ANDERSON, Ind. — Donte King has typical dreams for a 12-year-old boy. When he grows up he wants to be a basketball player or a doctor.
He spends his free time shooting hoops, riding his bike and playing outside, at least when he’s not in the hospital.
Born with spina bifida, the sixth-grader has already been in and out of the hospital his whole life. He’s had hip surgery, back surgery and just got out of the hospital last month after his stoma prolapsed.
And now he needs a kidney.
“It’s been a pretty rough 12 years, ever since he’s been born,” his mother Tisha King said.
She said her son is still in the early stages of receiving a kidney. They’re still in the process of getting him into counseling and establishing certain requirements before he can be put on the wait list.
One hundred percent of pediatric patients who receive kidney transplants at Indiana University Health survive at least a year, according to an IU Health report.
And now the King family is getting some support from Donte’s school. Students at Highland Middle School are raising money for his ongoing medical expenses, supplies and travel expenses to the hospital.
It’s part of the school’s new Sparrow Club chapter. The club’s focus is to help children help their peers with medical needs.
Students can help the Kings by doing community service and logging their hours on a Sparrow voucher. For each hour served, the national organization puts $10 into an account for the “Sparrow family.”
Sparrow Clubs have been popular in the Pacific Northwest but they’re relatively new to Indiana.
Kristal McCorkle, the middle school’s Sparrow Club adviser, said she was trying to think of a new service project over the summer when a family friend mentioned the book “A Thousand Small Sparrows” by Sparrow Clubs founder Jeff Leeland. It sparked the idea for her to bring the club to Highland.
Teachers submitted nominations for Sparrow kids and the national branch selected the recipient.
Now the King family is getting help in a way they didn’t expect.
“Oh my gosh. It’s heartwarming. It’s just, like, they just show so much love to us,” Tisha King said.
She said she had never heard of Sparrow Club until McCorkle contacted and showed her an informational video.
“Of course it brought me to tears,” she said.
Her son got a standing ovation when he was announced as the school’s first Sparrow during a convocation Thursday morning.
“It’s crazy,” he shyly said.
The Sparrow Club is also selling special T-shirts for $11 that will contribute to the family’s fund.
McCorkle said a website with Donte’s story and a place for the public to donate money is under construction. She stressed, though, that the program’s emphasis is for kids to help other kids.
“We want it to be student driven,” she said. “I think a lot of kids struggle with detachment, self-confidence and feeling like they have a place to belong.
“This opportunity will maybe help them see past their own personal struggles.”
An end date hasn’t been set for students to turn in their service vouchers, but McCorkle said they’ll likely have the rest of the year to raise funds. The Sparrow Club is also brainstorming for fundraisers and group community service days.
Tisha King said she hopes the school rallying behind Donte will help him gain some confidence and make even more friends.
“I don’t know what else I can say, just thank you,” she said. “I really, really, greatly appreciate all the support. “
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T-shirts for Donte King are $11 and can be purchased by contacting Kristal McCorkle at firstname.lastname@example.org.