ice cream, and senior parents volunteered to bring so much. We love our little Morgan Community and the kids.”
In addition to the food and fun, all graduates received amazing prizes. By just entering the doors, participants received a swag bag containing a $20 bill among other treasures. Staci Larsen, 2018 director of Operation Graduation, noted, “We have $9650 in cash to give away to the kids tonight as they participate in events. We are able to do this because the community, parents, and businesses support Operation Graduation so well.”
Graduates received cash for winning ping pong games, basketball contests, staying on the mechanical bull the longest, scaling the climbing wall the fastest, winning the Spike Ball tournament, best Karaoke, etc. Each participant visits the prize room and is able to rank his or her top 10 choices for prizes. Kellee Calder, who has overseen the prize room since 2015 and plans to stay until 2020 when her youngest graduates, spends a full year gathering prizes for the event.
“Each year we add new packages and change out some of the others. We’ve added hammocks to the travel and camping packages this year. This year we are excited to give away a car again and the braces from Albrechtsen Orthodontics are always popular,” Calder explained.
Alex Hancock, who plans to study music and engineering at BYU, was hoping to win the car or a travel package. His friends, Kali Winn, Cody Smith, and Caprice Archibeque, were also ranking their choices. Winn, who will be attending Weber State in communications and public relations, also hoped for a travel package as did Smith who plans to while working a computer job. Archibeque, who will also be at Weber, but studying mechanical engineering, anticipated tablet or laptop to help with her schooling.
Although every graduate left with a prize, Courtt Stark won the grand prize, a 2007 Mazda, donated by Autosource. Rich Jackson, President of Autosource, was on hand to present the car to Stark. Flanked by his father, Corey Stark, and Jackson, Courtt posed in front of his new vehicle and when asked how he felt about winning simply replied, “Amazing!”
As the night wrapped up and Larsen prepared to hand over Operation Graduation to the 2019 parent-directors, Jill Jacobson along with helpers Jaime Nelson and DeeDee Cameron, Larsen concluded, “This is a great tradition at Morgan High since 1987. I was able to attend when I graduated and have great memories of the event. I wanted to volunteer and give my kids the same opportunity. Thank you to the community, sponsors, parents, friends, graduates, teachers, school, and everyone else who makes Operation Graduation. We all do it for our kids, and all of Morgan does it right when it comes to their kids!”
For those interested in helping next year or donating to Operation Graduation, please contact Jill Jacobson. Remember to visit their hamburger booth at the Morgan County Fair to support Operation Graduation!