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Volunteers wanted for Catholic school Safe Grad

A call is out for volunteers to provide a Safe Grad event for Red Deer’s graduating Catholic students.

To keep going, the annual event that allows graduating high schoolers to drink alcohol and socialize in a controlled, supervised environment at the end of their big day, chairperson of the 2014 Blue and Gold Safe Grad committee Darla Henderson said at least 100 parent volunteers are needed. A meeting is being held on Thursday to provide more information and sign up parent volunteers.

As part of the long-running tradition in Red Deer, new graduates — minors and those of legal drinking age both — are bused to a secret location after formal grad ceremonies end and party the night away. The events are rationalized as a way to ensure grads do not get out of control or drive drunk.

“Our attitude is we know we can’t beat them. Whether we want them to or not, they are going to drink, period,” said Henderson, whose son will graduate in June.

“So instead of sticking our heads in the sand and praying for the best, our goal is to provide a safe, supervised alternative to unchaperoned house and bush parties.”

Planning for what Henderson calls “a well-oiled machine” started in October. The events traditionally feature beer, coolers and non-alcoholic drinks, lots of food, DJs, and perhaps a bonfire, with students paying to attend. Security is provided, medical personnel are on site, and students can only leave on the bus returning to the city in the morning or if a parent signs them out.

Henderson said about 250 grads typically attend the event, and plenty of volunteers are needed. But she said parents can come to the Thursday meeting at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel simply to ask questions about the evening and to get more information.

The events — Henderson said Safe Grads are being organized for both public high schools as well — are not sanctioned by schools or school divisions and advertising cannot be done in local schools. Sponsors and local service clubs typically lend support to the organizers.

Dry grad parties are also usually organized by other parents and students.

Safe Grad events have been going on in Red Deer since the early 1980s. In 2011, though, one scheduled for Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School grads was cancelled hours before it was to be held after an Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission representative notified a parent organizer that liquor inspectors and RCMP members planned to inspect the event that night.

Henderson said she is not aware of any similar issue ever hampering a Safe Grad for local Catholic students. She said in an ideal world, graduates would celebrate without alcohol, but she feels it necessary to offer up something safe and controlled like she was able to experience herself decades ago.

“They will be safe and that’s what every parent wants,” she said.

Safe Grad events are promoted and regulated in Manitoba, and only those grads over 18 are permitted to drink, unlike many Alberta events where underage students are allowed to imbibe. Police do not generally intervene unless a complaint is received.

The Blue and Gold Safe Grad event is slated for June 28. Parents interested in helping out or seeking more information can contact Henderson at 403-346-4111.



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