02/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Little Drummer Boys: Troubled Teens Headed To DC To March In Inaugural Parade

BRANDON can't stop drumming.

After rehearsal, when his drum and sticks are packed away, he uses his hands -- on the table, on the floor, on the walls.

He drums in his room. He drums at meals. He drums with chunky fingers flying against his desk, even if the teacher shoots him a stern look. Brandon drums because on Tuesday he will march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, in the parade following the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

"That's such a big thing, to march and be there to see the first black president. Seriously. I'm a little nervous, but practicing will make me better," Brandon, 17, said the other day, with three rehearsals to go. "I see us doing great. People will like us."

It's an unbelievable, unlikely, undreamed-of honor for a boy like him and the 15 others who will be marching alongside him. They are residents of the Bonnie Brae Residential Treatment Center, a rural campus here housing 98 boys ages 8 to 18 who cannot live in the community at large because of what the state calls "psychiatric and behavioral challenges." Nearly 80 percent were abused, neglected or abandoned, and failed to adjust to traditional foster care. Fifteen percent do not have homes in the traditional sense and are wards of the state. Some ended up at Bonnie Brae because they got in trouble with the law. They stay an average of 16 months.