Overland Park & Leawood

November 19, 2013

For the eighth time, Shawnee Mission West band will be going to London

The logistics are daunting, and so is the fundraising.

It’s not every day that a representative for the queen of England shows up in your high school cafeteria and issues a proclamation on her behalf. But for the Shawnee Mission West High School marching band, it’s becoming kind of a regular occurrence.

Lord Roger Bramble, deputy lieutenant of London, recently traveled to the Overland Park school to deliver the band its invitation to the 2015 London New Year’s Day Parade. This will be the eighth time that a marching band from Shawnee Mission West has performed in the parade.

“Every three years we go to this event,” band director Bill Thomas said. “As of right now we hold the record, which is kind of cool.”

The Shawnee Mission West band joins an exclusive group of approximately 10 other bands from the United States that have received an invitation to the parade. Shawnee Mission West was chosen after submitting a video application.

The parade will provide a large amount of exposure for the band. Each year, it typically draws a television audience of more than 200 million people.

But it will also take a large amount of work by band directors, student and parents to make the trip happen.

“It is a huge undertaking,” Thomas said. “It takes a year and a half to plan and implement. There’s a lot of logistics involved.”

And that’s where parents like Tom Howell come in. Howell, whose daughter Quiannah will make the trip next year, is a member of the band’s parent organization known as the Band Aides. He’s also the chairman of the band’s London Planning Committee. Howell will help oversee all of the planning for the event. One of the most important things he does is try to delegate as many different tasks as possible so one person doesn’t get overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities.

“We have a lot of parents that are stepping up to help,” Howell said. “That’s one thing about Shawnee Mission West, if you need anything done you just have to ask and someone will help take care of it.”

One of the parents who will be helping each student find ways to raise money for the trip’s $3,000 price tag is Bill Whiteside. His son Eric plays the trombone and also will make the trip next year.

As the chairman of the London Fundraising Committee, Whiteside will work to come up with a variety of ways for students to raise money for the trip. Students will sell everything from cookie dough and trash bags to coupon books to area grocery stores.

One of the school’s most successful fundraisers has been a series of car washes where students get individuals to pledge a certain amount of money per car. In the past, the band has been fortunate enough to raise $11,000 at a single car wash.

Students have until October 2014 to raise money for the trip. Whiteside believes that with a fundraising project this large, it’s important to keep students excited about the trip so that they don’t get burned out by the constant money-raising projects.

“We want to come up with a timeline where the kids aren’t slammed with fundraising all at once,” Whiteside said. “I would like to get it where we can also use social media rather than just going door-to-door.”

About 120 of the 130 band and dance team members will likely end up making the trip to the 2015 parade. Whiteside knows he will be logging a lot of long hours to help students find ways to pay for the trip but he says the time he puts in will be more than worth it.

“In my opinion, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Whiteside said. “This is for the kids and anything us parents can do to make it work and for them to have an enjoyable experience, we are all for it.”

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