Alex Johnson didn't just choose an idea for his senior project that would make the grade. He selected one close to his heart.
Alex's 19-year-old brother, Phillip, succumbed to cystic fibrosis in July, and Alex, a Harlem High School senior, is now battling the disease himself.
In response, Alex, 17, has organized a motorcycle ride fund-raiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as his senior project.
"I loved him to death," Alex said of his brother, admitting Phillip was his inspiration for the project. "I was going to try to do my senior project on something else. But at the beginning of the year when we were talking about it, it was August and my brother died in July. So, it was the only thing I was thinking about. So, I was thinking that is what I need to do it on."
Alex Johnson (right) enlisted the help of the Rev. Randall Whitaker, the pastor at Powell Baptist Church, to organize a motorcycle ride to raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Alex, a Harlem High School senior who suffers from cystic fibrosis, had a brother who died from the disease this past July.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Alex's father, John, rides a motorcycle and recently participated in a charity ride, giving Alex the idea to put one together for Oct. 30.
"It got me thinking that maybe I could do that," Alex said. "I started looking into it, and it didn't seem like it would be impossible."
After finding a mentor in the Rev. Randall Whitaker, who rides a Harley-Davidson and is the preacher at Powell Baptist Church, Alex set out to organize the ride, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 30.
The ride will last between an hour and two hours and will begin at Powell Baptist Church, located at 1577 Old Appling-Harlem Highway in Harlem. Door prizes will be awarded.
"I think it is a very worthwhile project," Whitaker said. "I feel like it has got a very good purpose behind it because we need to continue this research."
Cystic fibrosis, which affects 30,000 Americans, is caused by a defective gene, causing the body to produce an abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. It also can keep the body from properly breaking down and digesting food.
"(Phillip) was 19," Alex said, adding that he has not had as many complications from cystic fibrosis as his brother did. "It is scaring me to death because I am two years away from being 19, and that's as far as he made it."
Despite lots of medications, breathing treatments and a vest he wears to loosen the mucus, Alex said he tries not to let his illness get in the way of being a normal, active teenager.
Alex works as a student aid for the Columbia County Transportation Department. Though he can never play organized sports, he loves playing football or basketball with his church youth group, which he said is like a family to him.
"I was out of breath the whole time," Alex said of a recent football game at church. "I am not the kind of person to say , 'Hey, look I'm tired. Everybody quit for a few minutes while I catch my breath.'"
These days, he's also not the kind of person to let his condition slow him from raising funds for a cause that has affected his life, keeping busy organizing the ride, lining up door prizes and passing out fliers.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.