Ideas can come from anything, including hugs. The idea of dedicating Dadeville High School marching band’s shows to late classmate and drumline member Owen Thomas came from color guard captain Anhiyzjah Thomas hugging Owen’s mother, Beth Ann Blackburn, at his funeral.
“When I hugged her it was like everything she was feeling I felt in her hug,” Thomas said. “So when I saw (band director Brandon Allen) I was like, ‘Owen is supposed to be with us on that field this year. We got to do something.’”
Owen Thomas died in a car accident June 22 when a truck he was in collided with a tree on Alabama Highway 49. Thomas played tenor drums in the Dadeville marching band and would have been a senior this year.
The marching band added orange ribbons to its uniforms this year to signify Owen Thomas. Orange was his favorite color and he played tenor drums in the band.
The band also dedicates every performance for him before it plays during halftime.
Senior majorette captain Savannah Freeman said her mother helped with the ribbon idea and felt the dedication is supposed to happen.
“I told everybody keep (the ribbons) on there and we’re just going to wear them every game because you’ve got to think he was going to be out there and now there’s a gap in the field,” Freeman said. “He was supposed to be right there and he’s not.”
Freeman said she also hugged Blackburn and could feel her pain and was motivated to do something.
By the time band camp started again at Dadeville, the students discussed dedicating the show with Allen, who said he couldn’t be prouder.
“It means the world because it shows me that, hey we really are having that family dynamic,” Allen said. “They even feel like this to say, ‘Hey, this is one of our own.’”
Allen described the band as a family and being in it meant being a family member.
“You mean something and when we lose one of our own like that we want to do something special,” Allen said.
Anhiyzjah Thomas said having the ribbons on the uniforms feels like Thomas is still there.
“Owen loved band so when we get out on the field, (we) just march for Owen, twirl for Owen, spin for Owen,” Thomas said. “He was that sweet person and Owen always came through for everybody. Whether he knew you or not he was willing to help you.”
Drumline section leader Nyketahia Canada teared up a little when it was announced the Sound of Gold would play for Thomas. She leads the section with pride, courage and seriousness.
“He was very helpful and he helped me too when I didn’t know a couple of things and that was very nice of him,” Canada said. “I’m going to lead the drumline by myself even though he would have been there with me and I’m going to lead in the way that he would have wanted me to.”
Knowing the band is honoring Thomas makes Canada a little happy.
“It’s a nice feeling because you know that you’re doing something to commemorate him and make it seem as if he’s still there with us, a part of a band and it’s heartfelt,” Canada said.
The band will release orange balloons in honor of Thomas at the Senior Night game.
“It wouldn’t be right (to not include him) because it was his senior year if we didn’t honor him in some type of way,” drum major Bobby Prather said.
Prather’s favorite memory of Thomas in marching band was when he fell with his bass drum, split his head open then continued like nothing happened.
“He got up and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me,’” Prather said. “And I was a rookie at the time and I was like, ‘This dude is crazy.’ But he was Owen; that’s how he was.”
The band’s show theme this year is Earth, Wind & Fire and it is performing songs “In the Stone,” “After the Love is Gone,” “Let’s Groove,” “Get Away” and “September.”
“(Thomas) was probably one of the most respectful people I ever talked to,” Allen said. “I can’t think of a single time I ever talked to him where he didn’t say, ‘Yes, sir; no, sir,’ never had to get onto him. If I ever told him, ‘Hey, can we do this?’ he was there. He was always willing to jump in.”