TALLADEGA -- Efforts to get the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes to the inauguration parade in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Jan. 20, has more than exceeded expectations.
A sudden flow of donations surged the last couple of days in support of the band’s recent decision to accept the parade invitation.
Hundreds of small donations started pouring in mere days before the set Jan. 15 deadline. As of Thursday evening, $177,015 had been raised through the band’s gofundme account. The total on Monday was at $6,700.
“I think that this is an amazing opportunity and a chance of a lifetime,” tenor drum section leader Manassas Sanks said. “We have a lot of seniors, and I’m happy that they will get this experience before they graduate.”
Band director Miguel Bonds sent the initial application to participate in the inauguration. The inauguration committee on Dec. 30 confirmed the college’s invitation to participate. The gofundme account was started last week by “Mbonds Bonds” to help pay for “transportation, travel, lodging and other expenses.” The gofundme goal was to raise $75,000 by Jan. 15.
On Monday, the Talladega City Council donated $5,000 to the band, which pushed the total past the minimum $60,000 estimated overall cost early on Thursday, and the continued to tick upward throughout the day and showed no signs of slowing down late Thursday.
The overnight surge might be attributable to businessman, radio host and former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who appears to have shared the gofundme drive from his his website around 10 a.m. Wednesday. It showed 10,000 shares and 3,000 comments as of tonight.
There was also a surge tonight after the fundraiser was mentioned on the Bill O'Reilly Show.
Talladega College Associate Vice President Walvid King said the school had been raising money for the trip “nickel by nickel,” which was preferred to any lump sum donation. (Entrepreneur and political commentator Armstrong Williams had offered to pay the full $60,000 in travel expenses for the Marching Tornadoes to make the 1,460-mile trip.)
Officials have said any amount raised above the necessary minimum would be used to benefit the college and its student body.
With more than 3,300 shares on social media, 2,951 people had donated to the gofundme account by Thursday afternoon, which computes to an average donation of $61.
Talladega College will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. on today in Swayne Hall’s auditorium. President Dr. Billy C. Hawkins is expected to address the media and take questions.
Meanwhile, the 250-member band has been tirelessly rehearsing for its moment in the national spotlight. Despite the buzzing opinions on social media, band members are tuning out their critics and naysayers.
“All of us are excited to get this exposure and chance to visit D.C.,” said second-year clarinetist Shylexis Robinson said Thursday night during a practice break. “We aren’t seeing it as a political matter, and we stand united in our decision. Those who haven’t got to see us perform can expect a good time.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated at 8:10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, to provide latest totals.