HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Two groups of students from Henrico County high schools will be a part of this year's Gator Bowl festivities on New Year's Day.
The cheerleading squad from Henrico High and the Hermitage High School marching band will make the trip to Jacksonville. For the band, the tough economy almost made the trip impossible.
Band Director John Sarvay was honored when the Gator Bowl Association asked his band to come to Jacksonville to march and play. He also knew the effort that trip would require.
"Late February, early March last year we got the invitation, and kind of looked at it logistically, if it was something we were going to be able to handle with the economy the way it is," said Sarvay.
Once the decision was made to go, the band started an intense fundraising effort.
"Any opportunity we've had to make some money, we've been out there on that, because again the need is really out there, a lot of students we try to help as much as possible," Sarvay said.
Eventually, the band and band parents sold enough oranges, pizzas, and other items to help raise around $80,000 to make the trip possible. With the money and logistics figured out, the band spent four hours Monday morning gong over their routine one last time.
"We've been preparing since August, since band camp. It's gonna be a good trip, a good experience," said band member Julie Sjostrom.
"It's kind of nice to have a last hurrah, and it's a big event. I'm really excited to go down to the Gator Bowl," band member Vaughn Richardson said.
The band's performance schedule includes marching in the Gator Bowl parade, and performing at halftime in front of 85,000 football fans and a national TV audience. Sarvay says it's a fitting reward for a group that has worked hard for months.
"They put so much extra time in- they're here in the summer when the other students are out on break enjoying themselves. They dedicate themselves to that band camp we do in the early part, early morning rehearsals throughout the year," said Sarvay.
The bus to Jacksonville leaves at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.