ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Ashland High serves 1,500 hours of community service for ‘Sparrow Luke,’ unlocks funds to help buy wheelchair van

Luke Hogan Laurenson at an Ashland High School assembly on June 14. Bob Palermini photo
June 20, 2023

Laurenson sets sights on taking his message of hope on the road after high school

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

Now an Ashland High School grad, Luke Hogan Laurenson wants to take his message of persistence and hope on the road this fall.

After graduating on June 9, Luke and his mom, Jane Hogan, will continue to fundraise for a wheelchair accessible van this summer that would help them take Luke’s message on the road this fall. 

Luke was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy as a baby and was eventually found to also have dysarthria, a speech disability that requires him to use a computer system to communicate. This didn’t stop him from walking, or dancing for a YouTube video at age 12 to “Shake it off” by Taylor Swift, his inspiration — or from getting a paid acting gig on an Oregon Shakespeare Festival stage, and eventually sharing a valedictorian speech on June 9 via a special computer technology. (Luke was one of 12 valedictorians in the AHS Class of 2023.)

Ben Bell, principal of Ashland High School, left, speaks during a segment of an assembly about Luke Hogan Laurenson, right, on June 14. Bob Palermini photo

Thanks to participation in the Sparrow Club USA program, which kicked off with an assembly in November 2022 and ended with another last week, the hours of service put in by Luke’s fellow classmates “unlocked” $3,000 from multiple business sponsors, including TC Chevy, to help a fundraiser for a wheelchair-accessible van for Luke and his mom, Jane Hogan, get closer to its goal.

The mother and son reported Tuesday that a GoFundMe page set up for Luke has raised about $60,000, including the $3,000 in conjunction with Sparrow Clubs USA, of the total $110,000 goal. The wheelchair-accessible van will significantly ease travel for he and his mom around town and around the region and state, which they hope to travel starting this fall.

AHS held a Sparrow Clubs assembly on June 14 to celebrate the culmination of his time as AHS’s Sparrow through Sparrow Clubs USA. Sparrow Clubs USA is a Bend-based nonprofit with a regional office in Medford that partners with schools and businesses to promote community service and uplift students facing significant health challenges.

It is the 18-year-old’s third time being a participant of Sparrow Clubs with Ashland School District, first as an elementary student at Bellview, then as a student at Ashland Middle School, and finally as a senior at Ashland High School. 

Jane Hogan and her son and Ashland High School graduate Luke Hogan Laurenson at an assembly on June 14. Bob Palermini photo

“The biggest takeaway for Luke and I was that over 1,500 hours were worked on his behalf,” 

Hogan told Ashland.news in a phone interview on Tuesday. “These kids went out and served their community in some way, that’s the beauty of the Sparrow Club. It’s so much more important than the money.”

AHS held a number of fundraisers throughout the school year, with the biggest one the Grizz Pageant, in which Laurenson himself participated in and was “crowned” the winner.

A coffee fundraiser through Rogue Roasting, Co., also raised funds for Laurenson during the winter.

“It was just a huge success and I’m just so impressed with the number of hours (volunteered),” she said.

Hogan, who is a Rutgers University alumna and track athlete, said fellow alumni have recently stepped up to help the cause, in addition to one $5,000 anonymous donation.

“It’s been a really good week for fundraising this last week,” Hogan said.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden even retweeted Luke’s story published by Ashland.news following his graduation, sending it out to his more than half-million followers.

Jane Hogan and her son and Ashland High School graduate Luke Hogan Laurenson at an assembly on June 14. Bob Palermini photo

For Hogan, the big impact remains the comments that individual students have shared about the community service involved in fundraising for Luke, and have reflected how much students relished the connection they felt to the community.

“I think that’s what they’re all looking for,” Hogan said.

Luke will take the next year as a “gap” year and wants to speak at high schools around the region and state, and help those schools with theater programs start service clubs called “Project UP” wherever he can.

Starting in September, we’ll start reaching out to high schools and we want to start a Project UP club in every high school that we go speak at,” said his mom, Jane Hogan, in an interview on Tuesday with Ashland.news. 

A documentary will showcase what the club can do for students. Hogan said funding will be sought to get the documentary released so that it can be shown in schools throughout the country.

“We want to show this documentary and show how powerful inclusion is and hope every theater department is going to want to try this at their school,” she said.

The time is right for this now,” she added.

Luke’s sister, Julia Hogan Laurenson, who graduated from AHS in 2018, started the club at AHS as a sophomore.

Jane Hogan and her son and Ashland High School graduate Luke Hogan Laurenson at an assembly on June 14. Bob Palermini photo

The club pairs theater students with students with disabilities during their lunch hours one day a week.

“These teens are giving their time to hang out with differently abled teens and play theater games with them,” Hogan said.

At the time Luke’s sister had started the club, OSF actors frequented the club due to her acting roles on the OSF stage. Luke also acted in OSF’s rendition of the Broadway Musical “Hair Spray.”

“The beauty of Project UP is it doesn’t require any funding,” Hogan said.

Teen leaders who can run it and an advisor is all it needs.

“Every teen that was involved in Project UP as a leader got into the college of their choice,” Hogan said.

Luke is looking forward to taking it easy this summer to relax a bit before he and his mom embark on their next big adventure.

“We’ll start out in the Rogue Valley and expand from there,” Hogan said. “I think it will depend … on where we get the van to do anything further than a couple hours away.”

High schools that are interested in hearing Luke speak can reach out to Jane by email at contactlukesangels@gmail.com

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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