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Hypnotizing Funds

Every year, seniors at the Wachusett Regional High School in Holden, Mass., look forward to having the chance of participating in the booster club's annual Hypnotist Show. This year's event drew a sold-out crowd, with nearly 800 attendees.

  As part of a fundraiser that has turned into a tradition, high school seniors vie for the chance to participate in the Wachusett Regional High School Booster Club's annual Hypnotist Show, in which a certified hypnotist hypnotizes a group of students while the audience watches. Although only 30 to 40 students are chosen, over 80 students signed up for the chance this year.

"This is almost an annual rite of passage for them," says booster club president Christine Rohland. "They look forward to it each year, as they get closer to being a senior, since only seniors get to sign up to be in the show."

Selecting the event's date and confirming it with the hypnotist is the first step the club takes in planning. "We sign a contract with him in the fall," Rohland says. "Then he e-mails us every few months, to make sure everything is still set."

The club also books the school's auditorium for the show at the beginning of the school year. "The show goes about two hours, so with homework and everything, you don't really want to do it on a school night," Rohland says. "And we do it on a Friday rather than Saturday because we don't have to pay extra for the janitor to come in. That's something each club has to consider when booking its events."

After that, the planning is easy. "The hypnotist sends us materials for the show, including templates of posters and tickets. We get the posters printed, and we put them up in the school and around the town," Rohland says. "We also print the tickets and get them ready to sell out of the school's office, and at the door on the night of the event. Altogether, getting those things ready only takes a few hours, and the printing cost is low--about $20 at Staples."
 
Along with providing those materials, the hypnotist has consent forms to use, in case some of the students who are chosen are under the age of 18. During the show, he also makes sure to provide a safe environment for those who are hypnotized. "They're always sort of in control the whole time," Rohland says. "They aren't completely under, and they aren't asked to do anything totally embarrassing. Even so, video and photography are not allowed during the show.
 
"This year, he had them pretend they were riding horses," she continues. "It's funny to the audience, but it's not something that would destroy them if their friends talk about it on Facebook after the show. He also has an assistant who helps make sure the students don't fall or hurt themselves. They're both very conscientious of safety."
 
On the club's side of the event, there are about 10 parent volunteers who help on the night of the show. Four or five are stationed by the school's entrances, selling and collecting tickets. Another four work inside, at the concession stand, where they sell bottled water and bagged candy.

Rohland's advice for other clubs that are interested in holding a similar event is to find a hypnotist who is willing to work with the club on the fundraising aspect of the show. "We sell the tickets for our show for $8 in advance, and $10 at the door," Rohland says. "The hypnotist asks for $5 per ticket, but he caps it at $1,500. So once he's collected that amount, he's done--regardless of how many tickets we sell. Our club made about $5,000 this year."
 
Rohland also suggests making sure the event is publicized well, especially in its first few years. "We've done it for so long that it's become an expected thing, and we sell out every time," she says. "I would imagine that if your club is just starting this, you would have to advertise pretty heavily--to gather interest both for those participating and attending. But it's a really fun event. It doesn't take a lot of effort to put it together, and a club can make quite a bit of money."


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