Thursday, March 15, 2018

Your First Class Reunion

Hopefully, it's been only eight or nine years since you suited up to receive a blank High School diploma to be mailed later -- if you behaved yourself in late May and June.

If you're already a few months away from ten years, the following still applies, but often in an abbreviated, rarely unhurried fashion.

The Reunion Planning Committee: The group of classmates entrusted to periodically meet and make general plans and decisions on behalf of the class, not to include a large subset of the class, as progress attained is inversely proportional to the size of the group. An odd number of committee members is most conducive to resolving debates.

At least one, and as many as possible of the committee members should be local and available to meet on a regular basis, and provide progress updates to the class.

These minimum, not necessarily mutually exclusive roles should be established at the first committee meeting: Chair, Treasurer, and Public Relations.

The Chair is more than a figurehead, as most public announcements require that a contact person be specified, and venue contracts necessitate a responsible signature.

A Treasurer when activated, is responsible for receiving attendees' fees and making payments to service providers, as well as providing complete periodic financial reports. The Treasurer is expected to know Treasury Balance and Guest Count at all times. Assets = Liabilities + Capital is a most useful equation.

A class that schedules only pay-as-you-go events will likely not need a formal Treasurer. This more often occurs when an expected guest count cannot be easily determined, or when there remains too little time to collect fees and/or make deposits to secure venues.

If setting up a class bank account for the reunion, consider that there may be associated account maintenance fees and restrictions, and you will likely need to acquire and provide a federal Electronic Identification (EID) Number.

Many class Treasurers use their personal bank accounts for financial transactions for the reunion.

Decide if you will accept electronic payment of fees, and if so, set up a secure website to facilitate payments. If accepting checks by mail, determine the payee's name and address.

If collecting fees for the event, consider that planning committee members should be among the first to pay, to not only promote confidence in the venture, but also accumulate capital for deposits to secure venue and entertainment.

Will you allow family members, friends and acquaintances? If collecting money, the more the merrier, and more likely you are to surpass any minimum attendance requirements.

When all this information is known, prepare a reunion announcement flyer in PDF format to be published to the class community.

The person with the Public Relations role is responsible for providing announcement content to classmates, community events calendars, school and alumni websites, and social media.

Sub-committees may eventually be formed to recommend potential reunion dates, venues, entertainment, menu selection, and for event planning and decorations.

Meet as soon as possible for the first time with an agenda to establish roles, prospective dates and venues, assign tasks, and agree to the next meeting date before adjourning. Exchange contact information.

Popular reunion event ideas include a casual Meet and Greet event on either the Thursday or Friday before a weekend reunion, and a tour of Godby's campus accompanied by a luncheon family event. Godby's cafeteria is available at no charge for alumni events, and absolutely no alcohol is allowed on campus at any time. Alumni are responsible for all cleanup. I bring some large heavy-duty trash bags and a few rolls of paper towels. Food trucks have been secured for these events, but be aware that they often require a minimum purchase amount, and inclement weather can lessen attendance at daytime outdoor events.

Consider alternative dietary requirements of the guests. Vegetarian and gluten-free menu options are frequently requested.

First class reunions are most often held in the summer months, to accommodate public school schedules of families with small children.

A Few General Ideas

Actively look for "missing" classmates. Scan in the Senior photo pages from the Yearbook and the Commencement list as included in the program at Graduation, and use them to locate classmates.

Recognize and honor the deceased. At my class reunions, a representative recites the names of the departed and lights a memorial candle in their honor.

Wild, public, open-ended questions regarding reunion preferences will encourage discussion to meander and continue far past any time by which you intended to make a decision. People will respond to that thread long afterwards, having just read the question for the first time.

Consider having donated door prizes that will travel well awarded in hourly drawings to keep classmates in attendance throughout the evening. I personally keep a roll of double-raffle tickets for these occasions.

Name tags can be as simple as purchasing "Hello My Name is...." tags and providing self-serve markers, or the technically inclined have printed yearbook photos with names on pinnable name tags.

Promote early payment of fees by having the fees increase over time. Advertise an early-bird discount, or a small discount for couples or families, and be prepared to add a premium cost for those who decide to attend at the last minute. Some come to a public Meet and Greet event and decide that they'd like to attend the main event after all. You've likely had to have already supplied an accurate guest count to the caterers by that time, so in general, you want to discourage too many late payments. Fortunately, most professional caterers will also build a cushion into their provisioning planning.

