Prom season has girls buying formal gowns and scheduling hair appointments and Rachael Hendrickson, 17, a Geneva High School senior, is no exception.
Hendrickson went to post prom last year and plans to go this year as well. And it has nothing to do with her mom, Vinita Hendrickson, being post prom committee chair.
“It was a really big party with inflatables and a ton of food,” Rachael said of last year’s event. “I had a lot of fun with my friends after prom.”
Along with the tickets and anticipation of participating in the biggest social event of their school year, Rachael will be among hundreds of students who will attend a parent-sponsored prom after-party of games, food, prizes but no alcohol or drugs.
The purpose, explained Colleen Crous, a PTO mom in charge of the post prom extravaganza for St. Charles East, is an alternative to a party involving drinking and possibly driving.
It’s not enough, she and other parents said, to tell their teens to come home after prom or to expect them to go to an alcohol-free private after party.
“If they’re going to be doing something, we want to provide them a night of fun – good old-fashioned fun – keeping them safe and making sure they have a fun prom night that they will remember,” Crous said. “We have unbelievable community support. It’s actually jaw-dropping.”
Parents say they expect big crowds at the post prom events, and they can’t imagine any student being tempted by a drinking party when their gig’s goods and eats are just too awesome to pass up.
She and other post prom organizers say it’s all in the prizes. Geneva had nearly 700 kids last year.
“The prizes interest the kids,” Hendrickson said. “They don’t want to go to a school for a party. They will go for prizes, for something to win. This year, we have Lollapalooza tickets. The Geneva East Book Club donated an iPad. Merchants donated a television.”
Kaneland is not having a post prom party this year, a spokesman said. Post prom parties are scheduled for St. Charles North and Batavia and follow the same general guidelines: The cost is either separate or part of the prom ticket and offers top prizes – TVs, electronics, $1,000 cash – games, activities and lots of food.
Post prom is open to all juniors and seniors, even if they do not go to prom, and sophomores, if they are guests of a junior or senior at prom. Each post prom begins about 11 p.m. and goes until 2:30 or 3 a.m. If a student leaves the post prom party, he or she cannot return later.
Local parties expect 90 to 200 volunteers to help, organizers say, but that is not enough.
Post prom is made possible with cash donations, merchant support and local food vendors adding free or discounted meals, and gift cards for free food, organizers say.
“This is supported heavily by local businesses,” said Tom Mullally, post prom chair for the sixth year for St. Charles North. “Dairy Queen gave us 200 coupons for free sundaes. Besides big drawings, every 15 minutes we’re giving out eight to 10 little prizes.”
His three adult daughters also are helping out. Nina, class of 2002 from East, will run the casino. Kim Hoffman, class of 1999 from St. Charles, will run security. Kristin, class of 2003 from North, will be the “floater” helping out wherever she’s needed.
“I went to post prom when I was in school, and it was nothing compared to what it is now,” Nina Mullally said. “There’s a lot of prizes, a lot of activities. Everyone gets something; no one leaves empty-handed.”
Crous ticked off a list of the alluring prizes: “We’ve got jewelry – Tiffany Pandora jewelry – lots of TVs, Apple MacBook Air, five computers, iPads, gift cards. We’ve got 850 kids expected. Last year, we had 775 kids, an all-time high.”
Other schools have asked for their advice, Crous said.
“Glen Ellyn had less than 100 kids last year,” Crous said. “They said, ‘How do you do it?’ “
The answer is simple enough: Prizes.
“From 12 to 2 a.m., we will be giving away a prize every 45 seconds ranging from $10 to a $75 value,” Crous said. “We are very strict – you have to be there to win. We have 45 large prizes. And those big prizes are not drawn until the last. Some kids are laying on the floor sleeping, waiting for the prizes to be drawn. The $1,000 cash prize is drawn at 2:30 a.m. and not a minute beforehand.”
Like the other post proms, Batavia co-chair Anne Rudd said they’re offering Lollapalooza tickets to the three-day music festival in Grant Park in Chicago, iPads, iPods, televisions, college “baskets” with microwaves and refrigerators.
“We probably spend $10,000 or more on prizes,” Rudd said. “The last couple of years when we sell prom tickets, we have samples of the prizes. That really lures kids into coming when they see what great prizes we have. … The kids who don’t come don’t know what they’re missing.”