By ESTHER COVINGTO
Utah Valley Children’s Choir member Wendy Edwards saved money for almost a year to buy souvenirs on her 18-day choir tour in England. However, once arriving there, Wendy and the 149 other choir members found themselves spending money on buses and hotels they had already paid for.
The choir and the 53 tour chaperones have spent over $20,000 of personal funds to cover tour costs that the tour company, Camelot Encounters, in Bristol, England, had been paid to cover.
Sheryl Edwards, Wendy’s mother, said each choir member paid $1230 for the trip, which was to cover all expenses. This money, which totaled over $300,000, was sent to Camelot Encounters to take care of all expenses.
“The company has expended $144,000 for our tour, which paid for airplane tickets and a few other items. However, there is still over $90,000 which the company owes,” said Orem resident John Updike. Updike’s daughter and wife are on the tour with the choir.
Updike said the tour director contacted the company, and the owner admitted putting money into a personal business.
Updike said if the money is not returned within a few days, an attorney will be hired and a lawsuit will ensue.
Harry Purdy, an independent representative and consultant for the tour group, said he spent seven months with the choir director making arrangements and serving as the mediator between Camelot Encounters and the choir.
“I helped the choir set the agenda and coordinate changes for their tour. All the money I received, I sent directly to the company in England. What they did with the money, I do not know,” said Purdy in a telephone interview from his office in Kentucky.
Janice Kent, whose son, David, and husband, John, are on the tour, said her husband phoned her from England when he found out about the missing funds.
“The group arrived at the hotel in London to find there were no rooms reserved or paid for. Several chaperones paid for the rooms with their credit cards. Choir members paid for the buses with their spending money,” Kent said.
Updike said there has been a nationwide effort to raise money for the trip. “We have come up with $50,000 through our own funding and contributions from outsiders,” Updike said.
Updike said most contributions have come locally through a trust fund set up at Zions Bank, but he has also received contributions from other states.
“We received a donation from someone in Arizona who found out about it on the Internet. What’s interesting is the Internet page was created by someone in Massachusetts,” Updike said.
Kent said she and the members of the choir are very grateful for the contributions.
Updike said the lack of funds has been a problem for the choir, but the children are enjoying themselves regardless. “The children are still singing well and are having fun. This incident will make the trip more memorable for them,” Updike said.
The tour, which began in London on May 28, is scheduled for 16 days and will end on June 12. Planned events for the trip included tours of Cambridge, London, Stratford-on-Avon, the musical “Les Miserables” and other cities and sites.
Updike said all contributions are welcome and can be made at any Zions Bank. All contributions are tax deductible