SLOAN COLUMN: ‘Adopt A Senior’ effort simply amazing
During a news conference last week, Gov. Henry McMaster and Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman confirmed what I think most of us already knew – South Carolina schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year due to COVID-19.
While the announcement probably did not come as a surprise to most, the sting of reality setting in was no doubt felt the hardest by members of the Class of 2020. A rite of passage will be stolen from them: To wear a robe and goofy-looking square hat and walk across a stage with their classmates to accept a high school diploma while their family and loved ones cheer them on. There is something extra special about that moment when you move the tassel from right to left before you and your classmates simultaneously sling your mortarboards high into the air.
This year’s seniors won’t get that moment and it doesn’t seem fair. Maybe that’s the first life lesson for these seniors: Life isn’t going to be fair.
Empathizing with high school seniors who feel robbed of one of life’s grander moments, Candace Hampton of Florence decided to do something to help soften the blow. On April 15 she set up a group page on Facebook called “Adopt A Senior 2020: Pee Dee Edition.” The premise was simple: Join the group and nominate a senior to be adopted by someone who will buy them a graduation gift or gifts from Amazon.com. Pictures of the senior are included in a post that also includes their name, high school, achievements, the college they will attend, and/or their career goals. At the end of the post is a link to an Amazon.com wish list the senior created. Most of the gifts are under $20.
Hampton said she borrowed the idea from an Internet friend. She wasn’t sure of the response it would get, but hoped it would at least brighten the lives of a few seniors.
Two days after the page was created, more 200 people had joined the group and dozens of seniors had been nominated and adopted. Word then began to spread quickly. In little more than a week the group had grown to nearly 5,000 members. As of April 24, 616 seniors had been nominated and most had been adopted.
The nominated seniors covered the entire Pee Dee Region and beyond, from Chesterfield and Marlboro counties in the north, all the way to Williamsburg and Georgetown counties in the south. Even a few from Horry County were given the okay to be adopted.
“The response has been amazing and more than a little overwhelming,” said Hampton. “More than anything else, though, it has been an incredible blessing for me personally.”
To keep up with the work involved in maintaining the site, Hampton enlisted the help of a friend, Brandie Hayes.
“She has been such a huge help and I could not do this without her, but this is really not about me or Brandie,” Hampton is quick to point out. “It’s about the seniors.”
She then shares some remarkable stories of kindness and generosity generated by the Adopt A Senior group.
One lady called and nominated a 17-year-old young lady who is about to graduate. She had been in foster care for some time, but had recently emancipated herself. She did not have the money to pay for her cap and gown, let alone a class ring, a yearbook or any of the other souvenirs associated with senior year. She was quickly adopted after her post appeared. The adopter raised more than $1,000 for the young lady, enough to pay for her graduation items and then some.
Another senior nominated for adoption stated in her bio that her career goal was to be a flight paramedic. Not long after the post appeared, a member of a Global Medical Response team contacted Hampton. The GMR team gifted the young lady with several hours of flight time in a medical emergency helicopter so that she can gain experience.
Another senior asked for money to help him purchase a laptop for college. He was adopted and soon received his gift – a new laptop.
Hampton said these are just of few of the amazing acts she has encountered since creating the group.
“I think Brandie and I cry on the phone at least once a day when we talk about the seniors and the adoptions,” said Hampton.
In a post last week, Hampton gave a shout-out to some of the businesses, organizations, and groups that have adopted seniors: The Intensive Care Unit at McLeod Regional Medical Center, Anderson Brothers Bank in Mullins, Lifetime Hearing, Global Medical Response, the Zeta Tau Alpha Alumni Chapter, Seminole 6 Travel Football, Regency SouthernCare Hospice, and Bailey Babies, LLC/Bailey Logistic, LLC.
Hampton said the last day to nominate seniors for adoption is Thursday, April 30. She said the page would remain open so that all nominated seniors can be adopted. The seniors can also post pictures of themselves with their adoption gifts and offer words of thanks.
When asked what she has taken from this whole experience, Hampton once again shifts her answer in the direction of the seniors.
“I love the sense of community,” Hampton said. “But more important than what I take away from this is what I’m hoping these seniors take away from it.”