Get our free newsletter

Last Thursday, Eastern Senior High School’s marching band paraded through the streets of Capitol Hill, west to Lincoln Park and then back on East Capitol Street. There was no actual event going on. The band was just practicing.

“Honestly, we do it a lot,” says staff band leader James Perry. “A lot of the times, the cars don’t mind. We never get any honks. They roll down the window and bop along.”

Although it’s the dead of summer, Eastern’s band convened every weekday last week, according to Perry. The reason: next Saturday, August 2, the group is expected to play in a parade for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton, Ohio.

The key word here is “expected.”

This year, six people will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Two of them are known for their time with the Washington Redskins: cornerback Darrell Green, and wide receiver Art Monk.

In April, the Eastern band was contacted by a parade coordinator, and asked to apply “to represent D.C.” as part of the festivities, says Perry. After the group was selected to play in the parade, Eastern students began raising money holding car washes and selling candy in school. The band does not plan to stay over in Canton. They’re just fund-raising for the bus ride, which amounts to $3,900. Roughly 65 to 70 musicians, as well as six dancers and six flag girls, will be going. Each student is responsible for raising $70 for his or her passage, says Perry.

The group was relying on paychecks from students’ jobs with the Department of Employment Services’ Summer Youth Program. But, when the District’s payment system failed, many were left with insufficient funds to cover their shares. As of the last count, the group had $500 total.

Eastern’s band has participated in numerous events, and competitions, including the Norfolk State University Homecoming Parade, Howard University Homecoming Parade, and Hampton University’s band competition last fall. The group placed first, in the high school category, in all three showcases, says Perry.

Perry was hoping the Redskins philanthropy office would be able to kick in some money for the parade. So, he called up Betti-Jo “BJ” Corriveau, Vice President for Community and Charitable Programs.

“For whatever reason, I tried to explain to them about us representing the city, but they weren’t interested,” says Perry, who got word about the organization’s decision about two weeks ago.

For her part, Corriveau says that her group does not “traditionally do smaller grants.” Her office runs four main programs, which work with youth and high school-aged students from across the D.C. metropolitan area. Their Coaches in the Classroom program, for example, operated in three DCPS high schools: Anacostia, Ballou and Wilson. The program employs part-time academic coaches to work “primarily with student athletes on everything from life skills to helping them with their grades, their home work, to helping them study for SATs,” according to Corriveau.

When asked about fund raising tips, Corriveau said her office was the only place within the Redskins organization that did charitable work—-try appealing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, or the D.C. Public Schools, she offered.

In the meanwhile, Perry has put down $400 of his own money for the bus deposit. And what about the rest? The kids have talked about cobbling together money selling cookies, going out to Metro stations, and washing cars. I don’t even want to think about the worst case scenario,” says Perry (though he’s got some other money saved away, and knows a brainstorming session might be in order later this week.)

Perry says no matter how much prize money the band rakes in, there’s never a large surplus: “Everything we do comes from whatever we have. If we win competitions, we get money. That goes to buses for the next event. It comes in just as quickly as it goes out.”

The band plans to leave D.C. Friday night at midnight.

If you want to help the band, James Perry can be reached at: James2081[at]comcast.net