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South Shore Drill Team Needs $19K to Perform in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

By Wendell Hutson | November 22, 2013 3:53pm | Updated on November 22, 2013 4:36pm
 Members of the South Shore Drill Team line up to perform at the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago.
Members of the South Shore Drill Team line up to perform at the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago.
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South Shore Drill Team

GRAND CROSSING — After several years of trying, the South Shore Drill Team was finally chosen this year to participate in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York.

But their dreams of performing in the popular parade that will be aired live on NBC may not materialize if organizers can't raise enough money to pay for the trip.

Sara Vlajcic, the administrative coordinator for the team, said Friday they need $35,000 to go on the trip. While each of the 60 drill team members are expected to contribute $300 each, they've raised just $16,500 so far, in part because she doesn't want to leave out members who can't afford to come.

The nonprofit group has been appealing to business and other sponsors since July, when they were picked, to fill in the rest, but things are getting desperate — especially because they are leaving early next week. Donations are also being accepted online

"I guess you can say we need a miracle between now and Monday, when we plan on leaving," said  Vlajcic.

The group has performed all over the country, including at Pres. Barack Obama's inauguration earlier this year — a trip that included member Hadiya Pendleton, a King College Prep student who was later killed when she returned to Chicago, shining a national spotlight on the city's violence.

But the team has never performed been in the iconic Macy's parade.

If the team can raise the money, a chartered bus is scheduled to leave Monday with the team and 15 adults. They will drive through the night and then stay in a New Jersey hotel until Thursday. The parade is from 8-11 a.m. Central time. They will leave New York after the parade.

While in New York, Vlajcic said they would like to take the students on a tour of Times Square. They also planned to eat a Thanksgiving Day meal at Londel's, a soul-food restaurant in Harlem.

Drill team members said if the trip has to be canceled because of a lack of funding they would be very disappointed.

"This will be the first time I have gone to New York. We have been practicing six hours a day and have worked so hard to step our game up, and to have done all that for nothing would be devastating," said 24-year-old Tanika Wardlow, a South Chicago resident. "I joined the drill team when I was in high school and now I am an assistant instructor, so I have come too far to stop now."

Jeffrey Lovett, 22, said he would be hurt if he cannot continue what he described as a ''travel spree.

"I love to travel. That is one of the benefits of being on the South Shore Drill Team. You get to do a lot of traveling," Lovett said. "I have been to Canada and a whole lot of places as a drill team member and I don't want that to stop."

Vlajcic said she is waiting to hear from at least three businesses this weekend who might donate. If they still can't raise the money, they will cut down on food costs and other expenses and could still try to make the trip.

"If we do not raise enough money it may mean we have to eat Thanksgiving dinner at a fast-food restaurant. The drill team won't be able to do any sightseeing, but we will find a way to get them there, because they deserve it," she said.

The team almost couldn't afford to go to the Inauguration.

In January, the drill team needed $45,000 to participate in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.  But three weeks before the parade contributions poured in namely from Walgreens and businessmen Timothy and Everett Rand, two brothers who run Midway Airport Concessionaire. All three donated $10,000 and the drill team ended up raising $50,500.

One thing the drill team won't have to pay for is dinner on Monday as it hits the road.

Keith Allen, a franchise McDonald's owner, said he plans to provide a free dinner to the group from his McDonald's restaurant at 6900 S. Lafayette Ave. Allen owns four more McDonald's restaurants, including the first black-owned McDonald's at 6560 S. Stony Island Ave.