Bridging communities together to bring sparkle into the lives of those in need, Samantha Tradelius created the non-profit organization Sparkle Foundation Inc to support single women and their children. After spending over 20 years in the insurance industry, Tradelius fell in love with how women work and began helping single mothers during the holiday season. During this time, with a collection of friends, they raised funds and donations to provide toys, clothes and Christmas dinner to families. After the realization that growth was underway, she created the non-profit now serving thousands of lives throughout California.
Inspired by her Grandmother
Samantha Tradelius: I would always remember the stories that I would hear as a young girl from my dad and my aunt about how they were raised. My dad likes to play roller hockey and competed competitively along with roller skating. They didn’t have any money to buy uniforms so my grandma would sew all the costumes for the team so that they could skate. She would do things to make things happen. She never complained and never asked for help.
When I was in this process of figuring out who I wanted to help, I kept gravitating towards these moms. I knew these women don’t get any help, and they don’t ask for help.
Right before my grandma passed away in 2017, I had this conversation with her. I told her, “I never told you this, but you’re the inspiration for Sparkle, because of your stories and everything else.” During one of the last conversations, she sat down with me. She goes, “You need to tell my story because there’s so many women out there that wouldn’t.” That always being in the back of my mind is my driving factor. That’s where Sparkle came from.
The Growth of Sparkle
Samantha Tradelius: I would like to see Sparkle everywhere, because we know that there are single moms in every major city. I grew up in LA, and then I moved up to the Bay Area. Growing in that direction was really easy. It’s kind of like a franchise almost, because as long as you’ve got boots on the ground you can open up a Sparkle chapter in any major city. My goal in the next 18 months is growth and getting more chapters out there.
I have a full-time job and I’m a mom to two kids. I didn’t necessarily have a lot of time; I had time, but I didn’t have the kind of time that I wanted to spend on the organization. Then when COVID happened, life was different. Instead of feeling so overwhelmed, upset and sad, I took that energy and I harvested into doing good. I think that 2020 was a real turning point for the organization because I was able to put energy that I wasn’t able to put in before. With that we’ve grown a lot and it’s all organic.
We’re 100% volunteer, no one gets paid to do anything. I don’t ever pull a salary out of Sparkle. The idea of Sparkle was you donate $1 and $1 goes back out. To have the time to dedicate energy in the way that I wanted to, I think it’s been really cool. As far as growth goes, I just see us opening more chapters. I see us opening the Sparkle Biz Program up, because now I know what works. We can fund more loans based on knowing that the program is functional.
Backpacks, Christmas & Impacting Families
Samantha Tradelius: Last year  we served about 5400 lives. When I say lives, that’s lives impacted whether it was Christmas enrichment or backpacks drives. I started off with knowing kids needed backpacks, I had a friend that worked in Solano County, at the sheriff’s office, and she was like, “Hey, I could do these backpacks, we can distribute them.” It was a great way to bridge law enforcement because these men and women also know where the families that need help are—they’re out there every day. I worked with her and we did 100 bags the first year.
In 2016, we did the first round and in 2021, we did 4000 backpacks. We are now all over California from LA, Inland Empire, Sacramento, and also up in the Bay Area. We work with first responders, police, fire departments and school districts to distribute those bags. This part has a lot of volunteers and a lot of lives touched because it’s an easy win for us. We also do enrichment scholarships, meaning we write checks to different softball, basketball, baseball and other types of activity locations. I’d say on average, we touched about 80 lives a year there. Then for Christmas, on average, it’s about 200 lives that we’ll impact and that’s moms and kids.
Women Supporting Women
Samantha Tradelius: I learned a really long time ago that, when you’re not good at something, put people around you that are. My board and the women around me are around me by design, they’re all better at me in different areas. I know what I’m good at. I also know what they’re good at. That’s really how I’ve built the organization around these power house women. My board has been with me even prior to forming the 501 C. They’ve always been around in different capacities.
I want to be this big non-profit that is taking over the world now. I want to be impactful, where I can make a difference in the community in the way that I know is moving the needle forward for a single mom. For right now, I don’t want to hire anybody, because I want to keep it organic. I want to keep it mission focused. The only reason I started doing what I was doing in the beginning was because I wanted to make sure the dollars that came in, were the dollars that went out. I hold that as my underlying foundation. If it gets to a place where I need to hire someone, I don’t know that I want to do it anymore. Then I think I’m getting away from why I started it in the beginning.
Interview by Tricia Love Vargas