Giving Blooming Prairie seniors their own unique graduation

Jordyn Reed
Updated: June 03, 2020 10:44 PM
Created: June 03, 2020 06:25 PM

( ABC 6 News) - Across the ABC 6 News area and the rest of the United States, the graduating class of 2020 has had to adjust how they are celebrating the important milestone of graduating. In Blooming Prairie, two life long friends and a baker seventy miles away came together to give the Blooming Prairie seniors a graduation celebration they'll hopefully remember for a long time.

For life-long friends Jennifer Walsh and Tammy Wolf, they remember graduating from Blooming Prairie like it was just the other day. 

"I remember all of us out, in front of the school, after the ceremony, hugging and taking pictures with our parents and each other," says Jennifer Walsh, a realtor based out of Blooming Prairie. Born in Flint, Michigan, Walsh moved to Blooming Prairie as a child eventually meeting Tammy. The two, inseparable, when asked about what they were like in high school joked that they were "models students and the teachers loved us". 

"No, we were just normal kids. You know, life in 80's was a lot simpler," says Walsh.

Walsh, a Blooming Prairie resident for most of her life, wanted to give the Blooming Prairie senior class what she and Wolf experienced - a graduation celebration. What Walsh needed to figure out was what she was going to do. Logging onto her Facebook, Jennifer Walsh says she saw a baker from Red Wing doing a Facebook Live video. 


"I'm like 'that's really cool what he's doing'," says Walsh.

Seventy or so miles away, baker Bill Hanisch had been donating free cakes to the Red Wing senior class along with other schools from around the area and the nation. Hanisch, now owner of Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop in Red Wing, started out at the shop moping floors. Picking up bits and pieces on how to bake as he got promoted, Hanisch went to culinary school in Rhode Island after graduating from Red Wing high school. He bought the shop in 2007 after returning home and being an overnight baker for a few years. But like Walsh and Wolf, he remembers his graduation as well.

 "Ours was outside, on the middle of the football field... we actually had a thunderstorm rolling in in the background," Hanisch continuing saying that what he remembers the most was walking across the stage. 

After watching the Facebook Live video, Walsh says she looked at her advertising budget and said to herself 'I can do this'. So she did, reaching out to Hanisch in early May asking for fifty cakes. One for each graduating senior. The cakes, two layers and roughly 7", costing Walsh nearly $1,000.

"As soon as she told me where she was from, I knew exactly the history of what's happened there - losing the bakery to a fire -  and I knew I'm going to do whatever I gotta do to get this kids cakes," says Hanisch. In late January, The Bakery, a staple to the Blooming Prairie and surrounding community, burned down.

Taking roughly an hour per cake, Bill Hanisch, owner of Hanisch Bakery and Coffee Shop in Red Wing, along with his staff baked all fifty cakes. Hanisch personally delivering those cakes as well on May 31st.

"You got to see the kids with a smile on their face, you got to see them enjoying being kids... going through the graduation process however it is this year," says Hanisch. Along with Walsh and Wolf, Hanisch getting a little emotional as the graduating seniors stopped by, dressed in graduation attire, to pick up their cakes. But Walsh had another surprise up her sleeve for the graduates.

“Tammy had a little tent over here where she took the photos," says Walsh. Almost immediately after reaching out to Hanisch, Jennifer Walsh, a realtor based out of Blooming Prairie, called her life-long friend with a request.

"The senior class, I subbed for them from when they were little all the way up to graduating and it was fun... to be able to see the kids again," says Wolf. A substitute teacher herself, Tammy says whether it’s subbing or taking roster photos for the different sports teams, she’s watched the senior class grow over the years.

With the COVID-19 pandemic making school adjust how they teach students, Wolf says she hadn’t seen the students for a long time. While in her photo booth, she two took photos – a serious one and a funny one noting the cakes started to slide a bit as the students pretended to take a bite out of them. Wolf says she’s emailed both photos to the students free of charge and plans to “periodically” email them photos from when they were younger.

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