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COURTESY OF ASHLEY DIMEO BUCHAN, AB PHOTOGRAPHIX - Christian Grun, who is 17-months-old, is this year's Aloha High School Sparrow Club recipient. The students hope to raise $10,000 for Christian and his family.


Members of Aloha High School's Sparrow Club have a mission — to help the families of children with medical needs.

With that in mind, this year’s club is sponsoring Christian, a 17-month-old boy with a complicated medical condition. The club plans to help Christian’s family with medical bills or whatever else it might need to care for their boy.

The Aloha Sparrow Club will do that through fundraising efforts and some extensive community service, said Erin Livingston, who runs Aloha High’s Sparrow Club. Helping them out is the Safeway Foundation, an organization that will donate up to $2,560 if students perform 256 hours of community service.

“We’re going for 4,000 (community service hours) this year and our goal is $10,000,” said Livingston, who also runs the school’s Leadership Class and is the school’s activities coordinator as well. “The great thing about Sparrow is it goes to what (the family needs).”ERIN LIVINGSTON - Aloha High School cheerleaders get close to Christian Grun, this year's Sparrow Club recipient.

Christian’s life began with an extensive stay in the Doernbecher Children's Hospital neo-natal and pediatric ICU units.

“A lot of things about Christian are unknown,” said Riley Grun, Christian’s mother explained.

Grun said her son has a rare brain condition known as vein of Galen malformation. As a result of one of his treatments, he had a stroke, and he has cerebral palsy as a result of that stroke.

Grun and her husband Frank were introduced to Sparrow Clubs USA by a neighbor who was friends with Matt Sampson, the Oregon director of Sparrow Clubs USA. Grun said she was initially cautious about what the Sparrow Clubs were all about, but once Sampson explained to her that the program provides an opportunity “to develop compassion in high school students,” she saw just how valuable the club really was.

“After meeting Erin and the students at Aloha, we’re just really touched,” said Grun. “They’re just so impressive.”

Sparrow Club member Andrea Castillo said one way to help Christian is by hosting a Sparrow service day each week. The group had planned to host a photo op day known as “Cheesin’ with Christian” last Thursday but the young boy had to spend two days in the hospital due to a breathing problem, which was later resolved.

“He’s doing better now,” Christian’s mother pointed out.

Castillo said recent activities students have undertaken have included writing Valentine’s Day cards to Christian and his family. They also wrote cards to senior citizens at Maryville nursing home.

Castillo said Sparrow Club members also created 25 fleece blankets to donate to Matt’s Chemo Bags, an organization that gives the blankets and assorted toiletries to women with cancer on their first day of chemotherapy.

In addition, Castillo said the club was beautifying the school, something the custodial staff seemed to appreciate.

John Quinn, a ninth-grader who has been involved with the Sparrow Club for three years, said one of the past recipients of the club was Olivia. Olivia, Quinn’s second cousin, was a young girl who was suffering from the cancer Rhabdomyosarcoma, which had lodged in her bladder.

That year, the Sparrow Club raised $19,583 for the then 1-year-old, the most money ever collected by the Sparrow group.

Quinn said he feels good knowing that his work and fundraising efforts provide families with children in need enough money to get them to medical appointments or other uses.

Anna Martinez, also a three-year Sparrow Club member, said she had heard of Sparrow Club while still attending Mountain View Middle School because her sister was in Aloha High’s Leadership Class, which effectively doubles as the Sparrow Club.

“I like Sparrow Club because it’s all about volunteering,” said Martinez. “It’s different than other organizations because you’re actually working for the money.”

She said she enjoyed a recent fundraising movie night where almost 50 students packed into the school’s commons area to watch “Napoleon Dynamite.” Proceeds from that night totaled $120, all going to Christian, whom Martinez described as being “so cute.”

Stephanie Miller, who has also been involved with Sparrow Club for three years, donates her time to helping Christian’s family, babysitting his two other siblings Beatrice, 5, and Charlie, 4.

“When he goes to doctor’s appointments, I watch them,” she said.

Miller calls Christian’s family “amazing.”

Over the years, the Aloha Sparrow Club has been able to accomplish some amazing things, including buying a $10,000 wheelchair for last year’s “Sparrow.”

A March Madness basketball tour helped raise money for Christian’s family, and a 5K walk and run is planned for the future.

Livingston said the Sparrow Club will continue to hold fundraisers for Christian through April.

Earlier, Christian paid a visit to Aloha during an assembly, an experience that pretty much overwhelmed him because of all the attention he received, said Grun. Still, the young boy seemed to like the attention.

“That’s in part because Christian is a naturally joyful person,” said Grun.

Sometimes people will see Christian in a hospital corridor and say something to him. When a connection is made, Christian “reaches out his hand and touches them,” said Grun. There are some people who “get” Christian right off the bat, she observed.

As far as the Aloha Sparrow Club goes, Grun said she’s been impressed with everyone in it.

“Those kids blow my mind. They’re so driven, so kind. They’re impressive, impressive young people,” she added.

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