Local nonprofit helps kids keep the ‘spark’ alive with new club


The Portland chapter of the nonprofit Friends of the Children recently created the "Spark Squad"

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local nonprofit is helping keep a “spark” in kids’ lives when it comes to their creativity.

Portland’s chapter of the nonprofit Friends of the Children recently created the “Spark Squad” — an after-school-style club online that pairs up kids with mentors. Although it was established due to COVID-19, the program will be sticking around in some form even when the pandemic is over.

Zade, an 11-year-old Spark Squad member, is part of their coding club which is led by mentors from WackyWorldCoding.

“It’s fun to be with other people that want [to learn] that,” Zade said. “A lot of them also play video games before we do some coding, which is fun and it’s a good time. We learn some stuff each time.”

FOTC pairs mentors with underserved kids, typically working with them from kindergarten all the way through high school.

The Spark Squad was created as a result of the pandemic, teaching skills from coding to baking and braiding hair.

“We wanted to create a virtual space twice a week for 90 minutes that was not school,” Traci Rossi with FOTC explained. “[It’s] definitely a space that centered around their interest — centered around their sparks.”

Zade has been a part of the FOTC family for some time, but the new squad has been an extra bonus that has truly helped him find his spark.

Zade at OMSI. (Photo: FOTC)

“Literally within the first week I was like, ‘This is the best thing that’s happened to him all week,'” Zade’s mom Krisa said. “It was the only way we could connect.”

The Spark Squad caught the attention of Pacific Power’s Pacific Corp Foundation, which recently awarded a grant to FOTC.

“We look for local nonprofits that are engaged in programming like this, that helps [the] community get through these difficult times and to support these efforts,” Bob Gravely of Pacific Power said.

These efforts have been so successful, Traci Ross says they will permanently incorporate elements of the Spark Squad.

“I’m also hoping Zade will come to my office and work out a few bugs on my computer,” she said. “I need your help Zade!”

The Pacific Power Foundation awards grant money throughout the year. The next deadline to apply is June 15 — find more information online here.

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