School has always been a struggle for Sierra Spirlong. When her family was evicted from their Rocklin apartment and lived in a motel for eight months, staying on track was especially tough.
“It was hard at the motel because we were all crowded in one room,” recalled Sierra, 13. “I tried to pay close attention and keep up with homework, but things just didn’t make sense.”
This year, Sierra has turned a corner in the classroom. Her grades and work ethic have been so impressive that a counselor at Spring View Middle School nominated her for a special holiday award – a shopping spree with the Rocklin Police Department.
The shopping trips – dubbed “Shop With a Cop” – are made possible by Rocklin Public Safety Volunteers, a nonprofit that supports law enforcement. The group hopes Book of Dreams readers will help fund shopping trips for 15 needy and deserving youths – and also pay for baskets containing holiday meals for another 15 low-income families.
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The initiative is part of a broader effort by Placer County law-enforcement agencies to provide struggling families with two essentials this December – food and clothing.
Since launching the program three years ago, the agencies have raised $80,000 and taken more than 150 children shopping.
“There are so many deserving kids out there who are coping with hardships,” said Michelle Edwards, who helps coordinate the program for the Rocklin Police Department. “This is our way of giving them a little reward.”
Students selected for Shop With a Cop will be paired with an officer and ride in the front seat of a patrol car to Target. Once there, the student will have $200 to spend on clothing and other essentials, plus another $50 for special items or gifts.
After shopping, the kids and their relatives will gather for a catered lunch and additional surprises.
Sierra needs new tennis shoes, so the trip to Target can’t come soon enough. The seventh-grader’s parents, both disabled, are on an extremely tight budget, and Sierra’s last pair of new shoes was purchased sometime last year, said her mother, Sharyn.
“I love basketball and hope to try out for the team this year,” Sierra said, “so having new shoes would be great. I also don’t really have any winter clothes, so that would be really cool, too.”
In nominating Sierra for the award, school counselor Jenny Sneed called her a “kind, loving girl who has overcome some challenges that other peers … do not have to worry about.” Despite the adversity, Sierra “does not let it affect her attitude toward school or life,” Sneed wrote.
Sharyn Spirlong sees the same resiliency in her daughter.
“We can’t provide everything we’d like to for our kids, but Sierra never complains,” she said. “The one thing that upset her was that because we don’t have a car, we can’t go look at the Christmas lights this year.
“So this shopping trip really helped put a twinkle back in her eye.”
Needed: Funds for Christmas gifts and baskets for low-income families.
2014 BOOK OF DREAMS
For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.
All donations are tax deductible and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs. The Book of Dreams fund is administered by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. If you donate online, the Region Foundation will appear on your statement.
If you have additional questions, please call the Book of Dreams line at (916) 556-5667. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 16.
* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulﬁlled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulﬁll wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies beneﬁting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has veriﬁed the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona ﬁde cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.