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Will reunions be the same without YOU?

For some of us, high school was one of the best times of our lives, while others couldn’t escape soon enough. Regardless of your experience, we all now face the reunion. “I had so much fun at my 10th and then my 20th,” says Amy Brietner, a utilization management nurse at Toledo Hospital and a 1986 graduate of Bowsher High School. “At the time I wasn’t living here in Toledo. I hadn’t even intended to go to our 20th but I was just moving back to Toledo and a friend talked me into it.” Amy’s story isn’t unusual. Many of us hesitate, or even actively avoid, going to our reunions. Our reasons are as varied as our High School experience. Time, travel, interest, even seeing the basic value in attending eludes us. Amy, however, became a big fan. “Our 20th was at the zoo in the then new African safari exhibit. I was having so much fun catching up with people I actually missed dinner. No one was as surprised as I was that I would have such a good time.”

There’s No Place Like Home

Steve Helwig has to travel to his reunions, and not just a few miles. “The first reunion I attended was my 10 year and I still lived in the town I went to school in.” Helwig, a Perrysburg resident and Sales Manager at Auto Wares, graduated in the Class of 1979 from Macomb High School in central Illinois. “It was easy to attend that reunion. I just had to drive across town and show up.” Helwig’s next reunion was much different. “For my 35th I had to drive around 7 hours. It was much more of a commitment. Not only was it different to have to travel back instead of just show up but my motivations had changed. I heard one person say that at our 10th we were all working on our resumes — who we knew, what we had done, where we had been, that sort of thing. By the 35th we were working on eulogy virtues — who we helped, what causes we supported, where we had been of service. It was a tremendous difference.” Helwig doesn’t’ regret the travel or the experience. “Of course there were people there I wanted to see and they showed up. I was also both shocked and saddened by the table of pictures of graduates who were no longer with us. I saw a picture of someone I really wanted to reconnect with. In some respects the trip became a time of reflection and gratitude. Reflections about what I experienced and who I remembered of course. But also gratitude for all that I have around me; family, friends, even my ability to be able to come back in the first place.”

Somebody Has to Do It

The problem with reunions is that someone has to put them together. Breitner knows this problem well. “When I was at my 20th the guy who had been organizing our reunions announced that he was going to have to back away. He had done such a great job but he lived out of town and had felt it was time to pass the baton. I was having such a good time I thought, ‘why not?’ So I kept it in the back of my mind to be one of the organizers for the 30th.” Brietner started out, like so many people who want to reconnect do, with social media. A Facebook post from another alumni was calling out for people who might want to help be part of the organizing committee. “I knew I wanted the reunions to continue so I made contact. It turns out we had the same goals. We wanted to keep the whole thing simple and easy. We also wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted a voice got one. Finally, we wanted to make sure that the work was spread around. It is supposed to be fun, not a burden.” Brietner and her classmates started about a year in advance with simple things, like when and where to hold the event. They worked out a budget and started scouting places. It turns out the planning was as much of a reunion as the event itself. “The funny thing is I didn’t really know the person with whom I started planning. We only knew of each other at Bowsher. Now, however, we are great friends.” Besides social media the planning committee reached out in other ways. “After we picked our date in July we created an event page and a website. We kept everyone informed of when and where the planning meetings were being held and we held the meetings on the south end near the old high school (now the site of Beverly K-8). By keeping it simple it all came together pretty quickly and effortlessly. We got close to 100 people out of a graduating class of over 300. It was what we expected and we were pleased with the results.”

Resources for Reunions

Facebook and social media remains one of the primary ways of reconnecting with High School mates and staying informed of events and reunions. Besides social media there are a variety of other resources available for checking on the status of your graduating class. Toledo public schools has an alumni page with events and class info at tps.org. Most schools also have alumni pages that are easily located with a simple internet search. Even schools that are now closed, like DeVilbiss, Libbey and McAuley maintain websites or Facebook pages for alumni. If you went to school out of town there are a variety of national sites that will help get you connected. ClassCreator.com, GroupTravel.org, and Highschoolnetwork.net are all sites that may list your school and your class. A search of event management sites like Eventbrite and Eventzilla may also yield results. Each of these sites have varying degrees of services and may or may not require registration to use. As with all things on the internet, proceed at your own level of comfort. Finally, direct searches in the town of your high school along with generalized social media searches will either get you close to what your are looking for or an email address to contact. “I would say to those on the fence about going to a reunion, just do it,” says Breitner enthusiastically. “Not only was it worth the work in organizing the reunion but it was worth the time I committed to go. Whether we want to admit it or not, these people helped shape us…and I say that with pride. They are worth rediscovering.” Helwig agrees with the sentiment. “The bottom line is that I am glad I went back. I did have apprehension but that went away. I have heard people say they won’t go back to a reunion because they don’t want to run into people they didn’t like. But people change. I certainly have. I was more than pleasantly surprised.”

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