A group of 16 students from Richton Park's Rich South High School marching band made the nearly 4,000-mile trek to the London Games for their biggest performances yet. NBC Chicago's Lauren Jiggetts reports.
Nearly 4,000 miles away from south suburban Richton Park, the stars of the Rich South High School marching band brought Chicago style and music to the Olympics.
Performing this week on a stage in London's Victoria Park was the product of a massive year-long fundraising effort for the school. There were no big-time sponsors for the trip. It was largely funded by the generosity of family members, friends and neighbors.
"It was mainly our parents that went out looking for donation of money," said student Elijah Scott Christmas. "We went to our churches, we did random performances that would help us lower the prices to get here."
Only 16 of the band's 109 members headed to London to play at four different events in London for the Bedfordshire Consortium during the Olympics.
The school raised $35,000 of the $300,000 goal to send the whole band to the Games. The $35,000 was divided between the students, and those who raised $2,500 for their individual trip could go.
It's safe to say the effort was worth the reward.
"It was like, man, this is my first time being out of the country," said student Geoffrey Watts after the Victoria Park performance. "I was beyond excited to here."
"The people were really nice," said student Kyndle Hunter. "When we came in out of nowhere in our uniforms, the people would be like, 'Who are you guys, where are you guys from?' It made the experience 10 times better just the environment I was in."
As the band played in a London downpour this week, the crowd swelled.
"It was like we brought the energy, and everybody was like, 'Yeah, I like this,'" Hunter said. "It brought a smile to my face. At attention you can’t smile, but on the inside I just felt it, I just wanted to smile so much."
Y.L. Douglas, director of the Rich South High School band said in the end it was a gold-medal experience for the marching band stars.
"These are the best kids in the world," Douglas said. "I serve the best kids in the world. They come with so much energy, so much pride."