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Rock Creek, La Salle Prep students do community service to raise funds for medically fragile kids

Sparrow Clubs USA is a Bend-based nonprofit organization that partners schools nationwide with medically fragile children who need financial assistance. In its 25-year history, Sparrow Clubs USA has raised $7 million to help 1,250 kids.

To raise funds, Sparrow Clubs USA partners schools with businesses to incentivize kids to adopt a medically frail child and earn money by volunteering.

Laura Queen, Portland coordinator for Sparrow Clubs USA, challenges students to work one hour of community service and in return local businesses pledged to donate $10 for every hour worked.

"Throughout the year, funds will be allocated to the family as students complete their community service vouchers. Local businesses put up the seed money to pay for the kids' service hours, up to 260 hours. That money can be accessed to pay for medical bills and other ancillary costs the family might incur. Additional fundraising is optional for the school, but if a school does, then those monies are also placed into the family's Sparrow account for them to access," Queen said.

The students understand that their service hour must be in the community rather than at home. Simply cleaning their room or doing other at-home chores is not accepted. The point is for students to get out and talk with neighbors or businesses and explain why they are performing community service.

Rock Creek Middle School

On Jan. 13, 920 students at Rock Creek Middle School adopted 15-month-old Amelia Huggins, who is battling acute promyelocytic leukemia (APML), a rare subtype of acute myeloid leukemia. Amelia was diagnosed during a regular well-baby checkup.

A blood test suggested she was anemic, but when doctors received the results of the second blood test, they were able to diagnose the leukemia. Amelia was sent to Randall Children's Hospital immediately where she received a blood transfusion, spinal tap and PICC line eventually spending four weeks in the hospital.

She is responding well to chemotherapy, which she will have seven days a week and intravenous infusions five days a week until summer. Through it all, the sweet girl loves to smile and play with her older siblings.

"The community has surprised us in the best way possible. We recently moved to the area and had just begun planting our roots before Amelia was diagnosed. The community has gone above and beyond as far as helping with our family's needs," said mom Alisha Huggins.

"It's so refreshing to see that there is so much good out in the world, and we're thankful for all of those who have helped us, even those whom we've never met. We were absolutely taken back by how much the kids were inspired. It was touching to see the children's reactions to Amelia's story and their willingness to help contribute and give their time to help Amelia and her fight with leukemia."

Now in their third adoption in as many years, Rock Creek Middle School's continued support of Sparrow Clubs USA is unanimous.

"Our involvement encourages students to take action on a cause bigger than themselves, and to raise funds for an individual in need," said Vice Principal Aaron Moreno. "The value it adds to our staff and students, as well as the community is priceless. We believe the experience our students have combined with action will produce lifelong results of serving our community. Sparrow Clubs is a cause close to our hearts. We are a community of learners, we are a community that cares, and we are a community that serves."

La Salle Prep

Jan. 24 was the adoption day for Taran Dodge, an 8-year-old who loves books, music, his iPad and playing with other kids or his dog Fanny Pack.

Taran was born with his intestines outside of his body. In his first week of life, Taran underwent five surgeries and spent the next five months of his life in the hospital where doctors were able to create a working intestinal system for the infant.

During this time, he became septic several times and likely suffered a brain injury that led to dystonic cerebral palsy.

Even though Taran has endured 30 surgeries, cannot hold his head up, has no hand function and cannot walk, he continues to laugh and play with a big smile. His 22-year-old brother Asa is his caregiver.

COURTESY PHOTO - La Salle Prep conducted a Jan. 24 adoption day for Taran Dodge, 8, who  was born with his intestines outside of his body."Having La Salle adopt Taran means everything to us," said Taran's mother Kelsey Smith. "Getting to know Taran gives people insight into the disability world. His smile and happy demeanor help them with misgivings toward severely disabled people, and the more people take the time to get to know him, the more they come to understand how he is really just a little boy, same as all the others.

"He wants friends and fun, and love and acceptance. He wants to play and be played with. He wants to learn and to teach," she said. "He is a remarkable little boy who has endured more in his short life than anyone I have ever met, and yet he still smiles and finds delight in the simplest of things."

La Salle Director of Service Sarah Maher said the program is teaching the student body of 704 students how to see dignity in others.

"Life and dignity of the human person is the root of all Catholic schools and that dignity lies with each person," Maher said. "Taran being nonverbal and wheelchair bound doesn't replace the dignity he deserves."

The students enthusiastically welcomed Taran at the adoption assembly and are planning to do more than just raise money for his medical needs; they are including him at many of the school's events such as basketball games and dances.

La Salle junior Dakota Canzano said she thought the program will teach students to "see through their hearts."

"As teens in high school, we are quick to judge," she said. "This will open people's eyes."

Learn more by visiting sparrowclubs.org.


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