A group of Mark Twain Middle School performers will have the opportunity of a lifetime when they travel to London, England to practice their craft as bell ringers at the Olympic Games this summer.
The Mark Twain Ringers received word earlier this month that a nearly year-long fundraising campaign to send the Mar Vista students to London had borne fruit.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if we would make it or not,” Mark Twain Middle School World Languages Magnet and Arts Academy Principal Rex Patton said. “But I relied on a lot of people and organizations who had helped me in the past.
“It was a real concerted effort by our staff and we’re thrilled that we reached our goal.”
Patton, a former principal at Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School in Venice, tapped donors that had assisted him in prior fundraising efforts such as Creative Artists Agency, The Carol and James Collins Foundation and Google, among others.
Two other well-known foundations also gave contributions but preferred to remain anonymous.
The school raised over $107,000 to send its students to London. For a group of students who have performed in many venues throughout the United States, the Olympics is the brass ring, director Ron Theile said last month.
“They call it their bucket list,” said Theile, who has taught bell ringing at Mark Twain since the club’s inception in 2000.
The ringers are comprised of approximately 30 students and sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders are part of the ensemble. They practice the English art known as hand bell ringing five days a week.
Patton said the students are excited about the impending trip oversees. “There is nothing better than the pride associated with something positive like this for students and their communities,” he said.
Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who was also involved in the fundraising effort, expressed his pleasure upon learning that the school had met its goal of sending the ringers to the Olympics.
“I am ecstatic that these musicians from Mark Twain Middle School will have a chance to share their wonderful talent on the world stage,” said Rosendahl. “These Venice-area, Title I students will be great ambassadors for the City of Angels at the London Games.”
Patton gave the councilman credit for helping get the school “over the top just within the past month.”
Rosendahl, who enlisted the help of the daughter of folk singer Arlo Guthrie, a family friend, to help with fundraising and publicity, said a swell of goodwill came from that effort.
“The energy that brings the good out in people cannot be overstated,” he said.
The two men have known each other since Patton was the principal at Coeur d’Alene in the mid-1990s.
Rosendahl, who lives in Mar Vista, said some of the children of his neighbors attend Mark Twain and the students, as well as their families, are his constituents.
“This is like a Cinderella story for many of these kids,” he said. “This is a Title I school and many of these children may have never been overseas, so this is a great story all the way around.”
On the heels of the news that they will be heading to London, the ringers will perform their spring music concert at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 24 at the middle school.
Patton hopes the city will recognize the young musicians as ambassadors from Los Angeles to the Olympic Games.
“The school is on the move and (the Ringers) will be great ambassadors for us,” he said.
Rosendahl said he would be meeting soon with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during municipal budget talks and promised to mention Patton’s suggestion to the mayor.
“I’ll see if he can appreciate having them designated as ambassadors,” the councilman said. “But whether the mayor does it or not, they are ambassadors for their school and for their community.”
All students and chaperones involved in entertainment in London will be housed in the residence halls at the University of Kent at Keynes Hall, during the 10 days that they will be performing in London, Patton said. They will play at venues such as Westminster Abbey in England and at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during the Olympics.
The principal said the students will depart for London July 31 and return Aug. 10.