Ninety-five members of the West Valley High School band are tied together, not only by their music, but by an 18-month saga of fund-raising for a trip to Florida this spring.
The cost of the trip is $80,000 - or $799 for each band member. Make it an even $1,000 for those who want spending money for Disney World, Planet Hollywood and the Busch Gardens.
The big sum has been, well, not exactly attacked, but nibbled to death. There have been car washes, candy sales, a cow plop, a craft sale, a bake sale that earned $900 - no one earns that much at a bake sale, says band booster Karen Sather. The band has earned money playing for community college basketball games, collecting Christmas trees for recycling, and doing gift wrapping. Kids have contributed babysitting money. Whew.
“We’re all tired,” Sather said.
The Florida trip centers around the Festival of States, an 87-year-old national band competition. Bands will march in a parade as they are judged. The band will also perform on opening day for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball team.
Band director Jim Loucks has sent out 100 letters to potential corporate sponsors, both locally and in Florida. He’s ahead about $5,000, he says, and has some donors waiting in the wings to help with what he estimates are about 15 hardship cases.
In the band room, a giant thermometer that reaches to $80,000 on one wall seems to be stuck around $35,000. Everyone agrees that figure is hopelessly out of date. It’s hard to pinpoint the current total, because so many parents agreed to pay some or all of their students’ costs.
The financial picture will look clearer next week, when the final payments are due. Most parents have signed a contract agreeing to either fund-raise or provide money.
Meticulous book-keeping allows the booster club to allocate money earned at any fund-raising event, by the number of hours each parent and child worked.
The long haul has left the students both elated and sick to death of the pressure. The effort has left the teens with contradictory feelings.
“Sometimes, it’s like everyone is striving for their own trip to Florida,” said band member Sherise Roderick.
“When we’re fund-raising, I hate it,” said Rose Morris. “But, overall, band is the funnest thing we’ll do.”
In some cases, students who have earned all their traveling money are still chipping in with the fund-raisers, helping raise money for their peers.
One band member worked this summer in her uncle’s vineyard in Walla Walla. Some students did maintenance work for the school district over Christmas break.
This is all new to West Valley. Six years ago, when Loucks came to the school, the band numbered a measly 16 students. There was no tradition of fervent band parents willing to starve themselves of sleep and normal life. No tradition of community giving to a band “that’s excellent!” he says.
For some of the students, this is their first time outside of Washington, their first time on an airplane. “I’ve never been beyond Montana,” said percussionist Julie Jones.
The challenge of fund-raising here has been something new for Loucks, too. He came to West Valley from Nashville, where Vanderbilt University and a community with more money made it possible for one fund-raising project to pull in as much as $40,000.
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