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BRADEN SCHASER, a 2020 graduate of Lakota High School, is shown with items he received from his adopter. Through the Facebook group Hancock County and Surrounding Areas Adopt a 2020 Senior, community members can “adopt” local graduating seniors and send them cards, treats and other well wishes. (Photo provided)

By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF

Staff Writer

A Facebook group has been started to support area seniors who are missing out on special memories like prom and graduation because of the coronavirus.

Nikki Carpenter of Van Buren started the page, called Hancock County and Surrounding Areas Adopt a 2020 Senior, about three weeks ago.

“I actually have two seniors myself. I thought it would be nice to acknowledge these kids and let them know their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed,” she explained.

Carpenter said she was invited to join a similar group for graduates who live in neighboring Hardin County. That got her thinking, and she began searching for a group in Hancock County.

“I didn’t see anything like that for our area. There is national Adopt a 2020 Senior page. I thought, ‘let’s do something for this area,'” said Carpenter. “That’s where the idea came from.”

She set up a Facebook page and invited friends to join and encouraged them to invite their friends. Other members could then sign up to “adopt” the seniors by sending a card or gift.

The response has been great, said Carpenter. More than 200 students have been adopted from schools all over the area, including Findlay, Tiffin, Arlington, North Baltimore, Van Buren, Cory-Rawson, Lakota and Seneca East.

The Facebook group is private, she noted, and there are already more than 2,000 members.

Carpenter suggests that parents post a picture of their senior along with a little bit of information about them such as where they went to school, some of their accomplishments and what they plan to do after graduation. Other members are then able to comment on the post. This can be as simple as offering congratulations or saying they’d like to “adopt” them.

“Once they adopt a senior, they can do anything from just sending a card with words of encouragement to making up a little basket full of goodies for them, whatever they would like to do for that senior,” said Carpenter.

She said parents can also request that their senior just receives cards or words of encouragement.

“So even though someone didn’t adopt them, they’re also able to receive cards from the community members as well,” she said.

Once a match has been made, it’s up to the senior’s family and the adopter to figure out how things will be delivered.

Some graduates have already received their items, Carpenter said, so a few parents are getting nervous, worried that their child has been forgotten. She noted that deliveries have been slower during the pandemic, and some people may be waiting until closer to graduation time to make their deliveries.

Many families post pictures of their graduate with the gift they received.

“It’s exciting to watch all these kids, all their accomplishments, what they want to do, then seeing them adopted. And then the ones who have received their things, it’s like Christmas Day,” said Carpenter.

Some community members have also gotten involved, she added.

“We’ve had photographers reach out and offer to do cap and gown or a few quick senior pictures for little to no cost,” she said.

Millstream Area Credit Union also joined the group and adopted several seniors.

Carpenter said she’s happy with the response. The goal, she said, is to have each senior adopted at least once, “so they can feel that joy and know that this is a big deal. They kind of got stiffed out of prom and graduation and all that. Graduating is a big deal and it should be celebrated.”

There is no deadline for posting, she added.

“As long as people want to adopt, they can keep it going until these kids get ready to go to college if they’d like,” Carpenter said. “It’s up to each individual person whether the senior or their parents and the adopter.”

Carpenter said everyone involved is enjoying the program.

“I just had the idea,” she added. “The people that are part of the group are what make the group what it is and make it how amazing it is to this point and still growing every day.”

Wolf: 419-427-8419

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