Some early respondents suggest a Reunion Cruise. Great idea, let a travel agent handle all the planning and collection of money, and everyone sails away together! Lots leap at the prospect until they discover they have to fork over a $50 deposit several months in advance, and then will have to come up with more than $500 per person to attend.

There have been five highly successful Godby alumni reunion cruises, but they have always been open to all class years, and I have sailed on four of them. The Class of 1974 has invited all Godby graduates, family and friends to join them on a three-day cruise to the Bahamas in April 2019.

Enlist volunteers to serve as Designated Drivers. I attended a class reunion Meet and Greet event in 2012, and one of the graduates didn't make it home alive. The next evening's main event began very somberly.

Some area hotels will provide a reunion discount, but be wary of establishments that require a deposit or a hold on someone's credit card to do so en masse.

Proper planning will prevent budget deficits, but there may be a surplus beyond what is relegated to event costs. Some classes will provide each attendee with a complimentary drink ticket to reduce the surplus, while surpluses may not be known until some guests remit cash fees the evening of the main event. Some choose a responsible person to hold onto the money for another five to ten years. Others have donated surfeit funds to the Association of Godby Graduates Legacy Scholarship Fund towards future education of Godby graduates.

What the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) can Do for You

The Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) is an academic booster club founded by Godby graduates in 2003 to foster, recognize and reward academic excellence and lifetime achievement. Each year, we host an annual alumni Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at the Godby Media Center, Friday evening before the annual Springtime Tallahassee Parade, and all proceeds benefit the AGG Legacy Scholarship Fund. We have given away more than $80,000 so that Godby alumni can further their educations. We facilitate class reunions.

The AGG has a database of contact email addresses for each class as provided to us by alumni at one time or another, and can give them to reunion planners. As graduates who supplied those email addresses would have had to update us whenever their contact info changes, you can expect to experience some undeliverable emails.

We will publish your reunion event at our alumni website and Facebook group which has more than 2,000 members.

I am the contact for scheduling reunion tours of Godby campus, and special evening events at Hotel Duval Level 8 Lounge downtown, where we receive extended Happy Hour drink prices with no cover charge.

I am happy to attend reunion planning meetings as possible, serve as volunteer photographer for the reunion events, make digital photos publicly available for free, and to pay the same fees as the other attendees. All I ask is for a few minutes at the main reunion event to talk about our alumni organization.

Please refer any other related questions you may have to me.

Mitch

Mitch Gans graduated from Godby High School, is one of the founding members of the Association of Godby Graduates (AGG), and has served to plan and attend thirty Godby High School class reunions.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Why I Wear My Hat

For my Great-Aunt Gus*, 97, who emailed and asked me last Thursday


By early 1981, I had participated in two Springtime Tallahassee parades with the Godby High School Drama Club since my family's arrival to town on September 1, 1978. The Godby Drama Club was welcome to walk behind the Godby Cougar Marching Band in the Springtime Tallahassee parades.

In 1981, the date of the annual Thespian Festival in Jacksonville, Florida coincided with the weekend of Springtime Tallahassee. I was one of a few who could not attend due to other commitments, and received approval from the Drama Club to march with the parade in their stead.

In the last few days before the parade, My First Halloween buddies and I, along with the Godby Wargames Club and sundry friends, built a boat from wood, cardboard and an old baby carriage, and called it a float. I visited the Magic and Fun Costume Shop in Tallahassee and purchased a Captain's hat for $3.09. At parade time, we perched a cockatiel in a cage at its prow, and we alternatingly pushed and pulled it through the 1.1 mile parade route to the delight and astonishment of many thousands.

If we gave our boat float a name, it eludes me after all these years. No photos to my knowledge still exist, but there were at least seven of us involved in that crazy outing, and my wildest parade experiences were still several years away.

We didn't save the boat, and I didn't remember saving the hat until shortly before preparing for a move across town in Spring of 1990, when I noticed it in a box of costume paraphernalia that had not been unpacked since several moves earlier. I made major changes in my life beginning with that move, and completely forgot about the hat again for two more years.

In my early years in Tallahassee, I often enjoyed playing volleyball at Tom Brown Park on the weekends during high school, and then much less frequently after graduation. In Spring of 1992, I heard about Tallahassee Community College's annual Student/Faculty Day festivities including volleyball, and attended.

I ate a burger for lunch and played volleyball all afternoon. I hadn't played so much volleyball at one time in several years, and loved every moment of it.

