(pictured above: a throwback image of the 100’s drummers.)
Since 1968, Courtney Saunders has been on the same mission – to encourage kids to do something positive.
It was that mission that led her to start the Marching 100’s, a well-known and respected youth drumming and cheering troupe.
“Over the years, there has been thousands of kids that have come through the Marching 100’s,” Saunders said. “They were a community group and everybody was invited to join. It was just like family. We need that now.”
Saunders is breathing new life into the troupe after several years of inactivity. She is seeking former Marching 100’s drummers and cheerleaders (Angels) to form a Marching 100’s and Angels Alumni Association that will help her recruit a new group of young drummers and dancers to carry on the Marching 100’s name and legacy.
“A lot of the children of today belong to children of the Marching 100’s … So many have called about getting back together,” Saunders said.
When she began the troupe, Saunders was a recent N.C. A&T graduate when she started working at the local YWCA; she was charged with starting new programs for teens.
“I just did not know which way to start. After being at A&T I decided that maybe we would start a marching group,” Saunders said.
She initially began recruiting girls between the ages of 12 and 18, guiding them through various cheer routines.
“We asked if we could march in the Winston Salem State University’s Homecoming parade and that just did not work. It looked awful,” Saunders said. “I said that it had to be a better way.”
The next year, Saunders asked parade officials to put the girls behind a band so that their moves would be guided by a steady beat. That went a little better.
“We struggled on like that for five years until I decided that we would add our own music,” said Saunders, who recruited young drummers (boys and girls) into the organization after scouring the city for used instruments.
The musicians made all the difference.
“We were so proud marching down the street,” Saunders said. “There was a song called ‘Alligator’ that we did in our red capes and red shorts. People were so impressed to see that many girls out there doing the same thing at the same time. After that everybody wanted to be in the Marching 100’s.”
Saunders is hoping to bring back that magic. Former Angel Vickie Robinson has signed on to help her. The Marching 100’s tradition runs in Robinson’s family, as her daughter participated in the group as well.
“I always felt like it was a Christian organization that taught young women how to be young women. It taught you not to lower your standards and to dress accordingly, opposed to walking around with everything showing and leaving nothing to the imagination.”
Robinson will volunteer to help both the alumni group and the new Marching 100’s take shape.
“We need something positive in the neighborhood after school for the kids,” she said.
Kevin Caldwell first participated in the group when he was 9.
“It was a good experience for me. It gave me something to do and kept me out of trouble,” Caldwell said.
He said he would be excited to participate in a reunion and that Saunders touched many lives with her generosity and kindness.
“It would be good to see how a lot of us turned out. Mrs. Saunders was a very positive person for us,” Caldwell said. “She had kids that were not so privileged, and she would work it out so that they could March as well. All of them, the volunteers, were like mother and father influences for us.”
Those interested in participating in the formation of the Marching 100’s and Angels Alumni Association are asked to meet at Christ Kingdom Building Worship Center, 3894 North Hampton Drive, on Saturday, June 21 at 2 p.m. Those interested in participating in the New Marching 100’s and Angels, which is for ages 5 to 18, should meet at Christ Kingdom on Saturday, June 28 from 2 to 5 p.m.