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Knox Co. school bands get $1.3M from Pilot, Haslam Family Foundation

10/31/2020 - Lauren Hoar

Pilot Flying J's gift of $650,000 includes a $50,000 donation to each high school's marching band program to purchase new or refreshed uniforms, instruments and/or equipment.


Pilot Flying J and the Haslam Family Foundation announced Thursday a $1.3 million donation to Knox County Schools to support the marching band programs and academics at each of the district's 13 high schools.

"This money that they're giving to our program will allow our bands to be able to buy new equipment for the band programs, it will also give them the opportunity to buy new uniforms as well as replace some of the uniforms if they don't need to buy a whole set," Walter Mencer, Music and Dance Specialist for Knox County Schools, said.

Pilot Flying J's gift of $650,000 includes a $50,000 donation to each high school's marching band program to purchase new or refreshed uniforms, instruments or equipment.

"We have other equipment that we need that we haven't been able to purchase so band directors will be able to do that with this generous gift that's coming from the Haslam Family Foundation and Pilot Flying J," Mencer said.

The Haslam Family Foundation is also donating an additional $650,000, with $50,000 going to each high school to invest in materials or activities that will enhance the academic experience and outcomes for students.

"In most systems, when they start looking at cuts, the programs that they start look at first are the arts. But here, the arts are very important to our kids and our principals and our administration, the superintendent realizes that this is a very important part of a kid's life," Mercer said.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas agrees.

"Our marching band programs enrich student participants through music education, discipline and teamwork, and they enhance our entire school communities through their performances. The matching investment in academics allows our schools to continue to pursue new, needed and creative ways to enhance learning for thousands of students," Thomas said.

Knox County Schools received a $10 million donation made by Pilot Flying J and the Haslam family in 2015 to refurbish and modernize the high school football fields over a 36-month period.

The gift included a $1.3 million investment in academic support, comprising $100,000 for each high school based on proposals from the school principals.

"The Haslam family is proud to call Knoxville both our home and the headquarters for our company," Pilot Flying J Director of Giving Back Will Haslam said.

The $50,000 for each school's marching band program will be awarded based on a one-page budget proposal from the band director.

Each high school principal also has submitted a budget proposal for the $50,000 donation toward academics, and those funds must be used for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

The gifts will be awarded by Pilot Flying J and the Haslam Family Foundation following approval from Knox County Schools Board of Education at the Sept. 13 meeting.

"Our family is energized by seeing young people excel in school, as well as sports, music and other team activities," Pilot Flying J Founder and Chairman Jim Haslam II said.

Pilot Flying J is a strong supporter of education at all levels. In addition to support for local schools, Pilot Flying J and the Haslam family have supported higher education, primarily through leading donations to the University of Tennessee. For more information about Pilot Flying J, visit

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