Salina They hang silently now, but the old Salina South and Central High School marching band uniforms filling Pat and Ron Gilbert's garage soon may return to the football stadium - as lap blankets.
Pat Gilbert is piecing together hand-tied stadium blankets and shoulder bags that use almost every part of the uniforms she purchased at a school surplus auction in June. She is taking orders to sell them to raise money for Relay for Life, an annual summer fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.
Gilbert, a breast cancer survivor, is passionate about her cause and has done various fundraising projects as part of a relay team since 2003. In the past, she's sold sack lunches to a civic club and made frozen, ready-to-bake apple pies.
But when high school band uniforms were advertised for sale, Gilbert's husband, Ron, suggested a new project for this year's fundraising effort.
"My husband said, 'Couldn't you make a quilt out of those or something?'" she said.
Gilbert bought one uniform from each school to see what she could come up with and was pleased with the results. Several parents of South or Central students who have purchased the blankets and bags as special graduation, birthday and Christmas gifts have been pleased as well.
"I've seen what she's done, and it's pretty amazing," said Central High band director Ben Rohrer. "She's doing some really cool things with both South and Central uniforms."
Lots of uniforms
Rohrer said Central replaced its uniforms about five years ago and hadn't had much luck selling them off individually, except for a couple that were bought for Halloween costumes.
When the uniforms were put in the school surplus auction this summer, Gilbert was the only bidder. At first the auctioneer sought bids for pieces of uniforms, but Gilbert needed both the pants and jacket for her creations and so she didn't bid.
"The auctioneer looked at me and said, 'Lady, if you won't buy 'em for that, in a minute we're going to have one hell of a sale,'" she said.
She ended up paying $100 for about 50 uniforms from Central High and 70 from South High.
"Everybody went, 'OK, is she nuts or what?'" Pat said.
It took four trips back and forth with the pickup truck to get the uniforms home, where Ron created a hanging apparatus using two ladders and a platform down the center of the garage. The uniforms came complete with hats in plastic boxes and feather plumes in cardboard tubes, which for now remain stacked underneath the rack of uniforms.
Another item the Gilberts purchased at the auction was a large, metal-topped table, which is where Pat cuts the uniforms into pieces.
Helping the band
Tamara Jones, color guard instructor for Central High, said Gilbert donated a blanket and a bag that will be used in a fundraiser for the band's trip to Disney World next year. She said she thinks the blankets would evoke a lot of good memories for students who were in the band.
"Sports gets the majority of attention, but that halftime entertainment kind of rounds out the flavor of the whole event," she said.
The Central High Booster Club and PTO have agreed to display samples of the bag and blanket and take orders at the 'Stang Shop during football games.
Putting it together
Jones said the uniforms, which feature a reversible overlay with team emblems worn under a black jacket, were worn for about 20 years. They were chosen to give the band a formal look for indoor concerts.
"We just thought it was absolutely unique," she said. "These kids remember these uniforms. They're so different from the ones worn now."
The blankets, which can be hung on a wall from the shoulder epaulets, utilize all of the decorative ornamentation from the uniform, as well as the black fabric of the pants. About the only piece that isn't used is the collar, Gilbert said. The suspenders of the pants serve as shoulder straps for the bags.
Friends, family and relay team members have been helping cut pieces for the blankets. One of them - Ruth Etta Berthelson, aunt of team member Donna Miller - inspired Pat to begin making the bags.
Gilbert said it takes about eight hours to make a blanket and two hours to make a bag.