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Students surround their own Sparrow

Forest Grove High club members raise $9,500 for Cornelius girl with cancer


by: COURTESY PHOTO - Sparrow Club members at Forest Grove High School have taken 7-year-old Aaliyah Salgado of Cornelius, who has brain cancer, under their collective wing.Members of the Sparrow Club at Forest Grove High School proved you’re never too young to make a difference when they “adopted” a 7-year-old Cornelius girl with brain cancer and raised more than $9,500 to help with her medical and family needs.

With the motto, “Helping kids help kids in medical need,” the Bend-based Sparrow Clubs USA nonprofit has provided financial and emotional support for 385 critically ill children (referred to as Sparrows) and their families since 2005. It received national attention in 2011 when C.J. McPhail and his wife Lindsay, who had started a Sparrow Club chapter in Medford, Ore., were selected to have their home rebuilt on the TV reality series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Aaliyah, the daughter of Sergio and Yesenia Salgado, is the second Sparrow adopted by the 20-member Forest Grove High School club.

“I joined the Sparrow Club in 2010 when I was a freshman,” said senior and club co-president Natalie Brandt. “Our Sparrow was 9-year-old Jaden, who also had brain cancer. Aaliyah is the only child the club has adopted since 2010.”

Jaden Krieger tested “clean” two weeks ago, according to an online post by his mother.

The club’s adviser, Allison Marks, said Brandt and co-president Colby Johnston are responsible for revitalizing the nearly-dormant club.

Aaliyah’s cancer was diagnosed early in 2013, when treatment of severe headaches — one lasting two full days — led to the discovery of a baseball-sized malignant brain tumor. Since then Aaliyah has undergone eight surgeries, six rounds of chemotherapy and more than six weeks of radiation. Her father, Sergio Salgado, said, “she is doing much better. She had an MRI last week, and we will know by this Friday if she will need more treatment. She’s been going to physical therapy and is able to walk and climb stairs again.” by: COURTESY PHOTO - Aaliyah Salgado (center, in pink hat) poses with members of the Forest Grove High Sparrow Club at a Trail Blazers basketball game in Portland over the weekend.

Since Aaliyah’s adoption in January, club members have worked hard to raise funds for their Sparrow. “We’ve had two assemblies,” said Brandt. “At the first one, Amy Leeland, the daughter of the club’s co-founder, was our speaker. We raised $1,074 in less than a minute! The second assembly was called, ‘Save It, Or Shave It.’ Students and teachers were asked to donate, or have their heads shaved — we raised nearly $4,000.”

An additional $4,500 was raised during the Mr. Viking Pageant last Wednesday, organized by club member Bailey Becker for her senior project (See box).

While helping a child in need is the primary objective, Sparrow Clubs USA officials say the group’s other goal is to “infuse compassion, courage, character and conscience into youth and school culture.”

Each club is required to put in a minimum of 256 hours of community service on behalf of the Sparrow. Examples include performing acts of kindness for the Sparrow’s family, making crafts for a hospital, reading to a younger child and even cleaning kennels at the Humane Society. Doing chores for their parents doesn’t count, nor does paid babysitting.

Sparrow Club members have been affected by Aaliyah’s story in profound ways. “It’s great that such a small community like Forest Grove can get a group of people to come together for someone we didn’t necessarily know in the beginning,” said Arianna Vitacuo.

Alli Davis is grateful for the opportunity to “push our school outside of [students’] comfort zones, and they’ve really stepped up, which has been really beautiful.”

Jaclyn Turpin’s aunt has had cancer three times, and her stepmom is facing the disease right now. Involvement in the club, she said, “inspired me to help people who didn’t have the Shelp they have right now.” Likewise, Nora Cooper’s family has been touched by cancer. “I think it’s a really good thing for her to know that she’s supported by this entire school. And it makes me feel good that she’s having a better time while she’s sick. It’s really nice.”

Mayra Pentoja was inspired after the first assembly featuring the club’s current Sparrow.

“I saw how much it helped, and how happy the little girl got when she got money and help, and then I wanted to help,” she said.



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