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VIP Thanksgiving coming for Orion Oaks fifth grader

Orion Oaks student Hailey Reighard


The Reighard family follows Thanksgiving tradition like many metro Detroiters.

A trip downtown to watch the parade. Strolling over to Ford Field for the Detroit Lions football game.

This year will be a bit different for Orion Oaks fifth-grader Hailey Reighard and her family, though.

After winning a Blue Cross Blue Shield contest, Hailey will be in the center of all that action from participating in America’s Thanksgiving Parade to standing on the field just before the game, appearing in every prominent spot in between.

“I’m a tiny bit nervous because I don’t know,” Hailey said. “I’ve stood in front of people because I do dance, competition dance, but not that many people.”

Hailey’s selection in the #MIKidsCan Turkey Day VIP Sweepstakes opens up doors she never imagined.

At a Lions game earlier this year, she and her mother, Christina, saw a promotion for the contest on the big screens. Christina entered Hailey in the contest, knowing that her daughter would just qualify for the young end of the 10-14 age requirement. They filled out the generic information and answered the question about staying healthy by pointing out that Hailey swims and dances.

According to BCBS, “the sweepstakes aims to highlight the importance of children’s health and asks families to share how they get active for 60 minutes on Thanksgiving Day.”

Because Hailey had never won a contest like this before, they didn’t expect much from the Blue Cross Blue Shield-sponsored opportunity.

But then they got the news that she was selected randomly from more than 1,200 entries, and Christina and Hailey’s father Anthony popped into Orion Oaks to share it with their daughter last week.

Now comes the fun part.

From start to finish, this will be a Thanksgiving to remember.

They’ll start on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan float in America’s Thanksgiving Parade – called “A Confident Life,” which demonstrates its commitment to a healthier Michigan, according to the BCBS announcement. Hailey will wave to the Michigan residents lining the streets, where she was one for many of her previous nine years.

Then the family will get a police car ride over to Ford Field where she’ll wait in the tunnel in her commemorative game jersey, stand behind the national anthem singer on the field and then head to midfield delivering the commemorative game ball.

“She’s been on the field before with the Kids Club but never where she’s in the tunnel and where she stands behind the person doing the national anthem,” Christina said.

Instead of her family’s usual season tickets in the crowd, Hailey, her family and friends – 10 in all – will watch the game in a club level suite, with a nearby room featuring a full Thanksgiving dinner, sparing her grandmother the yearly tradition of cooking for everyone after the game concludes.

The contest promised she would be treated like a VIP and it looks like a day to fulfill that promise.

“I never thought I would, I’m really excited to be on a float,” Hailey said. “There’s going to be a lot people watching. I think most of my friends are going to watch it on TV.”

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