CHARLOTTE — This Thanksgiving, the Charlotte Catholic High School marching band joined marching bands from across the country as part of the 2016 McDonald’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Chicago. More than 130 students and parents traveled with Timothy Cook, band director, for the prestigious parade performance and four-day sight-seeing tour of the Windy City.
The mile-long parade down Chicago’s State Street, which attracted more than 400,000 spectators and millions more viewing nationwide, included elaborate floats, equestrian units, giant inflatables and 16 marching bands.
Senior Drum Major Michael Gallucci recalled, “Interacting with other bands before the parade and with the crowd during the parade was an incredible amount of fun, and marching down State Street was an amazing spectacle.”
The band’s trip to the Thanksgiving Parade also featured a visit to a critical Chicago-area mission. The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels provides a Catholic presence in West Humboldt Park on Chicago’s west side, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
The mission provides food for more than 700 families every month, distributes gently-used clothing and household goods to those in need, and provides after school, evening and summer programs for approximately 900 youths and 30-40 seniors. Operated by Father Bob Lombardo, founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, and the Sisters of the Franciscans of the Eucharist, the mission is entirely funded by private contributions and outside donations.
The band students organized a school dress-down day fundraiser for the mission prior to their trip to Chicago. Every student at the school could earn a dress-down day by contributing $1 to the fundraiser.
During their visit to the mission, the band students presented a check for more than $1,600 from the fundraiser, and the Charlotte Catholic community donated several bags of gently-used clothing for the mission and new Charlotte Catholic High School sweatshirts for the sisters of the order. The students and chaperones were given a tour of the completely refurbished church and kitchens at the mission, the food pantries in the convent, and the neighborhood community center which the mission operates in conjunction with the YMCA.
The stark realities of life in the West Humboldt Park community made a deep impression on the band students.
Fundraiser organizers Tara Cash, a senior, and Melina Tirrell, a junior, said, “We thought the experience was very eye-opening. It made us feel more grateful for everything we have.”
They added, “Touring the mission was cool because we got to see where Father Bob and the sisters live and how their everyday lives differ from ours. We are happy that we got the chance to raise and donate money for them because they are giving their lives to help others.”
— Carolyn Tillman, Special to the Catholic News Herald. Carolyn Tillman is the assistant director in the advancement office at Charlotte Catholic High School.