SPARKY! Is Back, Delivering Free Books to Children Around Central Oregon All Summer Long

Press Release

The Fireflies SPARKY! book trailer, sponsored by SELCO Community Credit Union, combats the ‘summer slide’ with the free book giveaways

(SPRINGFIELD, Ore.) — This Friday, the Fireflies SPARKY! book trailer will begin delivering free books to children around Central Oregon in a summer-long effort to prevent the learning loss that some students experience while away from school. SPARKY!, a 6-foot by 10-foot trailer put into service with support from the SELCO Steps Up community giving program, will make its first delivery on Friday, June 21 from 3–4:30 p.m. at Redmond High School.

Fireflies—a community outreach program of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon—works with SELCO employees, NeighborImpact, and the Bend-La Pine and Redmond school districts to deliver and distribute books to children at Central Oregon parks and schools. Any student, kindergarten through fifth grade, is eligible to pick up a book at the events, which are held in conjunction with the NeighborImpact Mobile Food Pantry.

Fireflies helps foster literacy and learning skills for children up to fifth grade. The nonprofit believes that addressing the “summer slide,” a term coined for when students lose knowledge over the monthslong summer break, is among the most effective ways to keep children on the path toward educational milestones.

“Probably no surprise, but research shows that summer reading is a simple and effective way to maintain—and even grow—critical literacy skills," said Olivia Sorensen, senior community development specialist for SELCO. "With SPARKY!, Fireflies addresses that need head-on, ensuring kids hit the ground running when school rolls back around. As a credit union founded by educators nearly a century ago, SELCO has supported education since the beginning—and Fireflies is an incredible partner in that work.”

Over the last three summers, SPARKY! has delivered books to 724 Central Oregon children. In addition to book deliveries, Fireflies outreach initiatives include a summer book bag program at partner schools in Bend, Redmond, and La Pine, and strategically placed little school libraries on school campuses.

“The ‘summer slide’ is a real concern for young students across Central Oregon,” said John Horwich, external fundraising coordinator for Fireflies. “Thanks to partners like SELCO, we can get books in the hands of hundreds of children each summer and make a difference in all their education.” 

SPARKY! will make eight stops throughout the summer across Central Oregon. 

WHAT: SPARKY! The Book Trailer free book distribution events
WHO: Fireflies and SELCO Community Credit Union
WHEN:
Friday, June 21: 3-4:30 p.m., at Redmond High School
Friday, June 28, 3-4 p.m., at Ridgeview High School
Friday, July 5, 3-4:30 p.m., at Redmond High School
Thursday, July 9, noon-1 p.m., at Pine Nursery Park
Friday, July 19, 3-4:30 p.m., at Redmond High School
Friday, July 26, 3-4 p.m., at Ridgeview High School
Friday, Aug. 2, 3-4:30 p.m., at Redmond High School
Friday, Aug. 16, 3-4:30 p.m., at Redmond High School

For more information: uufco.org/fireflies. For images of SPARKY! and from a 2023 book delivery event, click here.

About SELCO Steps Up:
The SELCO Steps Up program aims to create positive, innovative, lasting change through volunteerism, resource support, and collaboration with community partners. In 2023 alone, SELCO Community Credit Union reinvested more than $250,000 in the communities it serves through educator grants, scholarships, and impact-driven sponsorships. SELCO staff also committed a total of more than 1,000 volunteer hours in 2023. As a credit union founded by teachers, education is a cornerstone of these efforts, focusing on removing barriers to financial literacy. By empowering individuals and families to achieve financial well-being, SELCO strives to build a strong foundation for all its members and neighbors by empowering individuals and families to achieve financial well-being. Learn more at www.selco.org/steps-up.

About Fireflies:
Fireflies is an all-volunteer community outreach program of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon. Fireflies works in collaboration with Central Oregon school districts to enhance the reading and study skills of elementary school students, with a particular focus on keeping kids engaged with reading and learning during the summer months. Since its establishment in 2017, Fireflies has distributed summer-learning book bags filled with new books, games, puzzles, and other learning materials to 3,828 students (containing more than 19,000 new books). Through its SPARKY! book trailer program, Fireflies distributes free books to kids throughout the summer at community events. Learn more at www.uufco.org/fireflies.

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