April 23-29 marks National Volunteer Week. DCI.org takes a look this week at just a few of the many personalities that spend their time volunteering with drum corps. Contact any of the many drum corps out there to find out how you can become a volunteer. Name, hometown: Tommy Whitten, Madison, Ala. Which corps do you volunteer with, how did you get started and how long have you been at it? I work with Spirit from JSU. I started in 1998 when the corps was known as Spirit of Atlanta, and I got pulled into volunteering when my son became involved with the corps (contrabass 1998-2000, drum major 2001-2002). I started innocently enough serving the lunch meals during weekends while the corps was in all day rehearsals, and I later grew to a much more involved role when Spirit of Atlanta experienced some troubles in 2000. I served on the Friends of Spirit, Inc. board of directors until 2003 when I stepped down to pursue some personal goals. Although I was not an active on-site volunteer, I continued to help by coordinating shuttle arrangements for the students who were flying in for the camps. This year I rejoined the board, and I am looking forward to great things for Spirit.
What kind of work do you do with the corps? I continue to work as the point-of-contact to arrange for airport shuttles and I look forward to my general membership on the Friends of Spirit board. If time allows, I hope to be able to help as a volunteer at some of the Spirit-sponsored shows. What is your favorite part of being a volunteer? I really enjoy the fellowship of the other volunteers. I especially enjoy my relationship with the Spirit Alumni. Some of them have almost caught up with me with their age (and weight), and I am always impressed as to the loyalty they have for their corps and the fun time they have whenever they get together. What is the most difficult part of being a volunteer? The lack of time available to do more. If you truly get involved with a corps, you begin to feel the same sense of family that the students experience. You want to be there all of the time. Do you have any favorite memories or anecdotes from your years as a volunteer? I believe that the most difficult time, yet the most rewarding time, of my career as a drum corps volunteer was in 2000, when Spirit almost pulled out from touring. A group of dedicated volunteers formed Friends of Spirit, Inc. and took the corps on the road on a shoestring budget. It was inspiring to see the dedication of the corps members, the corps staff, the Spirit of Atlanta Alumni Association and all of the volunteers who worked so hard to get the corps through the tour. Against all odds, Spirit still was able to place respectfully in semifinals that year. What are you most looking forward to during the 2006 season? Seeing Spirit on the field performing late Saturday night. What advice do you have for those who would like to get involved as a volunteer with a corps? Do it! It will be hardest you have ever worked, yet it will be the most rewarding work you have ever done. Add anything else you'd like. Be careful, this activity is addictive.