Olivia Busenius (left) and Jessica Coyle practise physical distancing while partaking in a graduation photo as part of the Grad2020 photo shoot project. ANGELA BUSENIUS

Olivia Busenius (left) and Jessica Coyle practise physical distancing while partaking in a graduation photo as part of the Grad2020 photo shoot project. ANGELA BUSENIUS

Picture this: Grad2020 project snaps Kamloops students in their best attire

Graduates impacted by cancelled ceremonies can email a request to organize a photo shoot

  • May. 13, 2020 2:41 p.m.

-Kamloops this Week

Despite the fact the COVID-19 pandemic has led to cancellation of Grade 12 proms, a group of Kamloops photographers has banded together to ensure the Class of 2020 can still get the most out of their tuxedos and dresses.

The Grad2020 photo shoot project began in late April and has grown into a contingent of 10 professional photographers who have helped some 50 students celebrate despite the pandemic.

Graduates impacted by cancelled ceremonies can email a request to organize a photo shoot in their formal attire, either at home or on location, all while practising physical distancing.

Shoots are done by donation, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to support the BC Wildlife Park, which has been closed due to COVID-19.

Parent Bonnie Scheller came up with the idea, wanting to be able to do something for her daughter who graduates this year.

Taking inspiration from the Front Porch Project — in which family portraits are taken in front of people’s homes while photographers maintain a safe distance — Scheller reached out on the Kamloops Caremongering Facebook page and quickly amassed volunteers.

“We think it’s pretty amazing that we can do this and offer it as something to get them excited about. We know everything will be delayed and we’ll be patient,” Scheller said.

Scheller’s cousin, Gabby Valachy, became involved with the project early on.

The university student was back home in Kamloops due to the pandemic when she heard about her cousin’s endeavour.

“I said I’d love to help,” Valachy said, noting she feels bad for this year’s grads, knowing how special it is to celebrate those five years of high school with friends, all dressed up.

“To miss out on that — it’s a bummer,” Valachy said.

Angela Busenius, whose daughter is also a 2020 graduate, has been involved with the project from the start.

Busenius, the lead photographer of the project, started with a photo shoot for her daughter, Olivia, which spanned from the family’s front yard to Westsyde to Tranquille Creek.

READ MORE: Vernon grads treated to free photo sessions

Olivia — who told KTW in a previous story on the lost grad year that she feels it a rite of passage to take part in commencements and prom after years of hard work and commitment — said she found the photo shoot to be refreshing and inspirational.

“We have people that are trying to help the grads, that are trying to give us a special moment that we can look back on when we’re older,” Olivia said.

Valachy said they have photographed grads from high schools across Kamloops and have also had requests from Thompson Rivers University graduates.

Each client donates what they can and will receive five edited photos in their prom attire. No family will be turned down if cost is an issue.

Grads can have photos with their dates as well, while adhering to physical-distancing guidelines.

If they don’t have their own formal wear, they can use donated items, Valachy said.

The Grad2020 project has raised nearly $3,000 to date for the BC Wildlife Park and continues to generate interest.

READ MORE: Surrey teen helps organize nationwide prom

Scheller said about 50 shoots have been completed and another 20 are in the queue.

Valachy said the wildlife park was chosen due to its need for funding and the fact many 2020 graduates have grown up visiting the east Kamloops animal sanctuary.

“We thought it’d be a great gift from the 2020 grads,” Valachy said.

To book an appointment, email grad2020project@gmail.com.

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