A Message from Our Board Chair
To All Cadets Alumni, Supporters and Participants Past and Present
As a Cadets alumnus and someone who credits most of his life's success to The Cadets experience, I am deeply heartbroken by the painful decision to suspend The Cadets’ participation in the 2024 DCI tour.
When I began volunteering on this board three and a half years ago, I never imagined arriving in this place. At the same time, I am deeply moved by many of you who have offered tremendous support and concern for The Cadets’ future.
I have poured over the voluminous comments posted on social media over the past three days. Our announcement has produced many emotions of shock and confusion, raising questions such as, “How did this happen?” “Why didn’t you see this coming?” and “Why didn’t you ask the donors for more money before making this decision?” I understand and empathize with these reactions and want to start to answer those questions and provide additional background and perspective on this difficult decision.
The tenuous financial condition of The Cadets is not new nor a secret. The organization has two primary sources of funding: Member fees/tuition and donations. Member fees cover less than half of current-year expenses. Our donor base has historically provided a significant portion of the remaining, current-year funding need but not enough to cover the continually rising costs necessary to provide a quality experience for members, staff and volunteers. We developed and managed a balanced budget this past year, meaning our expected income equaled our expenses. We had no room for reserves and made operational decisions to cut costs, such as choosing less expensive staff/volunteer vehicles and using volunteer drivers. Other cuts included limiting staff size on tour and reducing most staff pay to minimum wage. I witnessed firsthand the negative impact of many of these expense cuts on the 2023 Cadets and concluded that this cannot continue. As a guiding principle, member, staff and volunteer safety cannot and will not be compromised. These experiences heavily influenced Friday’s decision during our regularly scheduled, annual Board Meeting.
The drum corps season is quite challenging with respect to the timing of member fees and the ability to anticipate actual expenses. The next season—2024, in this case—begins the minute DCI Finals scores are announced. Immediately, prospective members for the following year start purchasing audition packets under the assumption that the drum corps will be competing the following summer. Meanwhile, the reconciliation of last season’s expenses is not realized until the final bills arrive in September and October. It was only within the past week that the CAE Board reviewed the final results for the year and reached the painful conclusion that our income was insufficient to cover our expenses and that we had less cash on hand than our current debts and obligations. The moment that conclusion was reached, the board had an ethical responsibility to stop accepting money for the next season. The CAE Board made that decision Friday night, and we will now need to refund already collected fees for next year, in addition to addressing existing obligations.
Many supporters have asked what they can do to help recover and ensure The Cadets are on the field in 2024. To be clear, in addition to meeting existing obligations, The Cadets anticipate significant future investments and expenses, including a refurbished or new food truck; more funding to provide better transportation and additional, professional drivers; and improved housing, at a minimum. We must first meet existing obligations, then address future investments and establish reserves. Anyone who would like to help can donate at cadets.org/donate. Any donations received will be used first to address existing obligations and then applied toward future needs.
The CAE Board was already proactively working to solve this funding shortfall well before it reached this point. The decision to move the headquarters to Erie last spring was a first step in accessing and developing additional funding sources through new events and programming. Unfortunately, CAE could not develop those other funding sources fast enough. We will continue to reach out to outside experts for assistance.
I also want to comment on the timing of this decision with respect to Homecoming Weekend. This past weekend’s events were planned many months ago, including Friday night’s annual Board Meeting and BOD social event, Saturday’s and Hall of Fame induction event and Sunday’s mass. The board had to make and communicate its decision Friday night, for the ethical reasons mentioned, and then walk directly into an alumni and supporter event to address questions and feedback immediately. I was there in-person Friday night but had a family commitment in Michigan with my granddaughter the following day. In retrospect, I should have been in New Jersey throughout the weekend, but I chose to put my family first. I apologize for the negative impression that my actions left with some alumni and supporters.
The CAE Board will work over the next several weeks to develop a path forward and communicate additional information as decisions are made. Again, thank you for your feedback and support during these difficult times.
For Holy Name Shall ALWAYS Be,
CAE Board of Directors