By Kelly Twedell Photography by: Maggie Cartwright
Three years ago Jarred Sparks died at home from battling the devastating effects of autism. While his family has grieved and the pain lingers on, they are honoring Jarred and putting their efforts into launching the first ever school for autistic students, called the School of Hope. Jarred’s mother Amy, an elementary school teacher at Vanstory Hills, father Rob, older sister Kelsey and younger brother Dylan are living life to the fullest and have so many special memories shared over the years. Out of the ashes comes beauty and that’s just what those who knew Jarred joined together to help launch the non-profit in Jarred’s honor, aptly called: The Jarred Bryan Sparks Foundation. From former teachers, classmates and those affected by Jarred, the foundation will leave a legacy of support and resources for other families working through autism.
“It is our goal and our intent to make a difference in the lives of children who have autism and to honor the memory of our son,” said Amy. “Our dream is to open the doors of our school in the fall of 2016, if not sooner.”
The School of Hope aims to be a community resource where the students will have specialized instruction with qualified teachers and the materials designed for students with autism with a focus on intense behavior medication services.
“Many have a misconception about autism, there are varying spectrums and just because the student is not looking at you or making eye contact does not mean that they are not paying attention. The kids are very sharp and tuned into details, as Jarred was,” said Charles Williams, President of the Board for the foundation and teacher at Cape Fear High School. The Sparks family has been tireless advocates for other autistic students and in 1997 they fought and won a seven-year lawsuit with Fort Bragg schools at the federal district court level. Jarred’s lawsuit changed the laws for kids in North Carolina, enabling them to get the services they are entitled to.
Remembered for his kindness and athletic abilities, Jarred competed in the 1,500-meter swim in the North Carolina Special Olympics one week before he died. He played basketball and a former classmate and current teacher assistant, Dannie Singleton, recalls a fun memory about his uncanny ability to hone in on soft drinks, especially Mountain Dew and to stealthily procure them throughout the school day, once he had seen them.
As tears brimmed over, Amy shared some fond memories of Jarred’s final days. She recalled that the day before he died he was able to hug his teachers and left each person emotionally impacted who he came in contact with. “Meeting Jarred and working with him changed my life,” shared Kelly Ambellan, foundation Board member and also one of Jarred’s first assistants who really made progress with him.
Looking to show your support for The School of Hope and make this dream a reality? Make your tax-deductible donations at New Century Bank at 2818 Raeford Road or by PayPal at firstname.lastname@example.org.