Raiders 5K band fundraiser marks 40th anniversary of Germany sister-city relationship

Raiders 5K
Funds raised from the sixth annual Raiders 5K run, set for Nov. 4, will support SM South band students on their trip to Germany next summer. Photo submitted by Gina Horner

This year’s Raiders 5K fundraiser marks a few significant dates in Shawnee Mission school history.

Shawnee Mission South High School is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its foreign exchange program with a music school in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany. That same city is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its sister-city relationship with Overland Park.

Steve Adams, band director at Shawnee Mission South High School, said the music foreign exchange program is what spurred Overland Park to partner with Bietigheim-Bissingen as a sister city two decades ago.

The 5K run, which is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 4, at Shawnee Mission South High School, is the largest fundraiser for the band — and the most important for funding SM South band students’ trip to Germany next year.

Raiders 5K
The course begins and ends at Shawnee Mission South High School, with the SM South pep band and drumline spurring on participants along the way. Photo submitted by Gina Horner

Every four years, SM South band students travel to Germany for a short visit, and a group of German music students visit Overland Park in return, typically residing with families who have students in the SM South band.

The German students will visit SM South next spring, and the SM South students will travel to Germany in June. While staying here, the German students will perform at the Shawnee Mission District Symphonic Band concert alongside the symphonic bands from each of the five Shawnee Mission high schools.

Adams said he likes to think of the 5K fundraiser — the sixth of its kind — as “the healthiest way to support the band.”

The course starts at the football stadium and goes through Roe Park and Indian Creek, where participants will encounter the pep band spurring them onward. The last stretch of 5K ends with the hill leading up to school, the band’s drumline playing near the end of the course.

“Folks that have run this always have mentioned that they really like that part,” Adams added.

Funds raised from the 5K will also support other parts of the SM South program, as well as the homestay program to host roughly 70 to 80 German music students when they arrive in the spring. The fundraiser probably won’t cover the full expenses for the exchange program, but Adams hopes to raise at least $8,000.

Megan Hoelscher, the band director at Indian Woods Middle School who helped start the 5K fundraiser, said the community has been very generous, not just through the corporate sponsorships but in additional donations as well.

“A lot of the businesses are pitching in just to make this a really special event, because I think that they see the value in sustaining that sister-city relationship, and this fundraiser is a big part of that,” Hoelscher said. “We have enough corporate sponsorships that every single dollar of each registration goes right to our students. Half of all of our registration fees are going to cover the cost of the kids’ trip to go to Germany.”

Typically, about 250 runners and walkers participate, but not all of them are directly connected to the band. Their goal is 500 participants.

“What is really neat about this is though it does raise a lot of funds, it doesn’t feel like a fundraiser,” Adams said. “Some of them are competitive runners; some of them are just from our community; some just want to take a nice walk and support the band. It’s just a very feel-good event.”

To register, visit smsraiderband.org.