February 02, 2009 12:00 PM

Myeia Bautista sobbed with joy when she heard the Blue Eagles of South Cobb High School in Austell, Ga., were one of 103 groups picked to march in the Inauguration Day parade. But reality soon set in for the 16-year-old: “I knew we couldn’t afford it.” Many of her 94 bandmates faced the same dilemma: All told, it would cost $71,000 for buses, plus four nights of food and lodging.
But band director Zachary Cogdill told the students, “You worry about the music and the marching, let the adults worry about the money.” After word of their plight got out through a local radio show, funds poured in. Within two days all their expenses were covered. The outpouring proved inspirational during the next month of rehearsals—as was the parade. “This,” says senior Dana Sherer, 18, “is the dream of a lifetime.”

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