THREE OAKS — Members of the River Valley High School Class of 2020 were the focus of a Heroes Tribute Parade held Friday evening, June 5, between Three Oaks Elementary School and American Legion Post 204.

Sponsored by the Three Oaks Flag Day Committee and River Valley High School, the procession also honored veterans (a color guard from the local Legion Post carried Old Glory and other flags to lead the way), first-responders and front-line workers (one of the final entries featured RVHS senior Carson Taylor — eligible to become a firefighter - atop Chikaming Township’s No. 777 fire truck).

The June 5 parade and a preceding flag-raising ceremony at Post 204, were recorded by WNDU TV to be broadcast at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14 as part of a tribute to the Three Oaks Flag Day Parade (which was canceled for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic). The program also is slated to feature a slideshow from the Region of Three Oaks Museum spanning many years of the parade. For more go to

Rich Smith (who normally announces Flag Day Parade entries from the judge’s stand in front of the library) will serve as the emcee for the televised Tribute to Heroes procession. Part of his introduction follows:

“Clearly, this year is different. But here in Three Oaks we’ve been celebrating our flag and our veterans every year since 1953, and we didn’t want to miss the chance to do so again this year.”

He later noted that the “shortened version of our parade” also paid tribute to health care professionals, first responders (many in the line-up driving police and fire vehicles), grocery store workers, those who put themselves at risk to make vital goods and services available, and members of the River Valley High School Class of 2020.

There was even a fly-over of a vintage military aircraft at the start of the June 5 Heroes Tribute Parade (the same way most recent Flag Day Parades have begun).

Waving to the assembled crowd of well-wishers (many of them friends and family) from vehicles of all shapes and sizes (including several 1960s-era Ford Galaxies) were cap-and-gown clad graduates-to-be.

Class Salutatorian Emma Springer piloted a 1964 Ford Galaxy that had special meaning because it had belonged to her late grandfather Don Kain.

“He was my best friend and my inspiration so having the car here today and being able to drive it is a huge honor foe me,” she said.

Senior Ty Daniel drove his 1968 custom El Camino that he and his father (Jim) have been working on “to make it run the way it should.”

Members of the River Valley High School Class of 2020 are: Levi Ashby, Jacob Ashcraft, Jacob Barbour, Tawnie Bell, Sophia Bender, Davyd Bronson, Connor Brown, Ty Daniel, Victoria DesLauries, Dorian Erickson, Timothy Fadder-Hollingsworth, Abigail Flick, Kenneth Gibson, Hannah Hall, Cooper Harrington, Brandon Henrichsen, Christopher Kendall, William Korbel, Alan Lang, Kyleigh LePinske, Jason Lull, Madison Lumley, Tylar Montgomery, Aidan Olson, Ella Olson, Mackenzie Panozzo, Noe Patino-Nunez, Logan Payne (Valedictorian), Maya Preece, Matthew Rhyne, Allyson Rochefort, Allison Schmidt, Matthew Schmidt, Steven Seifert, Minisno Shingwauk, Emma Springer (Salutatorian), Chloe Stanage, Levi Strauss, Carson Taylor, Hannah Weaver, Elijah Witter, Emily Wohler, Halie York.

About half of the 43-member River Valley Class of 2020 had participated in a senior picnic and softball game earlier on June 5.

”We cooked out and we’re doing an impromptu softball game — social-distanced,” said Principal Patrick Breen.

He later told the seniors that the graduation ceremony (scheduled for 1 p.m. July 18 at the football field) will be special with some unique things that no other class has had.

The game went down to the wire with varsity softball coach Dan Schaser delivering a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to forge a 2-1 victory.

“It was good to be out on the field with those girls (senior members of the Mustang softball squad along with the baseball team competed). Miss them it’s tough.”

The 2-1 final tally was secured in part by a game-ending catch in left field by senior Kyleigh LePinske (who also made a diving catch the previous inning).

River Valley graduates of all ages got spirited send-offs as the school year came to a close.

River Valley preschoolers got a drive-up send-off into kindergarten on the morning of June 5 at the Chikaming Elementary Campus.

Chikaming Principal Heidi Clark said there were stations for gift baskets adorned with balloons and filled with snacks and stuffed animals; Suzi Jewell distributed books donated by Neighbor by Neighbor (“Kindergarten Here I Come”) and the Rotary Club of Harbor Country (“I Will Love You Forever” — the club also made face masks for the students); a chance to greet the school’s 6-month-old comfort dog in training “CeCe;”

Also handing out snack bags were elementary school counselor Matt Cook and new district-wide family counselor Elizabeth Lake.

Lake said she has visited about 35 homes so far and is still meeting people.

A preschool certificate and informational/educational materials for the summer were delivered by preschool teacher Rose Montie and aide Susan Anderson..

“We sent packets to everybody, and we offered Zoom meetings to everyone,” Montie said. “We sang and we danced a lot on the Zoom.”

She added that the students were comforted by seeing their friends online and knowing they were safe.

On Monday morning, June 8, a group of RV staff members took yard signs to the homes of River Valley fifth-graders celebrating a graduation that will take them to the middle school this fall.

Parades to celebrate the end of the school year were planned at both the Three Oaks and Chikaming elementary campuses on Wednesday, June 10.

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