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BCHS Grad Night: A tradition for 33 years

It’s one of the most memorable nights in a young adult’s life. But it can also be one of the most tragic.

For the past 32 years, graduating seniors have had a safe and fun place to go once they turn their tassel and toss their caps into the air on Bruce Eaton Field in front of family, friends and faculty. This year will be no exception.

Since its creation, the annual BCHS Grad Night has been funded through the efforts of the Boulder City Sunrise Rotary Club. Following their weekly breakfast last week, Grad Night chairman Bret Runion and fellow Rotarian Doug Scheppmann, who helped start the event three decades ago, talked about the importance of the evening, which will take place Tuesday, May 23.

“Typically, the kids, after graduation, would go out into the desert and have a keg party or something on those lines,” said Scheppmann. “One year someone got hurt, not killed fortunately, so we decided to come up with an alternative to get them out of the desert and, instead, together to celebrate that monumental night and do it safely.”

He said Grad Night is not only a place for the seniors to celebrate safely, but it also gives parents the peace of mind.

Runion, a 1985 graduate of BCHS, said when his class graduated, they, like many other classes before them, rented a suite on the Las Vegas Strip. He said for some it was their first time drinking alcohol. In looking back, he said it “was a recipe for disaster” so one of the first things he undertook when joining Rotary was to help with Grad Night.

“At that time, it was so fresh in my mind that we were fortunate to have survived that evening,” he said. “It really hit home for me.”

In the beginning it was on a much smaller scale at the old Water and Power building. But in the late 1990s, things began to change in that the grads were taken to the fun, instead of bringing the fun to them.

Today, Sunrise Rotary budgets $30,000 to $35,000 annually for Grad Night. The bulk of the money raised comes from Sunrise Rotary’s annual Wurst Festival, which will be held Sept. 30.

“I feel that the graduates from Boulder City are extremely lucky to have a community that supports them through the Boulder City Rotary to give them a night that they can celebrate with their high school friends one last time and remain safe on potentially one of the most dangerous nights of their lives,” BCHS Principal Amy Wagner said.

Runion and Scheppmann said that each Grad Night itinerary is kept a secret from the students and parents, to help build the excitement. Past evenings have included trips on Lake Mead, go-carts, Disneyland, Gameworks, Adventure Dome and others.

“The kids need to bring nothing,” Runion said. “We feed and entertain them.”

Following graduation, students must be at the gymnasium by 10 p.m. There, they are fed and have activities before hitting the road on buses. The Boulder City Police Department then provides an escort out of town.

“The most rewarding thing is keeping the kids safe,” Runion said, adding that 90% of the graduates participate, which includes Boulder City students who may attend other schools. In addition, thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes and cash are given out that night. “The kids are so appreciative every year, which makes everything we do worth it.”

Scheppmann added, “It’s fun for us as well. We stay with them all night to help chaperone. To know they’re safe for that evening is the best thing.”

If any seniors or their parents have questions about the event, they can email Runion at bret@desertsunrealty.com.

Ron Eland is editor of the Boulder City Review. He can be reached at reland@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523.

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