VALRICO — The Bloomingdale High School Orchestra is $120,000 short of its fundraising goal and will send a smaller contingent to Beijing to perform at the International Youth Festival.
The orchestra's biggest fundraiser of the year — a March 25 concert and auction at the Tampa Theatre — brought in about $40,000, although the theater wasn't full, director SuLing Caballero said.
"How am I feeling about the fundraising? Overwhelmed, to say the least. Our main source for funding was sponsorship and the concert itself," Caballero said.
The fundraising stalled for several reasons, said Denise Plichta, the parent of one orchestra member. The leader of the fundraising effort quit to concentrate on his job, some pledges never materialized because of the weak economy, and business donations have been lighter than anticipated.
To make things worse, airline taxes and visa costs have hiked the price from $3,700 to almost $4,000 per student.
"We are basically relying on prayers at this point," Caballero said.
The deadline for final trip payments has come and gone. Twelve students have backed out, leaving 46 on the list for Beijing. That's not enough for a full orchestra, but Caballero said she'll work around it by rearranging pieces to fit their instrumentation.
The Youth Festival, held in June, is a prelude to the Olympic Games later in the summer.
"There are only four other American bands playing in Beijing, and Bloomingdale is the only high school. They should be proud," said Janeen Johnson, the parent of an orchestra member.
For the orchestra members who are going, parents will be putting up the money and trying to recoup it.
"We'll try to raise funds until we step on the plane to Beijing," Plichta said.