“It was no small thing to see how it impacted people. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of just how many families are struggling.”
Not all heroes wear capes.
When a single mom asked Mike and Lori Reist for help finding a suit for her teenage son for his graduation in 2016, Mike didn’t have one in his own closet, so he reached out to his peers on Facebook to help find a solution.
“I went on Airdrie Dads, and literally within a couple days we had $500 raised,” says Mike. Enough to buy the youth a brand new suit, and a couple of shirts and ties. The teen even landed a part-time job at Moores. Mike says the young man is now with the Canadian Armed Forces stationed in Quebec.
The power of the gift to influence the direction of a life has not been lost on Mike.
He let the idea brew in 2017 while working for weeks out of the province, but he and Lori dedicated more time in 2018.
Adopt-A-Grad was born, and in partnership with Airdrie Dads and local businesses, the Reists assisted 16 students at Bert Church and George McDougall and W.H. Croxford high schools.
They were able to expand into grad packages, offering gift cards for a suit from Tip Top Tailors, a hair cut from Main Street Barber Shop, and boutonnières and corsages from Holland House Flowers and Summerhill Florists. Some Bert Church grads were given rides from Black Gold Limousine.
“We don’t want them growing up sooner than they have to,” says Mike. “I want them to have a night to remember.”
Lori had been wanting to do something for graduating girls, too, which came to fruition when giving donated dresses to five girls for grad 2018.
And so began Project Jack & Jill (PJJ), in which teens are able to use a dress and give it back to the program, paying it forward.
PJJ also began to give away used suits for grad 2018 with an influx of 300 suits donated to CJAY 92 in Calgary. Further cash donations allowed them to give $1,000 to Bert Church, George McDougall and Croxford to pay for tickets for those who needed help.
“It was no small thing to see how it impacted people,” says Lori. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware of just how many families are struggling.”
The parents of five kids under nine years old are dialing things up for 2019, with the goal of helping students at all high schools in Rocky View Schools. PJJ is also expanding into accepting and giving sports equipment.
The gifts aren’t hinged on income statements; all that’s asked for is honesty.
“It’s exciting to be a part of,” says Mike. “I don’t think I have a choice but to continue this as long as I can.”
They held their first fundraising event in collaboration with Airdrie Dads, called Burgers, Beers & Vids, at Fitzsimmons Brewing Company Nov. 10.
For more information, look for Project Jack & Jill on Facebook, follow @projectjackjill on Twitter and Instagram, or visit Projectjackjill.org