Until later, when I stepped in the shower and realized I'd sunburned my head.

I wouldn't begin regularly playing softball for another year. I had just moved a few weeks before, and knew where my captain's hat was. It was the only hat I owned. I immediately needed a prophylactic for my head, and the hat seemed to agree with and please me.

Since then, and now more than twenty years later, unless I am playing softball, sleeping, swimming, or on someone else's clock, I am generally wearing the hat. I've been going to the Magic and Fun Costume Shop for my specialty costume needs since they opened in 1979, and continue to purchase my captain's hats there. I consume two or three a year depending upon my activities, and keep a pristine dress hat for special occasions, and use the more worn ones for painting, yard work and the like before their eventual disposition,

On rare occasions, I will encounter someone else wearing the same style hat, and have had much success in asking these individuals to pose for a photo with me. I have a "Captains" Facebook photo album with these and photos with other Captains I've met. I especially enjoy wearing my hat on cruises, and with Halloween costumes that are complemented by it.

 Halloween 2011
Halloween 2011

* Great-Aunt Gus is my grandfather's sister Augusta, who married my grandmother's brother Elmer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Godby High School Reunion Designated Driver Program

Association of Godby Graduates (AGG) President Roger Day and I attend as many class reunions as we can each year to help with the reunions in any way we can, and to talk about our alumni organization.

It was at the Friday night social at the downtown Tallahassee Center for the Class of 1982 last year that I met one of the reunion attendees for the first time, and no one would see him alive again after the party. Saturday's main reunion event began quite somberly the next day, and shortly afterward, I began hearing from many people who wished that they had been there to provide a safe ride home.

This year, we began the Reunion Designated Driver Program. Alumni volunteers from various class years, not at all necessarily from each particular reunion year, stand ready throughout the evening in case they are needed to guarantee a safe ride home to those who need it.

We are not a taxi service, and we are not there for people who intend to party heartily and then get a free ride home. We serve to ensure that a preventable tragedy associated with Godby High School and its precious alumni does not happen to someone who should have limited their consumption earlier in the evening. We also hope to serve as a deterrent to those who do not wish to unduly impose on their fellow alumni because of their own irresponsible drinking.

It is with that last hour or so of the reunion event evening we are most concerned, because responsible partiers typically make arrangements with sober drivers or public transportation earlier. We recognize that the time could have slipped by or taxi service might be less accessible later in the evening, so we stand by to prevent the worst of occurrences.

Whenever we can, we encourage planners to make their class reunions as inclusive as possible, because the Designated Driver Program does not discriminate against dissimilar graduation years, and neither do we.

Thanks to all who have volunteered to be reunion designated drivers. Your service is greatly appreciated by the Association of Godby Graduates and Family.

Roger Day, Class of 1980
Mitch Gans, Class of 1981
Mitch Gans, Roger Day at the Class of 1983 Reunion, July 20, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer: Save the Children

Summer has been my favorite season since I was 13.

When I was 12 and living in New Jersey, my parents sent me away from home for the first time, to be the youngest kid in a summer camp for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds -- for a month. That miserable summer is the one against which all my summers have been compared, and every other summer topped the one I spent away from family and friends in Minnesota.

That summer's experience was not without some benefits realized many years later. I played softball one afternoon at camp, and a couple of years ago, I reconnected with Brian, the only friend I made that summer.

With the exception of one summer in high school when I took Physical Education and had the time of my life swimming and playing dodge ball and softball with Keith, Kelly, Eric, Rob, Carla and others, summer meant freedom from school and many responsibilities, and afforded more hours of daylight to enjoy each and every day. Summer gets hot where I live, and I still play softball in it. Season 21 begins tomorrow.

Every summer, we read about three or four kids whose lives are ended in a hot car while negligent parents and caregivers conduct their business elsewhere. I have noticed that never more than a few such stories make the major news publications every year, and I was curious as to how often this actually happens.

There have been ten child heatstroke deaths in vehicles in America in the past month, with an average of 38 such deaths per year for the past 15 years.*

Why aren't these events reported more frequently?

Would many continue to subscribe to news media that feature a child dying in a hot car every three days?

Even if the Fourth Estate isn't willing to report it, perhaps enough of us can prevent it from happening.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Silver Anniversary 2013

All that I am and hold dear are largely the result of this photo twenty-five years ago today:

Dave the Cat, Sen. Bob Graham and Mitch lead the 1988 Springtime Tallahassee Parade
Photo by Jamie Butcher
Story here

I found a courage inside myself I had not known before that inspired me to do many things.

