Band director runs 415 miles to play at Sugar Bowl

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

ROANOKE – Mathew Goodman wants to make sure his students experience everything life has to offer despite financial barriers placed in front of them.

Goodman, band director at Handley High School in Roanoke, applied for his band to play at the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The group was selected by the Bowl Games of America to play during the contest between the Georgia Bulldogs and Texas Longhorns.

There’s only one problem — it costs about $80,000 for all the students, chaperones and instrument repair needed to make the trip.

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Goodman knew this was an opportunity he couldn’t let pass for his students from both Randolph and Chambers County, but needed an idea.

“I kept trying to figure out how to get the money,” he said. “In the process, I wanted the kids to understand that no matter how difficult something is, there is nothing more powerful than a made-up mind.”

He said he didn’t know what was going to happen, but he’s never quit anything before in his life.

On his planning period one day, the movie Forest Gump was on the television. There is a scene in the film where Tom Hanks’ character decides to run across several states, and his response to running so far was that he just felt like running. Goodman said, while watching that scene he decided that he would run all the way to New Orleans if it raised money for his band.

He said that his colleagues thought that would work, so he moved forward with it.

On Dec. 5, he left from the steps of Handley High School and embarked on his journey to New Orleans University, where he arrived on Dec. 18. He ran 415 miles.

“I wanted to gain the platform and get the coverage to help solicit donations for the kids,” Goodman told the Valley Times-News. “I didn’t want this great experience to be limited to just those kids who can afford it. I say this all the time, I truly think resources and opportunity in education should not be limited to a certain socioeconomic status.”

Goodman said he isn’t a runner naturally. He was an athlete in college, and he was running about 5 miles a day to lose weight, but not competitively. He started training by pushing his runs to 10 miles, then 20, then 30 miles.

Throughout the first couple days of the run and while still in East Alabama, he would catch a ride back to Roanoke to sleep and ice his legs. However, he said once he got to Selma, he started to stay in hotels.

As the word got around of his feat, parents of band members chipped in for a couple nights, a church provided shelter and other band directors who he didn’t know provided accommodations for a couple nights.

The shortest distance he ran in one day was 21 miles, and the greatest was 57 miles. He did walk some of the time, he said, but he was moving at all times.

Now, the band is leaving for New Orleans on Dec. 29. He raised about $30,000, and he said it cut the price in half for his students. For some who are still struggling, he is paying for some out of his pocket.

He said this isn’t for publicity, it’s because he wants kids to experience music and culture outside of where they were raised.

“I want to make sure that kids get experiences that they deserve through band and music,” he said. “I love my job, I love the kids and I love music. This wasn’t about me, and I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t think I taught the best kids in the world.”