Service Performance at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House for the 2019 Rose Parade
Award: Gold, 2020
My husband, Mike Sewell, was the director at Pickerington from 1981-2015 when he retired. Unfortunately he passed away suddenly in April of 2017. My family and our newly formed Foundation in Mike’s honor (The Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation) approached The Tournament of Roses about establishing a service award for a participating Rose Parade band each year in Mike’s honor. Mike took his Marching Tigers to the Rose Parade 4 times during his career. I approached the North and Central Band Directors about combining the bands to apply for the 2019 Parade to help honor Mike and kick off the award. Long story short…they were invited!
Since the Tournament of Roses Michael D. Sewell Service Through Music Award is awarded to a band that exemplifies service to school, community, and country….I shared with the directors that we as a combined band needed to find an activity/performance for the combined bands to give back to Pasadena while on our trip. During our “pre-parade” trip in December of 2017, we were made aware of the newly formed committee #bandcares that offered and arranged service performances/opportunities for participating Rose Parade bands. In fact, Lance Tibbet 2018 President, asked that we begin Mike’s award at his parade since his theme was Making a Difference. Since Mike’s number one saying was, “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time”…we knew we were on to something great!
In January of 2018 we worked with the Tournament of Roses and Music Committee liaison Tiffany Gardner (626-375-9981) to lock in a performance at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House. T of Roses was familiar with Central’s ongoing service work with our local Ronald McDonald House, and everyone felt this was a natural fit for the bands to give back while in Pasadena.
Our purpose was the following:
- To provide the bands an opportunity to give back to the Pasadena area while on their trip.
- To help raise awareness among the students, parents, and Pickerington community about this outreach and the ability to serve through their music.
To honor their former director by offering the opportunity to give the greatest gift they have to offer someone…their time.
The Foundation wanted to help ease the burden of the Pasadena RMDH since we were well aware of their budget limitations. While the Foundation is dedicated to helping local music and arts groups, we are also dedicated to raising awareness at the national and international level also. This performance gave us the chance to shine the light on an amazing music program. ALL the directors continue to install the importance of service to their students and keep Mike’s spirit of service alive.
- Pasadena Ronald McDonald House – visitors, staff, volunteers, and executive staff
The goal for this project was to provide entertainment and outreach to this group and all who are associated with it. In 2018 they provided over 5,489 overnight stays for families. Thousands also use the house on a daily basis as a “home away from home” area to take a break from treatments and appointments.
- Tournament of Roses – #bandcares Committee and also the President and Executive Committee. Community outreach is supported hugely by this organization. The opportunity this project offered the Pickerington Combined Bands was a once in a lifetime performance. The Music committee believes strongly in the participating bands using their music to “give back” while in the Pasadena area.
- The Pickerington Band Students & Staff were also part of the targeted audience. This was an amazing chance to offer community service at a national level. It was a project that helped the students take a local service passion for their Ronald MeDonald House and take it to the next level of commitment and service.
Overview of planning and execution process for this project
Tiffany Gardner (our music liaison and #bandcares rep) was crucial in obtaining our performance dates and time and establishing lines of communications. Once the date was locked in, most of the work for the bands performance kicked in during November 2018. The directors worked directly with the Ronald McDonald House to confirm times, parking/loading instructions, and what type of program they would like. I worked on behalf of the Foundation to head up the donation aspect of this project. We obtained a “Wish List” from the Pasadena House about items they needed and also decided to offer students, families, staff, and alumni the opportunity to donate gift cards. We posted this info about donations and performance opportunity on their trip website, emailed parents, and I used our Foundation pages and Pickerington Alumni Band social media contacts to spread the word.
Our band officers reached out to our National Honor Society students and got them involved in collecting pop tabs to donate.
We made sure to include this performance date in all press releases and got the word out to the local Columbus Media who were assigned to our group. All 3 channels attended this performance, filming features for the evening broadcast, and 1 broadcasted it live and interviewed students in real time.
We also had to make sure that the appropriate Tournament of Roses officials knew of this performance and our efforts, and they did an amazing job of posting pictures, tweeting, and plugging the event off of their official sites.
Our students and staff also made sure to post this performance and related pictures and the response from all over the country was huge.
Sponsors/charities/volunteers/ other groups involved in the project and the benefits to each.
- Pasadena Ronald McDonald House ( and all the RMDH locations) – This project helped them with stocking supplies, entertaining guest families and patients at a difficult time of year, and raising awareness for the Pasadena house. They received great media and social media attention, and we were able to spread the word nationwide about how many of these houses need support. Contrary to popular belief, McDonalds does not fully fund all these houses…many rely on donations for over 50% of their working budget. In a difficult time, this was a chance for a feel good moment on the last day of 2018.
- #bandcares and The Tournament of Roses
This group is passionate about service, and the fact that they created a committee dedicated solely in arranging and supervising service opportunities for participating Rose Parade bands is an excellent example of their commitment. The #bandcares performances help remind the entire world (because international bands participate too) just how hopeful we should be with the young people involved in these music programs. The Tourament of Roses gains tremendous good will and further outreach opportunities from these projects.
- The Pickerington Band Students and Staff also benefitted greatly from this project. In a time where they could share with everyone at home pictures of their trips to the beach, Hollywood hot spots, and Disney trips…these students also had the opportunity to share SERVING families and staff who certainly have more worries than they ever will. Theses students and staff learned the value of making time to give back through their music…they learned that it was important to pause and help, as well as celebrate their appearance in the 2019 Rose Parade. These band students combined to honor their deceased band director…and one of his number one teaching philosophy points was to use your music to serve. The students also had the opportunity with this project to show the Pickerington community how music UNITES them on and off the field. It is the one way for them to come together and represent Pickerington at the national level. This project also helped the students be an inspiration for future Rose Parade bands. Their work with #bandcares hopefully inspired bands waiting for their turn in 2020 and beyond.
