This summer, the Pride of the Sunshine Marching Band won’t just represent the University of Florida. It will represent the state of Florida and the United States.
As the only U.S. college marching band to be invited to the Olympics, the band will travel to London from July 23-31 for what marching band director Jay Watkins calls a pretty surreal opportunity.
“At some point, I’m going to wake up,” he says. “It’s a tremendous honor for the university and a tremendous honor for the students.”
Band members will perform in The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace in support of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
With an estimate of about $4,000 per person in expenses, the total cost of sending the band to the summer games is around $1 million. Students are responsible for their own travel costs, but any donation will reduce the amount they need to pay.
As of June 21, the band raised $916,000, with $770,000 paid by the students themselves. Another $100,000 is needed to guarantee the trip. The band hoped to get corporate donations, but none have come through so far.
Upon acceptance into the marching band, members are told they won’t be required to do any fundraisers, Watkins says, so to raise money, they are running a campaign called “$10 for ‘12.” They ask anyone who has ever heard the Gator band play to donate $10 to the Olympics fund. This has brought in $20,000 to date.
“That’s a lot of people making a lot of small donations, and that’s a wonderful thing,” he says.
Four years ago, drum major Alan Gary (4BA) visited London and saw preparations for the Olympics already being made. He made a goal to return during the Olympic Games, and though he now has the opportunity, he had to turn it down.
Coming from Bentonville, Ariz., Gary works during the school year and over summer break to pay for out-of-state tuition and living expenses. Because of his financial obligations, going to London wasn’t an option.
“I’m still holding out hope that we might get a couple of big donors or some big donations coming, and if that is the case, I will make every effort possible to try and go on with the trip,” Gary says.