Melissa Turmel is the mother of a local 2020 high school graduate who, like others across BC and Canada, will not be enjoying a traditional graduation and commencement ceremony due to restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

After seeing how disappointed her son and his friends were about the unexpected changes that put a halt to their graduation, Turmel decided to do something to cheer up as many grads in Merritt as she could.

“I saw it a lot,” Turmel said about the disappointment among the Class of 2020 and their parents.

“With the girls more, actually. I have seen the pictures of their gorgeous dresses and my heart broke for them. I also know as a parent this is hard, I am so disappointed in the fact that my son won’t be walking the stage or marching through Merritt. I wanted to do something to brighten their days in these crazy times.”

With that in mind, Turmel created a Facebook group called “2020 Grads of the Nicola Valley get Ninja’d”, which seeks to pair graduates from any Nicola Valley school with a ‘ninja’ who will surprise them with a gift.

Turmel was both surprised and delighted at the reaction, with many people stepping up and volunteering to put together gifts and stealthily deliver them to deserving grads.

“Everyone is so excited,” said Turmel, who also said the responses have been “amazing”.

“I never really expected it to take off so fast and be so successful so fast. I currently have the addresses and names for 74 out of approximately 120 grads and 66 of them have been paired with a ninja. That is in five days.”

Turmel said she thought the idea of being a “ninja” would be fun, and also encourage an element of surprise in the gift giving.

“I thought if you’re being a ninja you’re being sneaky,” said Turmel.

“It also just sounds fun when you say you’re going to Ninja someone, or you’ve been Ninja’d,” Turmel joked.

The online group soon blew up with pictures of Grads who had been ninja’d, something Turmel said has been a joy to see.

“The pictures of the happy grads,” Turmel explained as being her favourite part of the endeavour.

“I had one parent say it brought her to tears and that put a tear in my eye.”

Traditionally, graduation ceremonies take place in June, and Turmel hopes to continue pairing grads with Ninjas until everyone has received something, letting them know that the community is just as proud of the Class of 2020 as they have been of all graduating years past.

“If you have a grad, please join the group and get in contact with me,” Turmel urged.

“We don’t want any grad left out.”

Turmel also stressed that she is grateful for the willingness of others to help, and to ensure that the idea she came up with can now be put into action.

“A huge thank you to everyone who has been a ninja so far,” Turmel said.

“I couldn’t do this without the support of the community.”