Summit High School Senior Boys in Bend, Oregon Practice for Mr. Thunder Pageant, a Fundraiser for Sparrow Club


(Photo above by Morgan Doyscher)

Every Thursday night, in the Summit High School weight room, ten senior boys meet to practice. Joking amongst themselves and laughing easily, they congregate and warm up. The boys represent the best Summit has to offer: multiple editors of the school newspaper limber up next to multi-sport team captains. A speech and debate champion ties his shoes as a tennis star swings his arms. They aren’t there to lift, however; they’re there to dance.

They start in a “V” formation, kneeling and spring up row by row, striking poses at their own reflections in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors. As A Little Party Never Killed Nobody by Fergie comes in, a thumping Gatsby-esque techno-swing number, they peel out, transferring weight from one foot to another before breaking out into a wild collective charleston. The dance is meant to evoke the decades: this particular number represents the twenties.

The weeks of practices and rehearsals will culminate April 29, in the Summit High School auditorium, at the Mr. Thunder pageant. For the last month the seniors, who are all Mr. Thunder candidates and of which I am one, have been devoting every spare moment of their lives to raising as much money as possible. We will continue to do so until that date, the culmination of our respective campaigns. Although the dance is fun and certainly an audience favorite, it is not the primary reason we choose to do this.

The pageant is tied to Sparrow Club, which exists not only at Summit but in schools and community organizations across Washington and Oregon. Sparrow Clubs are operated through Sparrow Clubs USA, a Bend-based charity organization which matches sick kids with schools and organizations who raise money for their medical care.

Sparrow Clubs USA got its start spontaneously, when a teacher at Kamakian Junior High in Kirkland, Washington, found himself without means to afford his nine-month-old son’s life saving bone marrow transplant. Spurred by the small donation of one seventh grader, the school and community rallied and together raised the cost of the procedure in excess. The charity, recognizing the great need of many families in similar positions, was founded to lay the groundwork for such grassroots works of good to occur across the state and beyond. It is in this spirit that the Summit Sparrow Club seeks to raise money for our sparrow, Kirabella.

Precocious and adorable, Kirabella’s positive attitude and courage are genuinely inspirational. Kirabella, who the Summit Sparrow Club adopted for the 2014-15 school year, has Tick Borne Relapsing Fever, a condition with an obscurity belying the fact that she, all of seven years old, has the only case ever recorded in a child. Her case is being handled by the head of pediatrics at Yale Medical School.

Kirabella loves dinosaurs, doing art and playing the electric guitar. She also must receive in-home IV treatment every six hours. This is a duality of life that no one, and especially no child, should ever have to experience. With this in mind, Summit Sparrow Club moves to raise as much money to help her and her family as possible.

This is where the Mr. Thunder pageant comes in: every year, the student body and teachers vote on the senior boys they think will ardently compete to raise the most money for the sparrow. Every year, the pageant raises an unprecedented amount.

A fundraising pageant is not original to Summit; Bend High has Mr. BSH and Mountain View has the Cougar Pageant. As Summit began becoming an active community presence, we emulated our peers and thus Mr. Thunder was born.

We’ve come a long way since then. The Summit Sparrow Club has broken records and the pageant is largely to thank. Thanks to the passion of the Bend community and the generosity of local businesses, doing annual good in the life of a child is quickly becoming a Bend institution.

This is where you can come in, if you so choose. I’m a Thunder boy; I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask you for money. But I do so without shame. When victory means raising the most money for Kirabella, doing the most I possibly can to help, I have no problem getting competitive. Ten graceless 18-year-olds doing merengue step in front of a sold-out auditorium is hilarious, but the motives behind it are unimpeachable.

If you are touched by Kirabella’s story, please donate. If you value our collective community and its reputation for generosity and giving, please donate. After all, a community is only the sum of its parts; it is what we make it.

I encourage you to contribute to this community and to this cause as a individual or as a business or organization. One person or entity can make a difference, and over the years many have: I ask you to join their ranks. It’s great when you can personally identify the exact good being done by your charity and this is one of those times. Kirabella needs our help and we move to match her courage.
If you would like to donate, my number and email are listed below. You can also donate digitally at the listen GoFundMe link.

I also encourage everyone to attend the pageant. I’ll be speed painting a portrait of the school principal and I think the captains of the wrestling and soccer teams will be having a rap battle. There’s also the dance. It’s at Summit on the 29th of April; I hope to see you there.



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