Members of the Batesburg-Leesville High School band are dreaming of a New Year’s Day in London and have been working their bassoons off to reach a $204,750 fundraising goal.

The Panther Band was invited to march in the 2015 New Year’s Day parade last year and has been holding various fundraisers to help pay for the trip.

Band director Dustin King said earlier this week that $76,000 had been raised so far.

King first learned about the possibility of the visit in 2012, after researching possible performance trips he thought would be good opportunities for the music students.

“I came across the London New Year’s Day Parade and learned that the Panther Band had participated in this event in 2001,” he said. “The individuals in charge of gathering marching bands from the U.S. to participate already knew of our band program from the previous performances in London and The Netherlands and were eager to have us re-apply.”

Batesburg-Leesville’s band was selected as one of 16 in the country, and the only one from South Carolina, after submitting recent videos and accomplishments. In February 2013, the Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster visited the school to present the official invitation.

The members are scheduled to leave Dec. 27 and return Jan. 3. During the stay, students will be immersed in British history and culture as they visit well-known landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and the town of Windsor, & the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. They also will tour various areas of the city that highlight different aspects of London, the royal family, the relationship between the US & UK, and the infamous Jack the Ripper.

King said this year’s on-field performance will be entitled “The Dark Queen,” in keeping with the theme of London and the history of the monarchy.

About 65 people will be making the London trip, which will cost $3,150 per person and includes transportation, housing, food, and sightseeing.

Fundraisers have included raffles for a week stay in a luxury mountain vacation home, a golf tournament, and various other sales. The band is planning at least two fundraisers each month leading up to a November deadline.

A PayPal account for donations, which will be offered as trip scholarships that students must apply and work for, has been set up, and a link can be found at

Checks also can be mailed to BLHS Band Boosters at BLHS Panther Band, 600 Summerland Ave., Batesburg, SC 29006.

“Any donation will help make this once in a lifetime opportunity possible for our students,” King said.

In support of good health

Gilbert High health science teacher Sharie Cato has received national recognition for promoting the development and progress of future health care leaders.

Cato recently received a regional Outstanding Service Award from the Health Occupations Students of America after claiming the statewide honor earlier this year.

The award is presented to a chapter adviser from each HOSA region in recognition of contributions at the local, regional, state and national levels to promote the development and progress of future health care leaders.

Cato was selected from teachers from 18 states for the regional award, which was presented during the 2014 HOSA National Leadership Conference in Orlando last month.

About Bertram Rantin

Bertram Rantin


Bertram Rantin is The State's metro columnist with a current focus on the inspirational people and community helpers in Columbia, SC, and the Midlands. Rantin has covered a variety of areas during his tenure at the newspaper including local government, schools, sports, features, transportation, volunteerism and non profits. Email Bertram at or call him at (803) 771-8306.

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