Local third-grader is a budding philanthropist

Eight-year-old Parker McMahan is a spirited youngster with an impish smile, boundless energy and a big heart.

She possesses compassion and empathy beyond her years, even though she probably doesn’t yet understand what those words mean. She gets it that a big event, with lots of people and their money, has the power to impact the lives of many others. But she’s also smart enough to recognize that every effort, even small ones, add to the greater cause. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Parker McMahan, second from left, was joined by nearly two dozen others on Oct. 20, for a 2-mile walk to benefit the American Cancer Society.

To Parker, making the world a better place is really quite simple — when someone needs help, you help.

And if at first you don’t succeed, you try again.

Parker is no stranger to charitable fundraising events. She has participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Walk with her mom, Jessica Butcher, as well as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. But after the loss of her paternal grandfather to complications from cancer in 2007, Parker’s grasp of why organizations raise funds for cancer research and treatment became clear.

“Some of the money goes to the doctors so they can help people get better,” she said. “I wanted to raise money to keep helping people get what they need.”

During the summer of 2012, Parker decided to hold a fundraising walk of her own. She made fliers and left them on the doorsteps of neighbors in the Southeast Gresham condominium complex where she, her mom and grandmother live. Later that afternoon, she waited in the complex’s courtyard for people to join her. When no one showed up at the appointed hour and time, Butcher explained the need for advance warning so people could plan to participate.

“She saw the wisdom in that, but I could tell she was still disappointed,” Butcher said.

In April of this year, Parker’s uncle was hospitalized with severe injuries following a motorcycle accident. The accident was an emotional shock for the family, but it also posed a potentially devastating financial hardship for Parker’s uncle and aunt.

“Parker and her friend Taylor sat in our parking lot with a sign, asking for donations to help her Uncle Chase,” Butcher said. “They raised $14 on their own, which we donated to a Give Forward account that had been opened for Chase’s medical expenses. They talked to everybody who walked by and told them everything. It was really cute.”

A few weeks ago, Parker held her mom “accountable” for an earlier promise to help her organize a walk for the American Cancer Society. Butcher coached Parker along, as she chose a route for the walk, checked with the city to see if a permit was required and decided on a low entry fee ($5) so everyone could afford to participate.

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Parkers Aunt Crystal, center, and mom, Jessica Butcher, right, supported the 8-year-old's efforts with her first POW Walk, which raised $520 for cancer research. “She did the Relay for Life with me a couple years ago, and we camped out and walked at night,” Butcher said. “From her perspective, the whole thing was pretty cool — the hot dogs, the luminaries around the walking route, camping. But I wanted her to see the hard work that goes into planning something like a walk. She had to talk to people, hand out her fliers. She had to get out of her comfort zone.”

Parker named her event Parker’s October Walk, or POW for short.

“That’s because if you use medicine, it helps you fight something,” she explained. “In the movies, when people fight something, there’s a word bubble and inside it says, ‘POW.’”

On Sunday, Oct. 20, nearly two dozen people gathered at the Center for the Performing Arts Plaza in downtown Gresham. Led by Parker, they walked a 2-mile loop from the plaza, down the Springwater Trail to a marked turnaround, up Main Avenue and ended at a balloon-marked finish line back in the plaza.

“Honestly, I imagined the walk would be a few of our closest friends and the family supporting our favorite little girl,” Butcher said. “But we had donations from people who didn’t even walk. Parker worked diligently to complete all the steps in the process and has been so proud to tell people that she gets to give the money to the American Cancer Society to help find a cure.”

Parker’s October Walk netted $235 in cash donations, which were matched by a sponsor through Butcher’s employer, U.S. Bank. When all the counting was finished, the spunky third grader raised $520 for her cause.

Parker and Butcher emailed the American Cancer Society to learn where the donation needed to be sent. A few days later, Parker received a phone call from the organization, asking if she had a specific preference for the funds.

“I didn’t care where the money went,” Parker said. “I just wanted it to go somewhere to help someone.”

Nominate a student

Shining Star is a monthly feature that recognizes local students quietly doing great things in the community. Outlook readers, parents and teachers are encouraged to tell us about a student of any age, whose talents outside the academic arena are making our world a better place. Do they volunteer regularly at a retirement center? Have they taught an artistic practice to a youth group? What are they doing in the community that makes us proud to call them our neighbor?

Tell us about a Shining Star you know by contacting Anne Endicott at 503-492-5118 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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