LEROY - It’s a pretty amazing thing when any team qualifies to take part in the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals Competition, held annually in Knoxville, Tennessee.

It’s even more amazing when three teams from one school district here in Northern Michigan qualify. And for one team in particular from the Pine River Area School District, the fact that it did qualify at all and they really are going to the Globals is nothing short of a miracle.

To begin with, Pine River fielded 11 Destination ImagiNation teams this year. The teams included fourth through 12th graders willing to spend Saturdays, maybe Sundays, early mornings and many late evenings working hard in their non-school time to be ready for the first hurdle.

Imagine, in one category of competition building a two-foot by two-foot tower that stands eight feet tall. Imagine putting the whole thing in a box only 20 inches high, wide and long.

Also imagine being part of a team that can whip open that box, build that tower, remove the items then on top of it without being able to see them, and put them in a five-foot pool and replace what’s in the pool on top of the tower. Disassemble the structure, and put everything back into that same 20-inch high, wide and long box.

All 11 Pine River Area School District teams went to the Regionals in Muskegon. Nine teams qualified for State competition at Holt.

One team brought home the first place trophy from State and a sure spot in the Global Finals. That middle level team was managed by Steve Blackrick and Terry Beaudet. A Pine River senior high team managed by Edie McCarty qualified as well.

A third Pine River team deep down really believed they had a faster time than one originally announced as heading for Global competition.

Then the call came a day or so later from their team manager, Susan Stoll. A computer glitch failed to break down the times smaller whole numbers. Once the times were computed correctly, they were going to Tennessee. They secured their spot at Globals by only eight-tenths of a second.

This same team did fund-raising to help them get to Regionals and State, and the entire school system continues to band together to help them all get to the Global Finals.

They have only a couple of weeks to come up with the $15,000 needed to transport, provide lodging, feed, and tend to other needs of the 19 students who qualified, their chaperones and coaches when they head off for a four-day stay at the 33rd annual Globals in Knoxville.

No easy task.

Competition? Exciting and hopeful are the way these youngsters describe thoughts of going Global. For four students, it’s their first time ever. This is the second year for three, third for two, sixth for three, and would you believe, four students have gone to Globals seven times. One team took tenth, another 33rd.

Every state will have teams there, and 14 countries will be represented.

“To say it’s exciting is to understate the feeling,” Cosgrove noted. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Each DI team has to do a community project as part of the program. Susan Stoll’s team raised $2,066 and donated it to the Crossroads Radiation Center in Reed City in memory of Pine River High School coach Cecil Burch who died of cancer a few months back.

Can they raise $15,000 in a couple weeks? They say yes. She said the community has been fantastic, and the kids have been selling root beer floats at school and having bake sales.

The bigger picture though, “is what we all gain because of what these kids do,” Cosgrove said.

Wade Fullerton who is part of the Pine River Middle School team that took first in State competition summed it up. “My cousin asked me what score I thought we got, and I said, ‘First, I think.’ He laughed. And we were!”

Asked about Global? “We’re number one.” He added that Global will be “less stressful.”

Asked how he could possibly say that, he grinned and said, “You don’t have to worry about going any farther and when you get there you already know you’re really good!”