The Marching Royal Dukes took part in the “Marching for Hope” campaign with bands from Virginia Tech, University of Houston and Clemson University. 


While the JMU Marching Royal Dukes have a visible presence at football games, there’s more to their organization than just performing. Since the beginning of this semester, the MRDs have strived toward a goal of raising $25,000 for “Marching for Hope,” a campaign for marching bands to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a pediatric treatment and research facility focused on children’s diseases.

The MRDs took part in the campaign alongside the marching bands of Virginia Tech, the University of Houston and Clemson University.

“The MRDs historically try to support a few different things throughout each season,” Chase Maszle, a senior media arts and design major and communications and marketing manager for the MRDs, said. “This is one opportunity that we have really devoted our entire season toward supporting.”

For the past two seasons, the MRDs have supported the Special Olympics of Virginia, where sections of the band competed against each other to raise money for the organization, as well as the annual MRD food drive, which donated 16,000 pounds of food to a Blue Ridge Area Food Bank last year.

In addition to these philanthropic efforts, the MRDs wanted to contribute something on a larger scale that involved the entire JMU community this season.

“That was one of the first things that was said to marching band,” Ben Jackson, a freshman engineering major who plays tuba for the MRDs, said.  “It was actually around FROG week when it was first mentioned.”

Scott Rikkers, director of the MRDs, started preparing for this fundraiser well before the season started. Rikkers sent out an email several months ago announcing this campaign and how to get involved.

“That really put us in the mindset that this season wasn’t going to be completely about us,” Maszle said. “It wasn’t going to be completely about JMU. It was really about giving back.” 

Support from the university and community facilitated the idea of paying that same sort of support forward.

“The MRDs historically try to support a few different things throughout each season, but this is one opportunity that we have really devoted our entire season towards supporting,” Maszle said.

Similar efforts by the MRDs have included the 2012 “Marching for ALS” campaign, which was run by the same company the MRDs are currently working with.

It had been four years since their last large campaign, so Rikkers decided that St. Jude was a reputable institution that the MRDs could focus the 2016 season on.

“By doing a fundraiser like the St. Jude’s every so often allows us to refocus and set a good example for the community and also provide our students within the organization an opportunity to become philanthropists before they reach the real world,” Rikkers said.

The school’s efforts have paid off so far. As of Dec. 4, JMU has raised about $26,000 for St. Jude, Clemson has raised $12,917, VT has raised $9,826 and the University of Houston has raised $4,345.

Even with the immense fundraising and support that such a large project requires, Rikkers wasn’t concerned.

“The goal is simple,” Rikkers said. “Take an organization on campus that is one of the largest and most visible entities on campus to maximize our potential to give and to give back.”

The fundraising was done primarily by word-of-mouth and students publicizing a link on social media to donate to St. Jude’s website, as well as announcements during football games and information on the MRD website. 

It wasn’t just the MRDs and students who contributed. Family members of MRDs and JMU alumni were crucial to the last push for $25,000, as well as several Greek organizations.

Their goal date for the fundraiser was Nov. 18, the same day as a joint performance with the VT Marching Virginians at the Virginia Music Educators Association Conference in Hot Springs, Virginia. At the event, the MRDs were able to announce that they had reached their goal of $25,000.

“We are in it for the music and the marching but we’re also in it for supporting something bigger than ourselves,” Maszle said. 

Contact Matthew Sasser at

Matthew Sasser is a sophomore writing, rhetoric, and technical communication major. Beyond writing, he enjoys skateboarding, playing bass guitar, ultimate frisbee and is an avid Taco Bell enthusiast.