Drive-by celebration replaces prom for Appoquinimink seniors

MIDDLETOWN — Saturday night would have marked prom for the upperclassmen at Appoquinimink High School, but seniors will have a different memory than the cohorts who came before them: their neighborhoods and school community coming together in creative ways — like a parade of cars — to celebrate them.

“I think that most of them are dealing with it pretty well, but it is an adjustment and it is difficult for them,” said Lorrie Wallendorf, an Appoquinimink High School parent. “A lot of them are going through emotions that they’ve never really experienced before, so we just kind of wanted to boost their spirits and try to highlight them and let them know that they are important and that we want to do as much as we can to kind of cheer them up.”

Throughout the different neighborhoods of Appoquinimink High School seniors Saturday, motorcades will celebrate the students with driveby parades. Students are encouraged to decorate their yards. Times are staggered so that students can join in by driving to different neighborhoods and seeing and celebrating their friends from afar, organizers said.

The parade will span from 4 to 7 p.m., with the neighborhoods having picked times, like 4 p.m. for Fox Hunter Crossing and Back Creek, 5 p.m. for the Legends, 6 p.m. for Lakeside and Parkside.

Following the loops through the neighborhoods around 7 p.m., organizers are planning to celebrate seniors in the area who may live outside of neighborhoods or on farms.

The idea started with a Facebook group, created by Cheri Eleazar. Her two oldest children are seniors at Appoquinimink. The twins are athletes who have watched their spring season be drastically altered in the wake of coronavirus, she said.

With her daughter having already purchased a prom dress, and graduation on the horizon, Mrs. Eleazar wanted to do something.

“They have plenty of friends that we could get the group together and plan our own prom and our own graduation,” she said. “But then I kind of wanted the whole school to be involved.”

The Facebook page accrued about 70 members in the first few days and then increased to more than 200 — about half of the graduating class.

Through the group, the idea of doing a motorcade on the original prom date was suggested. They’ve opened it up to include seniors at private schools and college seniors, too, Mrs. Eleazar said. (Middletown High School is planning a motorcade on its original prom date, May 8.)

“Our senior class, at least I know at Appo, they’re like a really tight class and they do everything together and it’s just sad that they’re not together at this time,” she said.

While the students themselves might be all about the celebration, connecting with their friends even while distancing is important to them, she added.

“I think from a kid’s perspective, that’s the main thing: they want to drive by and wave from afar and see their friends,” she said. “They can see them every day on FaceTime, they can do their Snapchat, they can do whatever but it’s not the same as seeing them in person and having that social interaction.”

For Mrs. Wallendorf, she noted how busy her kids are — from sports, to work, to seeing friends — and this has been a significant change for them. For instance, their original plan had been for her oldest to go to prom, and then take a family vacation to the Bahamas.

“That’s not happening, either, so this is kind of a perfect weekend to celebrate that we’re happy, we’re healthy, we’re here,” she said.

She added that this is a good boost for the families and the people beyond their seniors.

Her parents have been isolating, she said, and have been letting her family do grocery shopping and errands for them.

“My dad has an antique car and he is super excited to get out and ride around in his car,” she said. “Just even neighbors that haven’t been able to get out anywhere other than the grocery store or the doctor’s office, just to get out and hopefully see people, even if you’re just driving in your car — I’m hoping that it boosts the spirit of everybody, not just seniors.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.