UPDATE/MAHALO AD re: Donations pour in for Waianae’s Project Grad

Apologies for this delay!

This Mahalo Ad ran in the Westside Stories.

Thank you again to all who responded and helped the 2009 Project Grad become a reality.

REMINDER: Project Grad is an annual event that the families and supporters of each graduating class work very hard on to ensure the seniors have a safe and enjoyable celebration. Please support these efforts every year!


June 5, 2009

Donations pour in for Waianae’s Project Grad

Last-minute appeal gains enough to give seniors a graduation to remember

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAI’ANAE — Gail Gomes awoke bleary-eyed yesterday morning to repeated phone calls from people offering to give her thousands of dollars.

“At 7 o’clock this morning my phone is ringing and people are going, ‘I have money! I have money! I have money!’ ” Gomes said later in the day, still stunned by the barrage of calls. “And they weren’t just calls from Wai’anae. They were from Kailua and all over the Island. I even got a call from Japan!”

Many of the callers said they didn’t have much, but they could give $100, or even $200.

Gomes quickly realized folks were calling to donate to Wai’anae High School’s Project Graduation, the all-night, substance-free senior party set for tonight, following the commencement ceremony on campus.

Wai’anae High’s Class of 2009 had hustled long and hard to raise enough money to finance the party. But by midweek, with deposits paid for the venue, meals and buses, the seniors’ Project Graduation coffers were still $10,000 short, said Gomes, the event chairwoman.

In desperation, Gomes made a plea for help to state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, D-45th (Wai’anae, Makaha, Makua).

“I said, ‘Can you pop this on your blog?’ and praying that I could at least get some money,” Gomes said.

With less than 60 hours until party time, Shimabukuro decided to make an 11th-hour appeal to the public for contributions.

“These kids deserve a night of fun for all their hard work,” said Shimabukuro.

By 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thelma Dreyer, assistant communications director for the state House of Representatives, had issued a Shimabukuro press release that listed Gomes’ mailing address and telephone number. It said Gomes would personally pick up any donations.

The problem was Gomes — who was feverishly Twittering appeals of her own to anyone and any organization she could think of — never got the word about the press release. She went to bed Wednesday night fretting about the fate of Wai’anae’s Project Graduation celebration.

“My husband looked at me and said, ‘My God, you look like Popeye the Sailor,’ because my eye was swelling shut,” said Gomes. “And I said, ‘It’s stress! I’ve got to find money!’ “

Instead, the money found her, first thing yesterday morning.

The Advertiser yesterday published a four-paragraph news brief on its My Communities page. Hawaiian 105 KINE Radio deejay Billy V saw the article and began talking about it on his 5 a.m. program.

“I read the article just before we went on the air,” Billy V said. “And then I mentioned it in my first break in the morning and I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to throw in a hundred dollars from me personally, so if anybody else wants to, the information is in the newspaper.’ “

He posted the article on the radio station’s Web site and advised callers to check it out. He also broadcast a link to the article via Twitter, and posted another link on his Facebook page.

Gomes’ telephone started bouncing off the hook shortly thereafter. By noon, she had enough money to pay off the party bills, with enough left over for door prizes.

By yesterday afternoon the news had reached some of the graduating seniors, who expressed their gratitude to all who cared enough to contribute.

“Thank you to all the people who donated,” said Samuel Spake. “We’re really happy now that we have a Project Grad and we won’t be disappointed on grad night.”

“That shows we’re supported by the community,” added senior Sean Bongo.

No one seemed more relieved than Gomes.

“Project Graduation is rolling forward,” she shouted. “I am overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone. And it’s wonderful.”



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