By Tom Tolen -

Brighton High School is just finishing up a month of special activities that has kept the over 2,000-student school even busier than usual at this time of year.

Tonight is the annual Homecoming game, climaxing a week full of events. Before Homecoming Week, there was Pink Week - held each year to raise funds for — and awareness of — cancer, an event which has now been held for 10 straight years.

Each school day for Homecoming Week has had a theme. There was no school Monday, so no theme, but Tuesday was “Dress Up Like Your Parents Day”, Wednesday was “Pajama Day”, Thursday was “Country and Western Day”, and today (Friday) was “Orange and Black Day”. Concluding the week will be the homecoming dance on Saturday, taking place from 7-10 p.m. Principal Gavin Johnson says the emphasis this year will be on social distancing to make it a safer event. The dance will be held in three areas — the high school field house, the auxiliary gym and — weather permitting — a designated outdoor area on the school grounds.

Brighton’s annual Homecoming game will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium against its arch-rival, the Howell Highlanders. You can hear live coverage of the game on WHMI, starting with a pre-game show starting at 6:40pm. A pep assembly was scheduled for this afternoon, with admittance restricted to students and staff. The Homecoming Parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. this evening, the parade route being from the BECC Building on East Main through downtown to the stadium. According to Johnson, the Brighton High School Marching Band will perform and there will be floats featuring various school groups.

Johnson says Pink Week was very successful this year, with over $33,400 realized, the proceeds donated to the St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Cancer Center. Nathan Grabowski, who teaches the high school Leadership Class, was in charge of both Homecoming Week and Pink Week, and says the amount raised for Pink Week is almost double the $18,000 raised last year when the event was downsized due to COVID. The funds were raised through car washes, bake sales, “Dash for Cash” runs and a vocal competition called Brighton Idol, also a raffle, with items and funds donated by downtown businesses.

17-year-old senior Brennan Cheladyn — one of the students who coordinated Pink Week - is himself a cancer survivor, so the event had special meaning for him. Brennan contracted lymphoma a few years ago, but his cancer is now in remission. Brennan said that because he had cancer, in his words, “(Pink Week) means a lot personally to me.” Almost 50 cancer survivors walked the 50-yard line at the Brighton football field during halftime of the Pinckney game with their families. That includes Brennan’s parents, Todd and Kelly Cheladyn, which Brennan said made him feel very proud. The survivors were each given a rose and a sash and released helium-filled balloons. Other highlights of the week included the Powder Puff football game involving the junior girls vs. the senior girls and a soccer game wherein the participants played on behalf of a relative who had contracted cancer.

Morgan Wiljanen, one of the leadership class students who coordinated Pink Week, said, “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my almost 18 years of life…It makes you feel like you’re making a difference.”

Grabowski said that the week was “one of the few things that kicked off the school year that seemed normal,” after a very difficult year. He added that the Pink Week experience is a good teaching tool that students can use after they graduate. As he put it, “We more want the students to experience real-life leadership situations and learn lessons that help form them into better leaders and learners.”

Top photo: Bulldogs football team and BHS Marching Band on the field before opening kickoff.

Bottom photo: BHS Marching Band in rainy Homecoming parade, proceeding down Main St. before start of game. Photos courtesy of Michael O'Brian.