“The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” –Bob Marley
By educating students about positive outcomes driven by acts of kindness, students not only learn that they can make a difference, but they also realize that they have a responsibility in life to be the good they wish to see in the world. Students benefit greatly from having a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of a community.
IPS students from William McKinley School 39 and Center For Inquiry (CFI) School 84 have wrapped their arms around local families and are serving as excellent role models for their peers within the district. 
Sparrow Clubs USA, founded in 1992, is an organization that promotes altruistic beliefs by empowering children to look beyond themselves for the sake of serving others in need. The Indiana chapter was established in 2012 after Indianapolis resident Mark Thornton was inspired by the benevolent acts of kindness from the Sparrow Club and its supporters. 
Schools that participate in the program provide financial support for critically ill children through fundraising efforts and other charitable services that are led by students. Once a school chooses a family to sponsor, students begin developing their giving campaigns and service learning plans to raise dollars. Each student documents their service hours and earns $10 per hour to support their Sparrow family; each school can perform up to 256 hours. Community partners can provide program support by funding service projects performed by the students.
William McKinley School 39 partnered with the Sparrow Club organization four years ago to support a family in need and has sponsored a family each year from that point. After adopting their newest Sparrow child Brittany Mitchell early in the month, the school has already raised over $350 to help support her family. Mitchell was born prematurely and faces several challenges. This is the ultimate learning experience for students, “The idea is that we’re not just fundraising – we are also doing community service – [the students] are [earning dollars] for their community service hours,” says Kathleen Miller, Principal of William McKinley School 39.
The newest IPS Sparrow Club participants, CFI 84, have recently adopted their first family. Fourteen-year-old Timithy Portell suffered from a stroke late last year that left him paralyzed from the neck down. CFI students kick-started their philanthropic efforts on a national day of peace, cooperation and humanity – Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Forty-six students and five parents joined together and gave 90 minutes of their time to support Timithy’s financial and medical needs. A total of $2,560 has been raised thus far for the Portell family.
“I hope [our students] feel a sense of empowerment, that they are able to help someone in need – this gives us the opportunity to spread kindness and compassion across our student body,” says Principal Miller.

Individuals, community leaders and schools that are interested in offering support to a family in need through a Sparrow Club sponsorship can contact Janie Thornton, Sparrow Club Indiana Regional Coordinator by email or call 317.714.6251.