Today, we are March on the 2013 Leon County Humane Society calendar.

I am very grateful to those who made it all possible and worthwhile:

Dave the Cat (1987-2004);
Dr. Hall and the Westwood Animal Hospital, Dave's lifelong healthcare provider;
My wife Donna, and my friend Charlie, who have always supported my endeavors;
My children, Heather and son-in-law Dave, and grandchildren, Alicia, Dylan, Gabriel and Caleb;
Jamie Butcher, The Photographer;
Karl Filsinger, for being there that day, and attending many of our parades;
Allison Davis and Kelly Rigsby, who brought me Tigger and Elliott;
Peter Holtmann, who brought me Dave the Cat;
Our biographers:
    Julianne Hare, "Tallahassee: A Capital City History", 2002;
    Jan Annino, "Florida's Famous Animals", 2008;
The Museum of Florida History, "Pets in America", 2008;
Springtime Tallahassee,
and the hundreds of thousands of people we met along the way.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jasper: March 1999 - September 29, 2012

Jasper was the first kitten we acquired after the Fire. Since Dave the Cat had been the conflagration's only survivor, we intended for Jasper to be a companion kitty for Dave.

Donna and I answered an ad in the newspaper for a free kitten and only had to pick up a small orange and white tabby and then bring him to the vet. We called him Jasper because it was his traditional birthstone, and his eyes were green.

Heather brought us Clyde a few months later, who became Dave's buddy and did and still does all Dave did, except for riding a bicycle, and Clyde only leaves the property to see the vet. Clyde has probably spent at least as much time on my shoulders as Dave did, but indoors, and at his every opportunity.

Jasper was a well-mannered cat and lived with us for thirteen years before seriously beginning to lose weight, and so we took him to the vet, where tests confirmed a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, a common geriatric feline ailment. We were prescribed a pill a day for him for the duration of Jasper's life, which unfortunately was only another three months.

Jasper passed away on the way to the vet Saturday morning, in a topless short-sided cardboard box on the front passenger seat of my car while driving on Ocala Road. We made a slow turnaround toward home and I called the vet to let them know.

It was the first time I didn't have to do all the digging. Dylan did most of the excavation in the back yard, and Donna and all three of our grandsons, Dylan, Gabriel and Caleb, attended Jasper's final farewell.

Dr. Hall called to express condolences and we received a nice sympathy card from the Westwood Animal Hospital, where Dave always went.

Rest in peace, Jasper, and thanks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lighthouse for Sale

OK, it's a Halloween costume, but it's an impressive adult-sized working lighthouse, and I've won more costume contests in it than with any other of my wild, personally crafted Halloween costumes.

In October 2000, I took my lighthouse to the Halloween party at Salty Dawg on North Monroe Street in Tallahassee, and it was immediately apparent I had brought the right costume to the right place at the right time.

I was the only one wearing a lighthouse, but lighthouses were all I saw. Prints on the wall, menus on the tables, and the blackboard outside with daily specials all had lighthouses on them.

The Salty Dawg's owner approached me shortly after we arrived and complimented me on my creation. She told me that she was especially fond of lighthouses and asked me how much money I wanted for mine.

Without even thinking, I replied, "A THOUSAND dollars."

I regretted saying the words even as they came out, and have no doubt that her derisive "Let me know when you have a serious figure," response saved my career.

As in My Grandmother's Pennies, I would have realized a windfall that would likely have ended any further personal Halloween costume aspirations. I would have been content with the lowball value I had assigned to my costume, and spent the next several years bragging about how much my Halloween costuming career had been worth.

I won the Salty Dawg's costume contest that evening, and all other contests I entered that Halloween. Before I suited up as the "Pinball Wizard" with pinball machine and wizard suit next Halloween, I had amassed well more than a thousand dollars' worth of prizes, and got to keep my Lighthouse.

I won several other costume contests with the Lighthouse over the years, including at the Two Nichols Family Restaurant in the very shadow of the St. Marks Lighthouse. I won in Monticello, Florida, and the Monticello News carried our story first across the top. I have done especially well at beach and coastal communities. I won first place at Schooner's Last Local Beach Club in Panama City Beach, and I know we would be a major attraction at any of the "Save the Lighthouse" efforts I occasionally read about.

It is my signature Halloween costume, no longer for sale.

As of 2015, my Lighthouse Costume, with all my other costumes, permanently resides at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum.