Westfield High School Class of 2011 Celebrates Graduation at the 22nd BASH

Balloons By Magic Bob
Class of 2010 chaperones staff the massage sign-up table
Students have fun on the Velcro wall


WESTFIELD, NJ - Westfield High School graduates enjoyed some innocent and alcohol free fun after their graduation on Thursday night at The Club at Ricochet in South Plainfield during the Project Graduation BASH.

Project Graduation is a program offered at high schools throughout the country which provides a safe, adult-supervised and substance free celebration for graduates. The program was initiated in Maine 31 years ago in response to a number of drug and alcohol related deaths among teens during the prom and graduation season.

Sign Up for E-News

The Westfield BASH is sponsored by the Optimist Club of Westfield, which is a youth-centered volunteer group that does a number of projects in the Westfield area. Project Graduation is one of its main projects. Held every year at the Ricochet Club, the BASH features many activities for the students to choose from to keep them entertained and most importantly, safe. Generally about 85% of the graduates attend the all night party. This year over 360 students - the largest number to attend yet - arrived in eight large yellow school buses at 11:00 PM to enjoy the 22nd annual BASH.

Darielle Walsh, Optimist Club Community Vice President, and her husband, Mr. Mike Walsh, one of the charter members of the Westfield Optimist Club Chapter, have stayed until 5:00 in the morning at each of the 22 BASHes. Mrs. Walsh noted that the students don’t really change from year to year. What changes the most, according to Mrs. Walsh is the music. Even though there is not a lot of change in what the students enjoy most about the night, the planners do try to accommodate each class. A small group of students was surveyed to find out what they like most about their BASH.

This year, for example, in addition to the pizza and sandwiches that are always a big hit, the students said they liked coffee, so they got their own personal café station. Cupa Cabana, a coffee catering company that serves the tri-state area, provided the students with both hot and iced coffee, lattes, and mochas, as well as frozen daiquiri and pina colada smoothies. Rock'n Joe's Coffeehouse, a favorite local spot on Prospect street in Westfield, also provided a generous donation of coffee drinks for the graduates. The coffees were popular, especially for those students enjoying the more luxurious spa-centered activities. Two girls, for example, told me that they started the evening with iced coffees, then got 10 minute massages and were waiting to get manicures.

Others preferred the less laid back entertainment and instead headed straight for the sports - volleyball, basketball, or racquet ball. Many students swam in the pool. And at one point, a serious water polo game erupted. Some were much more interested in relaxing and floated about on rafts and in tubes. Among the other games available were foosball, air hockey, ping pong and video games.

Down one hallway, there was a Fortune Teller and a Palm Reader. One student, Francine Nieva, who will attend Stevens Institute of Technology in the fall, waited in line for an hour for a reading of only about three minutes. She said it was fun and pretty lighthearted and suspected that her time was cut shorter than others since she had laughed and seemed skeptical.  

One of the new choices this year were two bouncy rides. One came equipped with a Velcro wall which students jumped at wearing Velcro suits and then between squeals of laughter, struggled to peel themselves noisily off. In the center of the other bouncy ride, sat a mechanical bull, and student after student bounced up onto it only to be knocked right off. One girl admitted that it was not actually fun as she rubbed her legs and back. Her friend, Nadirah Davis, on the other hand, enjoyed the ride even though she was off almost as quickly as she’d jumped on.

The room was filled with such silly fun. The students were tumbling all over the bouncy rides and telling each other to try it, laughing hysterically. The same kind of silliness was carried out into the main room where there was a caricaturist, a magician and Magic Bob who made intricate balloon animals while teasing all of the students who came his way.

The magician, Richard Benninghoff, has traveled over four hours each way every year for almost twenty years from State College, Pennsylvania. He entertains groups of students who surround him while he does card tricks and makes a pink scarf appear out of an invisible purse.  He is also the headliner for the night and performs for all of the students between 3:45 and 4:30 before they are picked up by the busses.

