Wreath honoring veterans also aiding students

By Linn Ann Huntington
Special to Hays Daily News
Donors helping to defray students’ expenses may submit the name of a military service member whose name will be written on one of the sunflower wreath’s petals.
Pam McGowne, staff accompanist for the Fort Hays Singers, holds the sunflower wreath designed to honor military veterans and active service members.  The wreath will be displayed permanently at Pearl Harbor, where the students will perform in December.

When members of the Fort Hays Singers return from their trip to Pearl Harbor next December, they will be leaving behind more than just the echoes of their music.

They will be leaving behind a sunflower wreath honoring both military veterans and active service members from all branches of the armed services.

The group, the top choral ensemble at Fort Hays State University, has been invited to perform for the 80th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Commemoration Concert Series Dec. 4-9.

The Fort Hays Singers are the only group invited from Kansas and will represent the state at the event. Terry Crull, director of choral activities at FHSU, said his 26 students would join about 500-600 other musicians, which will include bands as well as choirs.  Each ensemble will perform separately, he said.

The FHSU students will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the opening ceremony and will be performing other concerts while they are in Hawaii, he said.  

The trip is costing $2,500 for each of the students who will be going, and that’s where the sunflower wreath comes in.

Anyone donating funds to help defray the students’ expenses may have a service member’s name and branch of service written on one of the wreath’s petals. The wreath will be hung in the Kansas section of the Visitor’s Center at Pearl Harbor, where it will remain on display permanently.

Pam McGowne, staff accompanist for the Singers, said, “People can give money for any veteran, any time period, any branch of service, deceased or still living, and residing anywhere in the U.S.”

There is no minimum donation required, she said. The service member’s name and branch of service will be written on one of the wreath’s petals. World War II veterans will be designated with a gold star. People may honor multiple service members with one donation. 

The wreath was designed by Carol Staples of Flowers by Francis, 2424 A Vine St. Staples also donated her time and all materials needed to make the wreath.

McGowne said that in a normal year the students would be performing numerous concerts where they could set up tables seeking donations. 

But the pandemic has drastically reduced the number of concerts the students have been able to perform. So, a different type of fundraiser is being utilized, McGowne said. She added that individual students are also raising their own travel funds by doing yard work and painting jobs for community members.

The choir has been learning the music it will perform in a different way also. This past semester, half the choir has met on Mondays and half on Wednesdays, spaced out in Felten-Start Theatre in order to accomplish social distancing, McGowne said.

Both she and Crull are hoping the fall semester will mean that the choir can once again meet as an entire body in rehearsals.

Forms where donors can provide their honored veteran’s information are available at Facebook.com/forthayssingers.

Those simply wishing to make a donation may send a check made out to the FHSU Choirs to Attn.: Dr. Terry Crull, Malloy Hall, 600 Park St., Hays KS 67601.

The form notes: “This is a huge opportunity for the students and will offer them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to know history and experience the setting of it.”

McGowne said the wreath will be shipped ahead of time, “and we hope it will be hung at Pearl Harbor by the time we get there.”

She added that there is no deadline for adding a name to the wreath. “If we run out of flower petals, we will just add more,” she said.

More information is available from McGowne at (785) 635-2191 or pmcgowne@hotmail.com.