For six years in a row, Tigard High School students have worked to make the world a better place.
And this year was no different, with students adopting 11-year-old Ellie Dummer of Sherwood for their annual Sparrow Club project. A spunky girl with a great sense of humor, Dummer was born with a heart defect and has endured four major surgeries; during the latest, her heart stopped twice.
"When I met Ellie, I have to tell you, she's one of the most resilient, amazing (girls) I ever met," said Laura Queen, who represents local Sparrow Clubs. "She lost the ability to walk. She lost the ability to talk. She lost the ability to eat and swallow and had to work really hard to regain those skills."
On Nov. 21, students rallied for the Dummer during an assembly kicking off a major fundraising drive to help the Dummer family — part of the Sparrow Club's goal of "empowering kids to help kids in medical need."
Queen pointed out that it's the 25th anniversary of Sparrow Clubs, noting that no one knew that a single act of kindness back in 1992 would create the ripple effect it did back then. That inaugural Sparrow Club moment involved a "big-hearted kid" named Dameon who emptied his piggy bank to help raise money for a younger student who needed a bone marrow transplant, ultimately raising $227,000 in four weeks.
"I think kids don't often realize what a difference they can make, and you think you have to have the best grades or (be) the most athletic and all those things — an amazing part of life, absolutely — but you have a chance through Sparrow Clubs and through your new Sparrow to matter right here, right now, today," Queen told the packed gymnasium.
That will be accomplished by helping out the through a variety of community service projects.
Cory Burket, director of franchising operations for Black Rock Coffee, which is the main sponsor of the project, praised the students for their efforts in helping Sherwood's Mya Muckey last year.
Last year, Tigard High students put in almost 852 hours of community service hours, raising $3,855 for Muckey, who was born with spina bifida and has endured more than 20 surgeries. Several months ago, Burket said, she had a very successful surgery that has improved her outlook.
Burket said Black Rock Coffee has put money in funds to be unlocked by the students.
"You know how that's done? It's done by community service. Every hour you do, unlocks money to Ellie and her family," he told students.
But the most important thing, Burket said, to is write a reflection on what it meant for each student to help out the young girl — who, by the way, loves Hershey's chocolate, Nutella and the color purple.
"Because at the end of the year, as you know, you will get to present all of those to the family and they'll get to read through the impact of Ellie's story and the impact her story had on you," he said. "Now, here's the thing: Ellie's story is not a story to feel sorry for. Ellie is not a charity case. Ellie's story is one of courage and strength."
Burket said students have a chance to do something great by doing something for someone else.
"You matter right where you sit, and here's what I discovered — that you can have the opportunity to make a greater significance by doing something great, and that is doing something else for someone around you. And again, through those acts of kindness, through those acts of service, you make an impact on Ellie's life, you make an impact on your community, and you make an impact on you as well," he said.
Asked if she was surprised by anything during the assembly, Ellie Dummer said she was prepared because Sparrow Club representatives had come to her house and given her a heads-up about what to expect.
"No, I knew it was going to happen," she said. "They came — we introduced them to Hobbs (the family dog), of course. He introduced himself to them."
But what really impressed her, Dummer said, was watching all the students contribute to the "Miracle Minute," in which buckets are passed up and down the bleachers and students put in whatever cash or change they had in their pockets to spare.
"I think it's cool," said the Middleton Elementary School fifth-grader.
Ellie Dummer's parents, Kevin and Shannon, said their daughter was doing well following the surgeries that were performed at both Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.
They were impressed to learn that the Tigard High football team donated money from a recent raffle to the Sparrow Club project.
Queen gave Ellie Dummer a good-natured warning about Tigard High students: "You need to be prepared to let them love you, because they were so excited you came today, and so they are going to do a ton of special stuff."
Meanwhile, both Sherwood High School and Sherwood and Laurel Ridge middle schools adopted two of their own Sparrow Club recipients in September.
Sherwood High School adopted Ella and the middle schools adopted Asher during kickoff assemblies Sept. 6 and 25, respectively.
Asher, a 6-year-old boy "whose laugh and smile simply light up a room," according to his biography, has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect. So far, he's had multiple heart surgeries -- the first being when he was only 2 days old – and will eventually need a heart transplant. Still, he enjoys all sports and loves playing video games as well as playing with his brothers and sisters.
Angi Scott, an advisor for the Sherwood Middle School Sparrow Club, said she and Tali Barrett, the advisor for the Laurel Ridge Middle School Sparrow Club, are trying to coordinate the community service efforts as much as possible in fund-raising efforts for Asher and his family.
"Our activities have mostly been during school hours which have included creating fall decorations for the assisted living centers in Sherwood -- Avamere and The Springs -- as well as creating cards for our veterans," said Scott. "In December, we will be having a hats, mittens, gloves, and sock drive to distribute out in Downtown Portland to those in need."
Students will put together the "warm kits" after school and Scott will deliver them over the break, she said. In addition, the Sherwood High School baseball coach recently held a fundraiser at Langers: Since 1879, inviting Asher and his family to participate.
Meanwhile, over at Sherwood High School, the Sparrow Club has adopted Ella, a 15-year-old girl who "radiates light, acceptance, perseverance and love."
Ella has a genetic neurological disease known as Rett Syndrome, which includes the disabling symptom apraxia, which affects motor skills. Communicating through an eye-gaze speaking device, Ella loves swimming, biking, horseback riding and other activities.
She likes to quote Robert M. Hensel who once said: "There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more."
Sarah Holtz, the advisor for the SHS Sparrow Club, said the club's first project was creating cards, letters and goodie bags for veterans at the annual Sherwood American Legion's Veterans Day Dinner. They are currently creating T-shirts and bracelets to benefit Ella.
"The club is looking to do a fundraiser every other month and on the other months, looking to do at least one Sparrow school-sponsored community service activity," said Holtz. "The Sparrow Club also advertises ways to the school that students can give back to the local community that count towards community service hours for Ella."
Business sponsors for the SHS Sparrow Club include Les Schwab Tires, INLINE Commercial Construction, Black Rock Coffee and 100 Women Who Care-Portland. The middle school sponsors are 100 Women Who Care Portland, the Bowmen Family Foundation and Northwest Restoration.
This year, Sherwood High School hosted a homecoming float that had the past three Sparrows and honored them after the game, said Queen.
Last year, high school students put in 1,135 hours of community service to raise $6,621 for their Sparrow, a spunky 3-year-old girl named Stella.
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