The bouncy rides, the magician, the balloons, the caricatures, were all such innocent forms of entertainment. The graduates became silly and lighthearted, having the chance to embrace some real childhood fun for just a little while longer, before heading into the adult world.

And what party would be complete without food and dancing?  A food station was set up complete with standard party snacks - fruit, veggies and dip, and cheese, crackers and pepperoni. There were also sandwiches, and pizza was brought in at different points throughout the night. Everyone was served ice cream at 3:00 AM.

DJ 4B, 2010 graduate, Bobby McKeon, spun dance music all night. Playing mostly hip hop and dance hits, DJ 4B had a steady crowd on their feet throughout the night.

The DJ was not the only person to return for the BASH. The party is a community effort every year. In addition to the work done on behalf of the Optimist Club, local vendors participate. Mrs. Walsh contracts vendors each year for all of the activities. The thirty adults who participated, many who have participated since the beginning, are also from the community. The 17 chaperones in the orange staff shirts are all past graduates. The Optimist Club reaches out to alumni who help with everything from chaperoning, to running activities, to picking up pizza.

Four chaperones, Liz Penczak, Liz Kamel, Reid Smith, and Caraugh Ball, also members of the Class of 2010, were in charge of the massage sign-up. They all remembered their own BASH fondly and came back to help out and see friends.

One of the manicurists who worked at the Nail Art table, Monica Gildea, also a Westfield graduate, has been helping out since 1993. She greatly enjoyed her own BASH and sees the event as important and fun. She doesn’t understand why all of the graduates don’t participate and said, “Whatever they’re doing tonight, they could do tomorrow night.”

Marty Silverman has volunteered for the event for the last fifteen years. His own daughter graduated two years ago, but he continues to help out. Mr. Silverman spoke about what a long night it is, at the end of which both students and adult chaperones are tired. But he explained that it is long on purpose. Since the goal is to ultimately keep students safe, they end the event late to ensure that students couldn’t get in their cars at 2:00 AM and drive down the shore or to parties where there would be alcohol, for instance.

Sometime before midnight, a fire alarm went off. Everyone spilled out of the building calmly and quietly. But the drill did not stop everyone from having fun. Students who had been swimming stood, wrapped in towels, and played with a beach ball during the few minutes everyone had to wait before going back into the building. When it was time to go back, someone yelled, “Back to the pool,” and a girl said, “I just wanna dance.” And the party was back in full swing in a matter of minutes.

Students went from activity to activity, or they gathered in different lounge areas throughout the building to spend time with their friends. One student Rachel Putowski, who will split her time next year between work and the Fashion Institute of Technology, was grabbing a cup of coffee to, “wake up a little” at around 1:00. She said the most enjoyable part of the day was graduating, and then “this. . . coming here for this and spending time with everyone for the last time.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


After 47 Years of Operation, Jade Isle Set to Close Its Doors in Scotch Plains

February 17, 2018

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — The iconic Jade Isle Restaurant located at the corner of Terrill Road and Second Street in Scotch Plains will close its doors forever after its last day on  Feb. 18. A phone call to the restaurant on Saturday confirmed that the Jade Isle's long history would come to an end Sunday.

Jade Isle has served a menu of traditional Chinese and Polynesian dishes and ...

Mayor Brindle’s Update

February 15, 2018

The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

I first want to congratulate Nick Calello and David Went for their promotions to patrol officers in the Westfield Police Department. I’d also like to welcome and congratulate new Patrol Officer Fortunato Riga, who joins the police department this week upon his ...

Upcoming Events


Sun, February 18, 3:00 PM

Lawton C. Johnson Middle School , Summit

New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra Free ...

Arts & Entertainment


Mon, February 19, 11:00 AM

Westfield Area YMCA, Westfield

President's Day Jump

Giving Back Health & Wellness


Thu, February 22, 8:30 AM

Hilton Garden Inn, Hamilton , Hamilton

Defending Your Independent Contractor & Wage & ...

