Calgary’s graduation class of 2020 faced a new and unprecedented challenge with the rise of the COVID 19 pandemic. Classes were shut down, class trips were axed, band concerts were silenced and worst of all, graduation festivities were cancelled.
Thanks to Best of Calgary's very own, Gary Davies and the team at E=MC2 Events, a different kind of celebration for the graduates emerged. Partnering with parent advocates, the Calgary Stampede, Spruce Meadows and a group of generous sponsors, Drive Thru Grad 2020 was born.
“A graduate’s future is exciting and uncertain in regular times, imagine being a member of the Class of 2020…no official closure, no celebration, no official ‘letting’ into the adult world? We really need them to be the class of 2020, not the class of COVID-19.” said Keri Miller, Executive Producer of Drive Thru Grad 2020 and mom to graduate Aidan Laird.
When Lara Olson, parent advocate for William Aberhart High School reached out to our Chairman, Hal Walker to see if he would be interested in supporting this momentous event, Hal was delighted to have the Madison Avenue Family jump on board as a sponsor and pay tribute to the Class of 2020. But Hal’s connection with Lara and this event didn’t start with the Drive Thru Grad, it started months earlier with a serendipitous encounter. Hal and his wife Maddie were enjoying an evening of live music at the National Music Center. They then went over to the old King Eddy Hotel where they were showcasing youth bands. Hal has a passion for young musicians as he was once the lead singer and drummer of the band "The Vagabonds" when he was just 15 years old.
That evening he watched with special interest as he immediately recognized a supportive mom taking photos. He struck up a conversation by asking which one was her son, sharing his own experience with being a young musician and the incredibly formative time it was for him in his life. Hal was then first introduced to Lara, and her son , who is the guitar player for the band “Frank Mona”. A friendship was formed from this wonderfully accidental meeting. Hal said, “What better way to exemplify our values as a family, than for Madison Avenue Group to show our love and support for these amazing young people”.
Over 1,000 graduates and their families were able to participate in this momentous event. Entire classes arrived in separate vehicles and parked in socially-distanced parking stalls. Each grad then walked the large stage, paused for pictures and celebrated as their friends and families cheered and honked from their cars. The energy was even more ignited by the amazing emcees Dave Kelly and Jenny B.
Friday, June 19th was especially memorable as the band Frank Mona serenaded and celebrated their own graduating class from William Aberhart School. Hal and his wife Maddie were able to attend on behalf of Madison Avenue Group and personally applaud the grads. The energy was contagious; filled with laughter, tears and cheers as the grads danced, back flipped, and strutted their way across the stage.
What originally started as loss and tragedy, turned into inspiration and joy. Perhaps it was not the usual graduation festivities, but many students and parents said this was even better than what would have been. Thanks to Drive Thru Grad 2020 and the hard work and support of many, this year’s graduation class experienced and event that they will boast about for years to come!