Cash money

This is the email received Thursday morning by about 2,000 Kelowna-area students who will graduate from Grade 12 this year. They've been offered $500 each by a generous Kelowna couple known only, for now, as Lance and Tammy.

A school year like no other has ended in a surprisingly rewarding way for Grade 12 students in the Central Okanagan.

Every graduating student, all 2,000 of them, are getting $500 from an anonymous Kelowna couple.

Word of the no-strings-attached gift, worth more than $1 million, was delivered via an email sent Thursday at 10 a.m. to the students' parents or legal guardians.

"It's extremely unusual for an offer like this," school board chair Moyra Baxter said. "In fact, I've never heard of anything like it, anywhere. At least, not in a district as big as ours."

The generous couple, who for now are known only as Lance and Tammy, wrote in the email they wanted to reward Grade 12 students for graduating from their final year of public school in a time of pandemic.

"Congratulations on making it through these last 16 months of extremely challenging times!" they wrote in the email.

"We applaud you for overcoming the many obstacles you have faced from online learning, condensed semesters, loss of time with friends, cancellation of sports and very non-traditional graduation ceremonies and celebrations," Lance and Tammy wrote.

They invite the grads to use the $500, to be delivered in the coming weeks, however they want.

Lance and Tammy approached Central Okanagan Public Schools about two weeks ago asking if they could make the donation.

"I was just, like, very taken aback by the offer," Baxter said. "My first reaction was, 'Is this legitimate', and, if it is, 'Is it legal?'"

District officials confirmed the offer, while extraordinary for its value, was not much different than the donations from groups and individuals that are regularly received by the district. Those offerings generally go toward bursaries and scholarships, instead of being divvied up equally among a large number of students.

"They told us the Grade 12 students are graduating in a really unusual time and they wanted to do something unusual to help them celebrate," Baxter said. "They've certainly done that."