Business & Finance Education Law & Justice

Wardlaw+Hartridge Students Earn Scholarship Finalist Standing

February 17, 2018

The National Merit Scholarship Program has determined which of the 16,000 semifinalists named in September 2017 have met all requirements to advance to Finalist standing in the competition. All Finalists will be considered for National Merit Scholarships to be offered in 2018.

Wardlaw+Hartridge seniors Jennifer Guo and Suraj Chandran of Edison received their Finalist certificates from Susan ...

Westfield Police Blotter: DWI Arrest & More

February 15, 2018

February 7, 2018 10:25 p.m.

Officers Natale and Gill arrested Brian Mueller, age 55, of Westfield, NJ for driving while intoxicated pursuant to an accident investigation in the area of Mountain Avenue by Colonial Avenue. Subject was transported to headquarters, processed and released to a sober adult.


February 9, 2018 2:21 a.m.

Selena G. Palacios, age 22, of Westfield, NJ was ...

How Tax Reform Impacts You

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brings a host of changes to tax returns for 2018. Highlighted are just a few of the new rules that may impact many of our clients. Please reach out to us to find out if and how your personal situation is impacted.

For Business:

·       A flat 21% corporate tax rate for C corporations replaces the 15% - 35% graduate rate ...

Sinai or Sanctuary?



And in the beginning, G‑d was homeless, and so G‑d asked His people to set Him up with some digs. Where does it say that? Well, nowhere, actually. But it does say that G‑d instructed Moses to tell the people, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

Now the question is, was G‑d really homeless? ...

Westfield Public Schools Celebrate High School and Intermediate Music Honors

Westfield High School sophomore Brooke Walden auditioned and was selected to the New Jersey All-State Wind Ensemble and Orchestra for a second straight year.  Brooke was the top scoring piccolo player and ranked third on the flute.  She will perform in February with the Wind Ensemble and in November with the Orchestra.

Walden also was among 12 WHS musicians to perform in January with ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 13, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Love Craft Beer But Hate the Tour? State Assembly Moves to Make it Easier for You to Belly Up to the Bar

Good news is a brew for New Jersey craft beer advocates. In February 2018, the New Jersey Assembly’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee paved the way for the introduction of Bill A2196, which would remove a current licensing rule requiring breweries and distilleries to provide a tour of their facilities before serving alcoholic beverages to consumers. Currently, breweries holding a ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

6 Homes Sold Last Week in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford & Mountainside

Six homes sold last week, 2/4/2018-2/11/18, in Westfield, Scotch  Plains, Fanwood, Mountainside and Cranford.*

Sale Price   TOWN                  ADDRESS                  ...


AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

Cat Found in Westfield

UPDATE: Reunited with family!

ORIGINAL POST: Cat found in Golf Edge area of Westfield. Call 908-913-0509.

Doing Well While Doing Good

The new tax law is predicted to reduce significantly the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions.  That has some concerned about charitable giving. There are ways for taxpayers who do not itemize deductions to give to charity and still receive some tax benefits.

Give from your IRA. Those aged 70-1/2 or older, who must take required minimum distributions from retirement accounts, can ...

Imagine a Chatham Toboggan Ride from the Top of Fairmount Avenue to Main Street

Did you know….
there was a time when Chatham kids could ice skate from downtown Chatham all the way to Florham Park? And that a toboggan ride could last from the top of Fairmount Avenue down to Main Street and beyond?

Those were the days!

This was back in the early to mid-1900s. The Passaic River meandered through grassy meadows and woods on the north side of Chatham. The marshy ...


Kathleen Marie Christian (nee Helmstetter), age 73 of Surf City, NJ, passed away peacefully at home ...
Read more

Nutley Schools Closed Friday Following Security Threat

February 16, 2018

NUTLEY, NJ — The Nutley Police Department is currently investigating a video posted to Instagram that suggested a possible threat to schools. Dr. Julie Glazer, Nutley Superintendent of Schools, made the decision late Thursday night to close Nutley schools on Friday as a safety precaution. 

The Nutley Police Department reports they have spoken to the individual ...