Friends and family of Mike Sewell, the late former Pickerington band director, will be host to a celebration of his life this weekend that also will kick off a major fundraising campaign for a float for the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade.
Almost a year after her husband died April 15, 2017, Karen Sewell said she still has difficult days and she expects she always will.
But even more abundant than her sadness is her memory and reminders of the impact her husband had on the lives of students during his 38 years as a teacher, which included taking his Pickerington High School and Pickerington High School Central marching bands to four Tournament of Roses Parades in Pasadena, California.
The Michael D. Sewell Memorial Foundation was established to provide financial assistance to arts programs and projects throughout the Pickerington area.
Foundation officials said they have been invited to have their own float in the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade.
The bands from PHS Central and PHS North will march in the parade together as the Pickerington High School Marching Band.
Sewell intends to use the float to honor her husband and "music educators around the world" who have provided their time and service to their students and community.
In order to make that dream a reality, the foundation must raise $125,000 by June 1, to show parade organizers they have the ability to pay the $200,000 needed to build and enter a float.
So, Sewell and foundation members have organized a "Sewellabration" for 7 p.m., Sunday, April 22, at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 268 Hill Road North.
The event will serve as another opportunity for former students, friends and the community to celebrate the late music director, while also kicking off the float fundraising campaign.
"We're going for whimsical and fun," Sewell said of the float being designed. "I think that would embody kind of what Mike was.
"There will probably be a lot of purple on it, and we're saying 'thank you' to music educators and the people that support them."
Sewell said her husband's dedication to "service through music" and his penchant for saying, "the greatest gift you can give someone is your time" will be the inspirations for the float.
To get it rolling, the Sewellabration will feature some of the band director's favorites, such as desserts, and remarks by special guests.
Music, of course, also will be prominently featured, with performances from the Central and North jazz bands.
Doors to the event will open at 5:30 p.m.
"We're going to have some great music because what's a night without great music, and it's promoting the fundraiser for the parade float," Sewell said.
The Sewellabration will be free to attend, but there will be numerous opportunities to contribute to the float fundraiser.
Guests can purchase specialty items, there will be on-site T-shirt printing, the opportunity to sign messages to Pasadena and to record a short video clip honoring their favorite music educators,
There also will be a silent auction items, as well as live auction items that will include an Ohio State University football game day experience, from skull session to postgame with the OSU Marching Band.
Sewell said attendees also can visit her husband in the Memorial Gardens at Epiphany Lutheran Church and light a candle in his memory.
"We wanted this event and the float to raise awareness about music educators and the differences they make," she said.
"A year has passed, and Mike's still doing good, and the comfort I get from having all of these former students and colleagues around helps me get through the next week."
If the foundation is successful in entering a float in the Rose Parade, its entry will coincide with the Tournament of Roses' establishment of the Michael B. Sewell Service Through Music Award, which will be given to a parade marching band that exhibits service through music.
Larry Schalk and Jim Kuebler provided the vision for a float that honors Sewell, as well as other like-minded music educators, Karen Sewell said.
"This float is all about America's music educators," Kuebler said. "It is a tribute to an amazing group of dedicated, hard-working teachers.
"Mike Sewell had a huge impact on his students in shaping their character, their values and in becoming better citizens," Kuebler said. "I know because my wife and I had five kids in his bands."
Kuebler said the world has "thousands of music educators like Mike who have had a profound, lasting, positive impact on their students," and the float is "a tribute to all those music educators in the country for all they have done and continue to do, working long hours with little or no recognition."
"They teach students so much more than music," he said. "They teach about hard work, dedication, team work, working for a goal bigger than themselves and giving back to their communities.
"I hope it is a way for people across the country to say 'thank you' to a music educator who was important to them or their child, and to give them the chance to reach out and tell that teacher, perhaps after several years, how much they value what they learned from them."
Additional information about the float and how to contribute to the fundraiser, is available at musicteacherfloat.org. Information about the Michael B. Sewell Foundation also is available on Facebook at facebook.com/MDSewellFoundation and via the Twitter handle @MDSewellFoundation.