Marilyn Anderson likes to say it’s all about connections and how life is a big circle in explaining how Carl Sandburg Elementary School formed a “Sparrow Club” to help young twins who suffer from a rare medical disorder.
The Kirkland woman--who worked with her 30-year-old daughter at Sandburg’s “Extended Day” daycare--had been searching for a connection to complete one such life circle since last May.
That’s when her daughter Carly Anderson died in car crash along NE 131st Way, which winds up Finn Hill toward Sandburg Elementary. Carly was headed there that day to join her mother at work.
Marilyn calls Carly her “miracle” daughter – she was born with one kidney, had diabetes and was nearly blind in one eye, but stoically carved her own path in life. For months, Marilyn looked for some way to honor her daughter’s memory.
Then she heard about the Sparrow Clubs, a group of school-based clubs that provide financial and emotional help for children in medical crisis and their families, operated under the framework of a nonprofit based in Bend, OR.
How Marilyn learned about the Sparrow Clubs is itself a circle. She heard about it from friends, the parents of Dameon Sharkey, a Kirkland student with his own medical ailments. Before he died 12 years ago, Dameon sparked a chain-reaction fund-raising effort for a sick toddler with $60 in savings. Jeff Leeland, the father of that toddler (who is now a healthy 22-year-old), then launched the Sparrow Clubs. (Read Dameon’s story here.)
Sandburg and the associated Discovery Community School will hold the first fundraiser Tuesday night, a bake sale, for their “Sparrow Kids,” 22-month-old twins Logan and Kaleb Burn, the sons of Amber and Jason Burn of Kirkland. The twins were born five weeks early with Dravet Syndrome, a rare, progressive ailment marked by seizures, and accompanied by learning difficulties, behavioral problems and delays in language and motor skills. They will need care for the rest of their lives.
The twins and their mom attended the assembly earlier this month when the Sparrow Club was introduced to the students. “The kids were like, ‘ooh and aah,’” said principal Heather Frazier. “At the assembly the kids were trying to give me money.”
Part of the Sparrow Club program is for the kids to perform community service, and for each hour they earn a voucher -- “in memory of Carly Anderson” is printed on the back -- that represents existing funds raised for the family by the Cascade Running Club, which is also helping the twins.
“The whole point of kids helping kids is just great,” says Marilyn. “Carly never let you know (how she felt) about things. She had this attitude that things didn’t affect her. But she really was sensitive. She quietly accepted everyone and everything. I know she would be happy with this. I wanted something positive, something purposeful, to come out of losing her.”
The bake sale will be during a grand opening ceremony for Sandburg Elementary and Discovery Community School (Tuesday, Nov. 27, 6-7 p.m.), which were completely rebuilt over the last 18 months in an $18 million modernization project by the Lake Washington School District. All proceeds of the bake sale and other Sparrow Club efforts will go to the twins' family.
But the goal of the program is to benefit Sandburg students as well.
“There really is a larger lesson in people wanting to help people, especially children,” said Frazier, who noted that other schools in the district have Sparrow Clubs, including Peter Kirk Elementary in Kirkland. “There is a power that comes to every single student in helping a child.”
The Sparrow Club, she said, was a natural fit for Sandburg, which has long been known for its active PTSA and sense of community. “Like all great things, you can’t do it alone,” Frazier said. “There was strong support here because this community is known for helping each other.”
In other words, it’s known for connections and coming full circle.
A tree has been planted at Sandburg in Carly’s honor, and Marilyn Anderson also sports a butterfly tattoo on her right shoulder. Carly was a 2000 graduate of Juanita High, where she was known as one of the first female students to get tattoos--lots of them.
“My husband said, ‘She’s free as a butterfly now,’ and three other people said things like that. I’m the crazy butterfly lady now,” Anderson says with a smile. "That's not all coincidence, none of this is. She was my miracle, and I thank God for those 30 years.”