MEDFORD, Ore.– As North Medford High School kicks off a new year, they are also met with heartbreaking news. Oregon Director of Sparrow Clubs, Matt Sampson, said the sparrow the school fought for twice, Jared Rameriz-Ponce, passed away.
Matt said, “You became part of his legacy and I know Jared made an impact on all of your lives.”
This year, Sparrow Clubs in Oregon is expanding by adding another director to launch clubs year-round in Central Oregon. The new hire made his way to Southern Oregon for training, but he has already taken flight.
The new director, Michael Leeland, told the students at North Medford, “I am here to empower you, to encourage you to make a difference in someone else’s life.
This is exactly how Sparrow Clubs was initially started. In 1992, there was an infant in desperate need. Nine month old Michael Leeland would have died without a $200,000 surgery. A 7th grader, Dameon Sharkey was willing to help.
Michael Leeland said, “He was the most picked on kid in that school. Even so, Dameon gave his whole life savings, $60 to his teacher, Jeff Leeland; Michael’s dad.
Leeland said Dameon was just a kid, doing what he thought was right. He said, “It sparked a level of compassion that he couldn’t have dreamed of.”
Dameon’s classmates, and Jeff’s students at the Seattle-Area junior high, all stepped up to help. Jeff’s $60 donation, quickly turned into $40,000. It was enough to help save Michael’s life, and launch Sparrow Clubs; which in turn saved hundreds more.
Today, the lesson Dameon taught, lives on.
Michael Leeland said, “One person, one person; it only takes one person to make a change in someone’s life.”
A lesson that Sparrow Clubs’ newest employee, Michael Leeland, the baby who inspired Sparrow Clubs, can now credit for his life a healthy adult.
He said, “If it wasn’t for one person who decided to stand up and make a difference, and decided to step in to make a difference, then I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Now just hired by Sparrow Clubs, to make that difference himself, Michael Leeland said, “I felt like it was a chance for me to pay it forward in a way, and continue to carry on Dameon’s legacy.”