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Taking Flight: Dealing With Death

When Sparrows die, it impacts not only their families, but the students who have rallied around them. The last school year was especially tough, when three Sparrows’ lives were cut short.

Posted: Apr 3, 2015 1:04 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2021 5:14 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Jared Rameriz Ponce, Jack Dorr and Eva Sanchez - those children have become well known and well-loved throughout our community. They're the three Sparrows from the last school year who passed away.

When Sparrows die, it impacts not only their families, but the students who have rallied around them. The last school year was especially tough, when three Sparrows’ lives were cut short.

“The students have bonded with these kids, and for the child to pass away, it's a big blow for everybody,” says Matt Sampson, Sparrow Clubs Organizer.

A Sparrow dying is a reality hidden valley high school students know well.

“When she came I was really excited because I never knew I'd be helping someone out,” says student Azure.

In 2012, students adopted Caitlyn Lipolis, a 12-year-old battling bone cancer.

“She was such a strong happy person all the time,” says student Julleah. “And I knew when she made it through she was going to be okay.”

But Caitlyn didn't make it through. She passed away just weeks after her Sparrow adoption.

“It was a rainy day,” recalls Azure. “Something didn't seem right, everyone was really upset.”

“It was difficult being a 13 year old... And my friend just passed away,” Julleah says.

Caitlyn, the Sparrow they had been working for...was suddenly gone.

“There's no silver lining to it...there's really not,” Matt says. “There's no way to make it sound better, to tie it up in a little ribbon, death is horrible - especially when it happens with kids.  It's unnatural and it shouldn't happen, but it does."

It was a devastating loss. But students say they wouldn't have traded the chance to get to know Caitlyn and work for her.

"It was worth it to me because it put a smile on her face,” Azure says.

Although Caitlyn's fight ended, service for her didn't.

“It's hard to have to go through that and still everything keeps going and life keeps going even though your life is totally stopped - so we continued to sponsor them and give them money,” says Julleah.

An experience students say changed them for good.

"Sparrow Clubs was just a class before her - now I'm the president because I want to help so much," says Julleah.

A legacy in the form of students.

"Yes their life ended prematurely, and it's a tragedy,” Matt says. “But their life made a difference in the lives of all these other kids."

Sparrow Clubs says in situations like this many schools and districts have stepped up to offer counseling and have opened up classrooms for students to get away and just talk or journal about what they're dealing with.

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