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Singing for a dream: East Lake High singers raising funds for Normandy trip

At Last. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

La Marseillaise.

Friday, the East Lake High Chorus was at the Barnes and Noble in Clearwater, singing these songs and others for their suppers.

Over the next few months, they'll be crooning for plane fare and hotel rooms as well.

The group of 31 students is raising money to pay expenses for a June 8-15 trip to France, where they will sing patriotic songs and 1940s hits on the beaches of Normandy during the 70th anniversary of D-day. It was the turning point of World War II when 150,000 troops invaded Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944.

"It's especially exciting because I have family members involved with the D-day landings. Luckily, they all survived," said Stephanie Hamilton, 16, of Clearwater.

Michela Sieman, 16, of Tarpon Springs, added: "It's amazing how many soldiers we lost, but it's an honor to sing for them."

More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded during the invasion.

While in France, the high school students will carol sacred songs at Notre Dame Cathedral, tour the Louvre Museum. They also will see the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.

The school's advanced placement history teacher, Alan Kay, will provide historical facts and interesting details before and during the trip.

But first each student has to raise $3,000 to cover his or her expenses.

A total of 50 people — students, teachers and parents — are going on the trip for a total price tag of $150,000.

They've raised $66,400 so far.

In years past, the East Lake chorus has performed at Carnegie Hall, Disney World and with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But this trip is extra special.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," choir director Rob Knabel told the group of onlookers at the bookstore. "These young people are working so hard to raise money to go."

Not only are they hard workers, but good students, too, he said. Their grade point averages range from 3.0 to 4.8.

Since October, they've spent after-school hours washing cars, selling candles, performing for groups and gathering donations at the Oldsmar Flea Market and in front of stores.

Future fundraisers include a March 14 skate night at Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs and a March 15 golf tournament at Lansbrook Golf Club. A spaghetti dinner will be held April 16 in the East Lake High School cafeteria.

Joshua Cilmi, 15, carries a picture of his great-grandfather, Harold Watts, on his cellphone.

"He's receiving a bronze star for his efforts in World War II," the Palm Harbor teen said as he displayed the digitized black-and-white photo. "I can't wait to learn more about D-day and sing in the Notre Dame Cathedral."

Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at

>>fast facts

How to help

Want to help send the choral students to Normandy?

Call East Lake High choral director Rob Knabel at (727) 515-1817.

Singing for a dream: East Lake High singers raising funds for Normandy trip 03/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 6:37pm]
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