Hundreds of students and at least one superhero took to the McLoughlin Middle School track Monday to raise money for their Sparrow, eighth-grader Brandy Moore.
Leading the charge was science teacher and wresting coach Kevin Webber, his black and gold cape flying as he attempted to run 20 laps in just 30 minutes.
"We're here to see what we can do for Brandy," Webber said, throwing his arms skyward in superhero fashion.
The runners had collected pledges to raise money for Moore, 14, who was diagnosed with lupus in December after a slew of doctor and emergency room visits, including two airlifts to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland — once for a blood clot, the other for a pulmonary embolism.
The school's Sparrow Club, part of a regionwide program in which students rally around a medically frail student, adopted Brandy shortly after her diagnosis.
Typically, schools are paired with a local business sponsor and a student in medical need who's often from another school or another city.
But when Brandy was diagnosed, Webber said it made sense for her fellow students to support "one of their own."
Anna Lorenz, one of several leadership club students who helped coordinate Monday's run, said having a fellow student as the school's Sparrow was special motivation.
Seventh-grader Josh Moss, 14, said he spent some time rounding up pledges because he felt it was important to support his classmate.
"She's having trouble, so she needs help with stuff, and I like to help people," Josh said.
"I have some classes with Brandy, so I wanted to do what I could to help."
Seventh-grader Nick Houston was happy to run for a fellow McLoughlin Bulldog.
"I think it's pretty special," the 13-year-old said. "A lot of schools have Sparrows they don't even know, and she's one of us.
"So it's even more special to be able to try and help."
Brandy said the attention was both overwhelming and touching.
"It was kind of awkward at first, but it feels good that my school cares what's happening," she said.
Students also have raised money by doing community work paid by the school business sponsor, American West Bank, and holding raffles and other fundraisers such as a "Put a Cap on Lupus Day," when students could break the no-hat rule and don their caps for $1.
Brandy's mother, Tammy Oakley, said the family was touched by students' support for the teen.
Oakley was a temporary holiday employee at Walmart when Brandy first became ill and lost her job during one of the two trips to Portland for emergency medical care.
"It's been just absolutely amazing and very overwhelming," Oakley said.
"McLoughlin is a pretty big school and Medford is a pretty big town, so for so many people to step up, it's just been very humbling."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.