This past Saturday, kids from the Liverpool Central School had the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
It wasn’t just the opportunity to compete at the USBands National Championships at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, though the students did have that honor.
They also participated in the USBands’ food and hurricane supplies drive, carried out in partnership with the Salvation Army, to assist those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The idea for collecting donations came from marching band parent Maureen Wood, who is coordinating the trip to New Jersey.
“My husband came up with the idea of the donations,” Wood said. “I sent it out, because I was coordinating this.”
Wood presented the idea to the band’s leadership, and it took off from there. Sky Harris, music teacher at Chestnut Hill Middle and Elementary Schools and assistant director of the marching band took over disseminating the information.
“The thought process came from, we’re going to this competition in New Jersey, and U.S. Bands is working with the Salvation Army to coordinate this drive nationwide, so any bands that are coming from all over the country, they said, you know, ‘Do a drive in your hometown and bring this stuff to the stadium with you when you come.’ This was our response to that,” Harris said. “We got the word early in the weekend, like Friday in the middle of the day, so we started putting fliers together and mailings and things and trying to get them out to everybody. We thought we’d use the three middle schools and the high school, because they’re fairly centrally located as drop-off points. So we set it up over the weekend. Barrels went up Monday morning. We sent mailings out to all of the teachers in the district, all of the staff in the district, out to community members, anybody that we had access to e-mail addresses for, it’s been on the news — just trying to get the word out.”
From there, the effort took off and donations poured in at every location. By the time the band was ready to pack up Thursday night, the high school lobby was jam-packed with canned goods, clothing, sleeping bags and more for those affected by the hurricane.
“The word just went out over the weekend. It’s amazing the amount of stuff in four days that’s come in and just the outpouring of love,” Harris said. “It’s an amazing thing. Faculty members have donated. The community has donated. We’ve had people come in from SU that have come in and donated. It’s really just been a community outpouring of love and support for what that group has been through.”
Harris said she thought the drive provided an outlet for people who were eager for a chance to help.
“I think a lot of times, people think, ‘Man, I really wish there was something I could do,’ and they can’t ever find a way. So we wanted to find a way for the community, but especially for the kids to find a way,” she said. “They’re going to go down there. We’ve been displaced from our hotel. It’s something that’s become really real to them.”
Indeed, the band’s reservations at the Hampton Inn in Mahwah, N.J., were pulled because the hotel is full of people who have been displaced by the hurricane. Wood said the Hampton instead helped to place the band, as well as parents and family members staying in the Mahwah area, at another Hampton in Allentown, Pa.
Wood said she hopes the students will see firsthand how serious the damage from the hurricane was.
“One of [band director] Jim Dumas’s goals, I’m not sure what the route [will be] going from our hotel to the stadium, but if we’re going past some of those hard-hit areas, he does want the buses to go by [those areas] so that [the kids] can see and understand [the impact],” she said.
She hopes that taking that route, combined with conducting this food and supply drive, will force the students to look beyond their own worlds.
“My goal with these kids is, I want them to start reaching out past themselves, and I’ve been working on that with different things with the band,” Wood said. “I got them last year to start doing the Teal Ribbon Walk. They need to think out past themselves. That’s my mentality. That’s what I’ve taught my kids, and that’s what I want these kids to do. Kids live in their own little closed world, and even this doesn’t always mean a lot, but it’s something.”
Indeed, part of participating in the marching band and being a student at Liverpool, Harris said, is learning to be a better person.
“The school district does a lot. They do food drives. They do these kinds of things,” she said. “But this is something where they’re able to go, hands-on, talk to their neighbors, talk to their friends, bring it all down and then put it on the truck next to their instruments, and then take it all down there and hand it to the Salvation Army at the stadium. They’re actually there taking it to the people that need it and having them be able to have that one-on-one experience and be able to see that what they’re doing makes a difference. It’s exciting that they’re going on this field trip and it’s exciting that they’re going to national championships and all of that is a huge honor, but the more important things that we hope they get out of being students in Liverpool and students in the marching band is that they learn about what it takes to be a good person and a good team player. This is a great way to do that – a horrific way to be forced into it, but a wonderful opportunity for them to be able to get that hands-on service learning experience.”
Even without the food drive, for many students, participating in the national championships — where, according to Meghan Piper, the district’s public information officer, the band took fourth place Saturday night — is a life-changing experience.
“It’s a huge honor,” Harris said. “You have to be invited to go. The band has done very well. They finished eighth the first year, sixth the next year and they finished third last year. They continue to climb the charts, which is awesome. This is the first year that it’s been in the new Giants Stadium, so that is so exciting for these kids. You’re watching an NFL game and, ‘I’m going to stand right there and march right there.’ It’s such a cool experience. And they’ve been great as far as hosting us and trying to help us find places to rehearse and such. It’s such a cool experience. We’ve got everybody from kids in fifth or sixth grade who are prop ninjas all the way up to seniors who are going to step onto the field at MetLife for the first time in their lives, and what an awe-inspiring thing that will be.”
More school collections:
The staff at Roxboro Road Middle School collected shoes and socks for those affected by the hurricane at the urging of teacher Janice Richardson, whose next-door neighbor is a Long Island native who planned a trip there last Thursday to retrieve her mother.
“Her entire family and community have been affected by the devastation,” Richardson said. “When she asked what people there need the most, the response was gently used or new socks and shoes. Apparently, everyone’s shoes are either wet or destroyed. Any size or kind is being accepted.”
Richardson’s neighbor and her daughters brought all collections directly to the area last week. About ?? pairs of shoes and ?? pairs of socks were collected from the RRMS community.
In addition, the North Syracuse Junior High School conducted a “Warm Clothing Drive” to assist victims of Sandy. NSJHS families were asked to donate warm hats, coats, socks, shoes or blankets.
Kevin Lloyd, a science teacher at the junior high, organized the collection, which was taken down to the Rockaway area of Queens by Operation Sandy Relief (see story, page 3).
“I know a guy named Brian [Borchik] who has organized some trucks heading down to the New York City area to help those people affected by the storm,” Lloyd said. “I’m from Staten Island, and I can’t go down to help due to family and work obligations, but I wanted to do something. With that said, I thought I would get the kids involved at this end and help pack Brian’s trucks.”
And it’s not just adults driving these efforts; kids are getting involved, too. CHM’s Sky Harris said the kids at Nate Perry came up with a way to help all on their own.
“Their students went to the principal and said, ‘We heard the kids down there didn’t get to trick-or-treat because of the storm,’” Harris said. “They donated all of their Halloween candy. We have six boxes of Halloween candy to take down for the kids down there that came from the kids at Nate Perry.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.