CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - I'm always fascinated by what life event, what interaction, what conversation, leads a person to a life of service. For JT Speller it was the funerals of his aunt and uncle. As he sat in the church for the ceremonies, he heard countless stories of the good they had done in their lives.
"I was just sitting there thinking how people remembered all the little AND big things they had done with their time to help others. It got me thinking about my life. I realized at that moment, what is life if you don't leave this world a better place? That's when I knew I wanted to seek out my greater purpose," JT told me.
JT was nominated as a Mo's Hero for one of the many ways he's making a huge difference in this world, by donating blood, but JT's blood is extra special. It started simply enough.
"The first time I gave blood I saw the truck for Community Blood center of the Carolinas on campus at Central Piedmont Community College. I had time between classes and thought, 'I've always wanted to do this, now is the time!'"
But it was a few weeks later when JT realized just how important HIS blood is! "I got a letter verifying that I'm a 'sickle cell hero'. It's a name given to those of us who have special antigens in our blood that can help sickle cell patients. Not all blood matches, there are three key factors they need for a sickle cell patient, and my blood has all three," JT told me Wednesday.
Ninety thousand Americans, mostly African Americans, are affected by sickle cell.
Six thousand suffer from it in North Carolina. Patients are treated through frequent blood transfusions. JT didn't really understand sickle cell until he found out his girlfriend had it.
"It wasn't until my girlfriend had an episode that I really understood sickle cell. It was so bad she was in the hospital for a couple of days. I saw firsthand how crippling and debilitating sickle cell can be. Before I didn't understand what it was or how bad it can be. Then I knew I could do something to help by donating blood," JT said.
I found out about JT through Community Blood Center of the Carolinas. CBCC is the primary blood supplier to our area's patients and hospitals. They serve neighbors in nineteen North Carolina Counties and three counties in South Carolina. Constance Flynt, Marketing & Recruitment Manager at CBCC told me,
"We nominated JT as a Mo's Hero because he believes in the lifesaving mission of Community Blood Center of the Carolinas and is anxious to do all that he can to join us in supporting the needs of local patients."
And boy is this young man, almost 24-years-old, doing his part! Since he learned he has the type of blood that will help patients with sickle cell, he's donated blood every fifty-five days. According to the CBCC, blood like JT's replaces a person with sickled cells with healthy cells and decreases the chance of severe pain.
When I asked JT how he felt to be nominated he was humbled, grateful, but more importantly anxious to spread the word. He wants more African Americans to donate blood and see if they have what it takes to help our neighbors with sickle cell.
But JT isn't stopping at donating blood. I learned he's also founded an organization to help our homeless population called BeBrite. He delivers food, water, and hope to those who are chronically homeless in book bags. You can learn more about how this young man is making change by visiting his web site.
JT, thanks for bringing attention to a great need in our community. I hope reading JT's story will inspire someone who hasn't given blood to consider giving what is truly the gift of life.
To read more about JT and donating through CBCC, visit cbcc.us.