GRAND CROSSING — The South Shore Drill Team will arrive in Washington, D.C. from the South Side Saturday after raising over $50,000 in donations and enduring a 14-hour bus ride.
But drill team member Raeven Funnye said it was worth it.
"Any journey is worth traveling if you achieve success at the end and for us it does not get any better than this," said the 15-year old sophomore from Gary Comer College Preparatory High School on the South Side. "Performing before the President of the United States is the pinnacle of my career as a drill team member."
The drill team consists of 300 inner-city youth but only 50 made the trip to represent the 32-year old youth organization due to the cost. All groups performing in Monday's Presidential Inaugural Parade must pay for their own travel and lodging, according to officials at the military's Joint Task Force — National Capital Region, which organizes the parade with the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Thanks to large donations from Midway Airport Concessionaire, Walgreen Co. and ComEd as well as donations from the general public, the group raised the $45,000 it estimated it needed to attend.
Three weeks ago it had only raised $1,000 following its selection to perform in the parade along with 49 other groups from across the country. Four years ago when the drill team applied to perform in the last inaugural prade it was not chosen - but on Dec. 26 the group was informed this time around they were chosen, said Stella Natufe-Smith, events coordinator for the drill team.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our kids," Natufe-Smith said.
Tamisha Dorsey said Monday's performance, which will be broadcast live on TV for viewers from across the world, is by far its largest audience thus far.
"We perform every year in the Bud Billiken Parade where millions of people watch it on TV but now we're talking about viewers from all over the world watching us," said Dorsey, a 14-year old freshman at Kenwood Academy High School on the South Side. "I am just glad I was able to go and I thank everyone who helped make this dream possible for me."
The group got a taste of a presidential audience last May when it performed for first lady Michelle Obama during the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit in Chicago. The First Lady had hosted a luncheon for the wives of NATO leaders at the Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside Ave., where the drill team practices each week.
So while performing in front of large audiences is nothing new to drill team member Dontay Reese, being in Washington, D.C., is a first for him.
"I have never been to Washington, D.C., before and I am excited to be going," the 17-year old Gary Comer High School junior said Friday as the group prepared to leave. "I want to go to the (shopping) malls, tour the White House and visit Howard University while there. I have been a drill team member for eight years and within that time I have experienced a lot but nothing as great as this."