The husband of LaVerne G. West played in the 1922 Rose Bowl, so she sent a $15 contribution in his memory. Kim Heatherington, a member of an Alexandria high school marching band, mailed $5. Cynthia Mendelson of Capitol Hill remembered her college trips to the Rose Bowl and made a donation.
From Baltimore to Norfolk, and from the Washington communities of Brookland to far Southeast, hundreds of people are contributing to send the Cardozo High School Marching Band to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl parade New Year's Day.
The reputation for showmanship of the brassy and high-stepping 175-member band earned it the first invitation ever extended to a Washington area high school to play and march in the prestigious parade, long an American institution.
Cardozo needs $119,000 to make the trip, and so far has raised about $75,000 -- more than half of that in small contributions. The money will be used to pay travel, lodging and meal expenses and to buy new purple, white and gold uniforms. The band currently has only 85 uniforms, and they are patched and faded.
Rose Bowl Parade invitations are coveted by marching bands.
"In the parade business, that's number one or tied for number one" with the Orange Bowl parade, said Kenneth Bloomquist, president of the National Band Association. The association's members are mostly high school band directors.
Cardozo High, filling the entire block of Clifton Street NW, between 11th and 13th, is a block from riot-scarred 14th Street NW and is surrounded by a neighborhood usually associated with heavy drug traffic, high crime and run-down housing. Its neighbor is the long-troubled 385-unit Clifton Terrace Apartments complex.
But the band, under the guidance of Robert Gill, has flourished and the task of getting the band to California has become a Washington-area hometown cause.
"For once something positive has happened and people are happy to see something positive come out of the [District] school system," said Vi-Curtis Hinton, seated at her dining room table surrounded by letters and checks. A 1938 Cardozo graduate and respected fund-raiser for local nonprofit causes, Hinton volunteered to work for her alma mater and head the fund-raising committee.
Cardozo principal Waverly Jones agreed. "The public schools have received so much criticism because of so-called incompetency, but we have maintained that there are many good things and now we can highlight one of those good things and the media have joined us."
More than 1,000 individual contributions have been recieved with about one-third coming from Maryland and Virginia residents.
This spirit comes through in many of the handwritten notes tucked in with the checks:
"We want Cardozo to beat those drums and step higher than any band for they represent D.C. and we are somebody" . . . "What you are doing as young, organized musicians and steppers is positive and progressive" . . . "I went to Ohio State University and I know the excitement of the Rose Bowl."
Others simply say, "Good luck, we are proud of you."
Some of the letters come from as far away as California and Mexico. Some misspell Cardozo. And some come with no return address so contributors cannot be thanked.
Although only 85 band members appear at events because that's all the uniforms they have, Gill said the band is now reaping the benefits of the many appearances it has made at Redskin games and other events throughout the area in the last 10 years.
The financially strapped public school system is not contributing any money directly to the trip, but Superintendent Vincent E. Reed has worked with private organizations to help raise funds.
The students have been asked to contribute $250 toward their trip and new uniforms, Gill said. Sixty-five of the students have paid in full while 100 have made partial payments, he said.
Contributors to the band include D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who gave $500 from his constituent services fund, civic associations, church groups and music lovers.
Sen. S. I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.) sent a contribution. So did CIA director Stansfield Turner and some mebers of the City Council and school board.
Almost $30,000 has come from contributions exceeding $500, including $2,000 each from the Hechinger company, McDonald's, the Region V Advisory Council, the Strong Foundation and The Washington Post. Xerox and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority have each given $1,000.
The largest single contribution -- $4,000 -- has come from the Black Retailers Action Group, an organization of department store executives, but Kiwanis Club members have given a total of $8,000. But for every well-known name on the contribution lists there are dozens of ordinary citizens.
"I had one woman who sent me 50 cents," said Hinton, whose fund-raising committee mailed out 15,000 letters asking for help."
"We're very grateful for the small contributions," she said. "We don't care how small they are."