A Sparrow’s Smile
Promise Road Elementary School students learn the joy of caring
Promise Road Elementary School has 660 students and one honorary Promise Road Panther – Madison Sanders.While the Sanders family lives a half-mile away from the school in Noblesville – Madison and her younger brother, Kevin, live in the Hamilton Southeastern Schools district –Madison, who was born with spina bifida, is Promise Road’s Sparrow, a local peer in need of assistance with medical expenses.
“I think we have welcomed her here. We feel like she’s a student here and one of us,” fourth-grade student Blake Surface said.
Promise Road is the second Indiana school to establish a Sparrow Club, one that many students were interested in joining.
“It teaches good life skills,” Surface said.
“I love the Sparrow Club,” fifth-grade student Riley Russell said. “I wanted to join because I thought it would be a good opportunity to help people.”
Madison’s father, Kevin, said his family had received so much support from so many people, but having students assist his daughter was special.
“You not only gave Madison a better quality of life, you’ve lifted my spirits,” he told the students. “It’s been a blessing. I don’t know how else to say it.”
Madison loves people and being around them, her father said, adding that it was really neat to be a part of Sparrow Club.
“I wish they had it when I was younger,” he said. “Who knows where this will lead them?”
The Sparrow Club is a school/community partnership. Students volunteer to do community service projects to help a child with major medical needs. When they complete their community service, a community sponsor donates money to a fund established to help the child’s family with medical expenses.
“I’m so proud of what you are about to do. As you work really hard, you’ll be able to help Madison in various ways. As you do community service, I hope you have a lot of fun and it brings a smile to your face because you’ll be bringing a smile to Madison’s face,” Mark Robbins of Legacy Fund told the students.
Promise Road Principal Kelly Treinen was initially approached by Mary Sue Rowland and Carolyn Beardshear about the Sparrow Club, which began after a seventh-grade student emptied his bank account to help his teacher’s 9-month-old son, Michael, receive a lifesaving bone marrow transplant. As she listened to the story, Treinen was overcome with emotion as she thought of her own son, Michael, a three sport athlete in high school, who was diagnosed with acute myleoid leukemia three weeks before high school graduation on May 11, 2007. After five intensive chemotherapy treatments, Michael was officially cancer free on Dec. 11, 2007. Unfortunately, his remission did not last long and he relapsed on Jan. 25, 2008. Michael needed a bone marrow transplant to survive – matches were found immediately but due to insurance delays and the inability to get his cancer under control, Michael never got a transplant and died on May 25, 2008.
“It was our story in Oregon,” she said.
In addition to volunteering her school to sponsor a child in need, the Michael Treinen Foundation signed up to provide financial support.
“The community was so incredible when we were in need. There was always something more we wanted to do… This was something we needed to be a part of,” Treinen said.
As principal, Treinen is creating a foundation of community service and “paying it forward” in Promise Road’s inaugural year. While the school is required to complete 256 hours of community service, Treinen said the goal was for every student to provide one hour of service.
“Community service is a part of what we do,” she said. “We really try to build connections. We feel special they picked us to help her.”
The school is also selling “Hand in Hand we help Madison” bracelets for $1 thanks to financial support from the Michael Treinen Foundation.“It’s straight profit to help with her medical expenses,” Treinen said.
The community can assist by providing ideas and events that happen in Noblesville that her students can be involved in, Treinen said.
The main office of Sparrow Clubs USA is in Bend, Ore. The Indiana club was started approximately six months ago, centered in Noblesville by Mark Thornton and Dane Rowland. Rowland, a lifelong resident of Noblesville, said Indiana was the first club outside of Oregon.
“Sparrow Club gives a young person a chance to show they can do great things,” he said. “We wanted to get started in our community because that’s where our contacts are. The part we thought would be the easiest was the most difficult – finding families in need.”
A week after Promise Road kicked off its Sparrow Club, Noblesville West Middle School announced its new club and Legacy Christian School also is planning one. Rowland said the Indiana Sparrow Club had 12 schools participating in the 2013-14 calendar year.
“The community can assist by offering a sponsorship even in small increments. We need $4,060 to seed the program,” he said. “They can also help if they have a relationship with a school or teacher to liaison with a school to help a Sparrow Club.”
Madison Sanders is a beautiful, outgoing, 7-year-old girl who was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. Madison has developmental delays, physically and. She experiences multiple chronic medical problems that require much attention. Madison has developmental delays, physically and mentally, and needs frequent therapies. She can move around in her wheelchair but still needs help with nearly all of her daily living skills.
Madison wears leg braces and has made some improvements in walking. She wants to participate in all the activities her peers are doing, but her delays keep her from doing so. Despite her challenges, Madison is happy and stays positive. She enjoys arts and crafts, playing the piano, bike riding, swimming and reading. Her favorite foods are pizza and pasta. She enjoys watching “I Carly,” “Dora the Explorer” and “Mickey Mouse.”