When the Knights of Immaculata Council 8274 in Lakeport, Mich., embarked upon their candy drive prior to the Covid-19 pandemic last Columbus Day weekend, Josh Sparling turned it into a family affair.
He and three of his four children — 9-year-old Isabel, 7-year-old Justin, and five-year-old John — joined in the fun by helping to hand out Tootsie Rolls and collecting freewill contributions toward the council’s annual fund drive to assist people with intellectual disabilities.
“They were out in the cold for a couple of hours,” said Sparling, a 4th-Degree Knight who is assistant prosecutor for Michigan’s St. Clair County. “We do the drive every year.”
The foursome donned the yellow aprons and stationed themselves for their volunteer shift outside the Walmart in Fort Gratiot, a township situated along Lake Huron just an hour’s drive northeast of Detroit.
“They really get into it and enjoy it,” Sparling said of his kids’ participation in the decades-old national K of C campaign. “They sing, laugh and joke with the people and love the ability to help those who aren't as fortunate as themselves.”
He’s not sure how much the kids collected in all, but he said they filled about three buckets in currency. Being cute kids probably helped. “It's hard for folks to walk past joking and smiling kids asking for money for a good cause in the freezing cold,” he said.
As a group, the 15 Knights and seven helpers of Council 8274 amassed $3,150 in Tootsie Roll collections, according to GK Mike Warfel.
“People were generous and pleasant,” he said of the spirit during the drive weekend. “It’s an easy duty.”
Last fall’s fund drive was for the benefit of the Woodland Developmental Disability Center and Boy Scout Troop 100 in Fort Gratiot, which is sponsored by a Christian church and is composed entirely of Scouts with disabilities.
“They accept people of any age and any type of handicap, ages range from 18 to 56,” including persons with Down syndrome, those who use wheelchairs, and those with other disabilities, Warfel explained. “All learn to do crafts, preform simple tasks like picking up litter, or cleaning. They do work for the Humane Society, Hunter Hospitality House, and Parks and Recreation.”
He said Immaculata is a “small but hardworking” council of 111 Knights, drawing its membership from the 150 or so active families of St. Edward on the Lake Parish.
Sparling said he hopes his two young boys will join that “small but hardworking” fraternity one day. In the meantime, he and his wife try to instill in all their children that spirit of service to others that characterizes the Order.
“We started with them about six years ago volunteering at Thanksgiving, where my daughter would pass out homemade cookies to show her that God's love extends to all people — and she loved it,” he recalled. From there they got the kids into bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, spending time with the elderly at the retirement communities, and the Tootsie Roll drive.
However, the most important thing is that they all love doing individual acts of service, he said.
“I would just stress the importance of exposing children while they are young to these types of acts of charity,” Sparling said. “It really plants a seed and creates an excitement inside them to fulfill God's plan.”
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