HARVARD -- With the goal of keeping Bromfield students safe and entertained following the prom, planning for Celebration 2013 is well under way. Under themes which vary annually, vast sections of the high school are transformed into different places in time, thanks to an army of volunteers who start work months in advance.
Hallways are festooned with elaborate decorations and murals. Loaned furnishings are trucked in. Fancy foods are whipped up to feed the hundreds hunkered down for the night. The gym is converted into a fun factory with novel games and bounce houses.
In past years, Celebration has revolved around concepts such as the Harry Potter franchise, board games, and last year's "Where in the world?" theme, which borrowed on color and characters from across the world.
Celebration 2013 co-chairs Patricia Cooper and Patricia Wilkey are hoping to recruit volunteers now. "There are all types of areas where people can help," said Wilkey.
In these early months, "we need help with fundraising and we're looking for people to give prizes for games for the kids," said Wilkey.
In the weeks and hours before the event, "we're looking for people to help set up on the day of the event, and to tear down the day after," said Wilkey. "We need help with people creating decorations -- even if they wanted to do a project at home." To set the scene, those with electrical, set design, and lighting know-how are in demand.
The group needs help with publicity and in gathering all of what Wilkey calls a "borrow list."
"We might need some items for the night," said Wilkey. "It could be as simple as an extension cord or a lamp or a bean bag chair."
During the event itself, volunteers are needed to bake and serve food, chaperone, lead the games and to man the check-in desk at the main door. Volunteers also provide stand-by medical assistance if needed and entertainment for the throng.
Rallying the troops is no small feat, said Cooper.
"It takes about 200 people to put the whole thing together," said Cooper. "It's not 200 there that evening, but there's easily 200 who've worked over a number of prior months to help make it happen."
"The whole purpose of it is to keep the kids safe. We seek help from the whole town because people have kids, know kids, or have neighbors who are kids and they know how important it is to keep them monitored after such an exciting event" like prom, said Cooper. But Cooper said Celebration is big night for all, whether they're going to prom or not.
"Think about the kid who isn't going to the prom, who can't buy a dress, doesn't have a date, feels silly or is too shy to dance or attend. There are multiple reasons," said Cooper. "But there's Celebration, where they can still have an event celebrating them with their whole class. Everybody goes if they're a junior or senior."
"It doesn't cost them any money, so there's no drawback and they're not required to have a date," said Cooper. Cooper said the event is "well attended" with 95 percent of eligible students attending Celebration last year.
Cooper said "We'd like to see 100 percent of the kids go" but noted that last year for example there was a conflict for members of the crew team competing in nationals. "It's usually a sport that keeps them away, and not that they're unable to go. It's just that they have to be responsible for other parts of their lives that some miss Celebration."
"Even the kids who are not of age go to the open house earlier in the evening," said Cooper. "That attracts more people; I was amazed last year."
No part of the school budget funds celebration, noted Cooper. The fundraising goal is $13,500, which is less than last year's $18,000 goal.
Last year, $5,000 worth of flame retardant material was purchased to "decorate the ceilings and walls and make the school look completely transformed," said fundraising leader Vijaya MacLean. The investment will save money for subsequent Celebration events, MacLean said. Last year, there was also an anonymous $5,000 donor towards the cause.
This year, www.BromfieldCelebration.com will allow for online donations via PayPal. Also a mailer is going out to all town households seeking donations, volunteer and sponsors.
Another way people can give is to shop at Roche Brothers Supermarket on Massachusetts Avenue in Acton on Friday afternoon, April 5. During a four-hour window, the store will kick back five percent of all profits to Harvard's Celebration. Last year, Roche Brothers donated more than $2,000 to the post-prom party.
Other donations are requested in the form of prizes and other premiums to be given away to the students overnight as an incentive to play, stay and participate in Celebration. "The purpose, at the end of the night, is to keep the kids staying until 5 a.m. to see who gets the grand prize," said MacLean. "It keeps the kids motivated to stay and that's been very successful."
"Prizes can be anything from a $10 gift card to iPads, which have been generously given over the last two years as a grand prize," said MacLean. "We're always looking for businesses willing to give money as well as individuals."
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.