Our community was aware of this service, but what was expressed to me immediately upon my arrival back in Pickerington after the trip was that they didn’t realize how important service and volunteering was to the students and staff overall. This project bumped their awareness of what the bands do through their music and I look for more support in our efforts this year.
These project and performance in Pasadena helped form a new relationship with the 3 local television stations. The reporters assigned to cover the Pickerington Bands were blown away with the spirit of giving and the poise and goals of these students. WE have included videos of their performance. These students won over the support of seasoned reporters. They even presented the reporters with wristbands to wear to support the band. I am sure when the bands reach out for coverage of future service events and fund raising efforts, they will have the support of their new “fans” from this project.
Theses students get it…along with this project they also helped raise $6,000 for the Puerto Rican Band who lost almost everything in Hurricane Maria…our donations helped purchase their shoes for the parade. The Foundation funded the woodwind reeds and slide and valve oil too. These band students know what it takes to give back, this was just an amazing opportunity to give back outside of Pickerington and Ohio and to salute their band director by giving of their time. I am very proud of their efforts to give back, even during a time when they were raising funds for their own trips.
Specific Budget Breakdown
The Sewell Foundation knew we wanted to support this project with a large “supply” donation so we shopped at a local $$$ store in Pasadena and delivered over $350 worth of items. We also provided the cards for the students to sign and wristbands for the residents with my husband’s favorite saying, “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”
The beauty of this project is once people knew who we were collecting for, their hearts and wallets opened up very quickly. AND…everyone in Ohio who couldn’t make it to Pasadena wanted to be a part of our outreach.
New or recurring project?New Project
Challenges/obstacles that were encountered
First, the band directors had to coordinate traveling with 400+ students and adults. We had to lock in performance day and time (Dec 31, 2018) and make sure the project & performance fit into all the travel prep and rehearsals. We had to work closely with our Tournament of Roses band liaison Tiffany Gardner to keep updated on all things performance related AND she was a huge help at arranging contacts for donations and public relations. We had to form a press release about this project and share in Ohio with community and local media, and coordinate at the national level before the bands arrived in Pasadena. The band directors also had to make several on site visits to confirm the performance area and the safety for the students and staff. The Pasadena Ronald McDonald House is located directly across from the Huntington Hospital, so we made sure to coordinate with them and also invite them to the performance. Making them aware and welcomed was crucial for total support of the project on performance day. We also had to figure out how to transport donations and items needed to Pasadena. We determined that the majority of items donated would be purchased and assembled in Pasadena, and luckily had the use of the bands semi-truck to transport some supplies. With OSU playing in the Rose Bowl, the bands received even more intense coverage. We spent many hours on the phone (directors and myself) coordinating arrival times and where they could interview students. It was interesting to have all 3 local channels, and even a few California stations, follow our students at this performance. The Buckeye football team brought extra luck to the bands! Another challenge with this project was funds and donations. Since I personally involved the bands and directors in this project, the Sewell Foundation Board felt it was important that we cover any costs. The City of Pickerington, Violet Township, and the Pickerington Schools were extremely generous in their support. We made sure to ear-mark money to support all this project.
Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?
First, the “time out” moment for the families and staff at the RMDH was the most valuable aspect of this day. The bands helped create a moment to just enjoy music, enjoy watching kids enjoy making music, AND we know that our donations helped the staff for many months into 2019. I cannot tell you how many times Hilary (their on site rep) and Pasadena staff thanked the students and directors. In the pictures included there are shots of her speaking surrounded by students and directors and posed in front of their sign. (*Also note that we were not permitted to include many pictures of the families watching due to medical release regulations). To know that our donations helped cover almost 3 months of just cleaning and living expenses was a great fact to pass along to the students.
The Tournament of Roses and #bandcares representatives were extremely happy in the success of this appearance. There was live coverage, social media coverage was all over their sites and sites in Ohio, and several Tournament members got to see the bands in “action” and interacting with the families and staff. In fact, it was shared with me that our group’s project could serve as a poster example for how to successfully participate in a #bandcares service event.
It was also a huge success for the students of both bands because they experienced this service together…no one knew if they were a Tiger or a Panther…and it helped them realize that making time to give back during this tremendous experience called the Rose Parade was a GREAT thing to do. I had many students share that next to turning the corner on Colorado Blvd. on Jan 1st, this was their favorite performance of the trip. It was a success in that it helped raise awareness with the PHS North students and other schools and administrators within our district. They had immediate confirmation via Facebook, Instagram, and phone calls from students and parents of the bands in action….and now we can channel that awareness into further support in Ohio during our efforts this fall for our Ronald McDonald House.
It was also a success in terms of establishing a new relationship with the Columbus television media. The 3 reporters assigned to the bands quickly became some of our biggest fans and we enjoyed sharing stories about home town service projects as well as activities in Pasadena. Our hope is that we can count on their support during future efforts to raise money and awareness for our Ronald McDonald House. The potential for outreach outside of just the Pickerington area could really help us grow our annual service project into an effort that involves all of Central Ohio. We could possibly challenge other area bands to collect for the RMDH and have some contests! Again…the biggest success was the students serving others.
Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?