Once nothing more than a small luncheon for a few grandparents, over the generations the Senior Day Concert and Luncheon has grown to become one of Buckeye Valley High School’s most anticipated events of the year.
“We started with a real small luncheon, kids came in with their grandparents for a concert,” said Doug Joseph, teacher and one of the founders of the annual luncheon. “They had lunch with the kids in the cafeteria and we went to (the auxiliary gym) probably 26 years ago.”
Joseph said within the first year of moving to the gym, he thinks there were 125-150 people in attendance.
“The next year we got 200, then we went up to 400 one year,” he said. “People just love it, it’s a great event.”
According to Marjorie Harrel, administrative staff and another founder, it was Teen Institute who started the luncheon along with the Student Council. She said it was when she and Joseph were in charge that it grew to the 300 plus-size crowds.
Chris Pileski, Student Council advisor, said that the kids, about 90-120 members each year, do all the work from fundraising to serving the day of the luncheon.
“This is their big project for the year,” he said. “We usually get between 270 to 350 seniors every year, in fact, we set up 350 today and it looks like it’s pretty full. It’s grown to more than grandparents. Now what we’re doing is finding a lot of churches and Willowbrook are bringing whole busloads out, which is pretty cool.”
Pileski said he is in his 26th year of teaching at Buckeye Valley and in his third year as a Student Council advisor.
“This was happening before I even started, it’s really neat,” he said. “The staff, kids, and seniors love it and we’ve had pretty sustained numbers for 12 years now.”
Pileski said the budget, which is supported by the students doing fundraisers, is usually $3,000-$4,000 each year.
“The hard thing is they have to get it done between August and (December),” he said. They always come through. They are the cream of the crop.”
Anthony Hughes, a junior, said that he has participated in the luncheon the last three years.
“It nice to see all the smiles on the seniors’ faces,” he said. “My great-aunt has been coming since my (older) sisters were doing the luncheon. That’s a lot of years.”
Junior Avery Meier said it was her first year but that she loves the “atmosphere” of the luncheon. She said she got into the Student Council in order to be involved with the school and its students.
In order to participate in the annual event, Meier said, “We had to do one fundraiser in order to qualify to do this and make the meetings on time.”
However, there still was the cleanup afterward which kept her out of classes most of the day. She confessed she didn’t mind the work or being out of class most of the day, she enjoyed the seniors.
Mark Malcom, who recently retired as the Director of Classified Services at Buckeye Valley, used to be one of the staff, and for ten years served the luncheon.
“It’s wonderful to be on this side of the line,” he said. “This a really nice thing that the school does and it gets a great response.”
Tim Harrel, the husband of Marjorie Harrel, said he coached middle school basketball for a number of years but was never employed by the school district. However, his wife made sure he was part of the community.
“This is my first time,” he said. “I have helped behind scenes to get stuff and set up but this is my first time to be able to sit down and eat.”
Tim Harrel said his family has a great family tradition with Buckeye Valley.
“Our son graduated from here in 2000, I graduated from here in 1976 and my wife graduated in 1977,” he said. “If you cut me open, I bleed little Barons.”
Sitting with three of her grandparents, Maggie Pyle, a freshman, said it was her first year to serve at the luncheon.
“I think it’s good way to give back to the community,” she said.
Pyle’s family also has many family members who have graduated Buckeye Valley, she said her mother was taught by Pileski and that she’ll have him for a class next semester.
Marlene Yarhouse, Pyle’s grandmother and one of the first Buckeye Valley High School graduates in 1964, said they miss the luncheon.
“This is the fifth or sixth year that we have been coming to this,” she said. “It’s a wonderful school.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.