Brixner Junior High School students are doing yard work, picking up trash, and helping at the local food bank and other organizations. Every hour they contribute to their community, they raise money to help 8-year-old Caiden.
The school started its first Sparrow Club last month and students have adopted Caiden Zimmermann of Klamath Falls as their “sparrow.” The goal is to provide emotional and financial support to Caiden and his family through community service and fundraisers. A Sparrow Club sponsor donates money to the family for the community service hours Brixner students log in Caiden’s name.
Caiden, a second-grader at Conger Elementary School, has a form of muscular dystrophy that causes his muscles to break down and weaken over time. He wears braces on his legs and feet, and often uses a scooter to get around. But that doesn’t stop from being involved in sports, building Legos, and playing video games. Brixner students earlier this month organized a weeklong coin drive that raised $862 to help the Zimmermann family with medical expenses. Caiden accepted an enlarged check and a handmade sign declaring “Do it for Caiden!” at an all-school assembly last week. Caiden was joined by his parents, Cinthia and Keith Zimmermann, and his three younger siblings.
Kaitlynn Anderson, an eighth-grader involved in student leadership, is among students who have already logged community service hours in addition to participating in the coin drive. Leadership students are not new to community service, but being part of a Sparrow Club adds meaning. “I think having Caiden as our sparrow gives us more motivation,” Kaitlynn said. “We have the satisfaction of doing it for someone else.”
With the help of Sparrow Clubs National Program Director Matt Sampson, Brixner students welcomed Caiden as their "sparrow” during an assembly in late January. Sampson attended Brixner from 1987 to 1989, and was pleased to help his alma mater launch its first Sparrow Club. "Brixner students rose to the occasion … as they showered their first Sparrow, 8-year-old Caiden, with love, compassion, cheers, and a standing ovation," he wrote in his Facebook account that he shared with the school. "I am so incredibly proud of these amazing students and the commitment they made today to step into Caiden’s journey … and make a difference in his life."
Student Council members, along with teacher and advisor Kjaersti Roberts, are leading the way. As part of Sparrow Clubs, the school pledges to complete at least 256 hours of community service. Students fill out and turn in vouchers for their hours, and a sponsor then matches those hours with a cash donation to the Zimmermann family. The Brixner club is sponsored by the Arthur R. Dubs Foundation, which formed in 1996 to honor and perpetuate the legacy of Arthur R. Dubs, an outdoorsman, filmmaker and philanthropist.
Fundraisers are optional, but Brixner students are already planning more. “The students did an amazing job with the coin drive,” said Leslie Garrett, principal of Brixner Junior High School “They are really empowered to donate to a great cause.” Student advisory classes are coming up with ideas for community service projects, and some students have already
turned in hours. “Everybody’s involved,” Garrett said. “The students are working on how to be kind and how to be a good community member. This fits right in.”
Cinthia Zimmermann said the family is thankful for the help, adding that they often travel to Portland for medical appointments. At the age of 5, Caiden was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. He often endures body aches and cramps and takes daily medication to help relieve his symptoms. According to information provided by Sparrow Clubs, the family is hoping at some point to install a ramp at the front of their house to accommodate Caiden’s scooter and to get a car carrier for the scooter, which would make it easier to transport.
“Sparrow Clubs not only provides financial and emotional support for children and their families in medical need, but also empowers kids (elementary to college age) to help others through charitable service in their communities,” according to the organization’s website. “The Sparrow Clubs program teaches life lessons in compassion and selflessness through building relationships between a Sparrow family, a school student body, and its community.
Sick kids get help, healthy kids become heroes, and communities experience change.”