Charles Caldwell, Jr. | Young Hero Award from Alabama Public Television

Charles Caldwell, Jr.

Ramsay High School

Birmingham, Alabama

Most candidates for the Young Hero honor are nominated by a single person. In the case of Charles I. Caldwell Jr., he was nominated by a team of teachers from Ramsay High School in Birmingham. This “team nomination” is indicative of the regard the faculty has for Charles.

At the age of 9, Charles was diagnosed with disseminated glioneuronal tumors. The tumors had spread throughout his brain and spine, requiring him to undergo chemotherapy for a year. He suffered from seizures associated with the presence of the tumors. After the year of treatment, the spread of the tumors seemed to have been halted, but Charles was left with neuropathy (nerve damage) in his arms and legs. By 2008, he had developed scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and had to undergo corrective surgery, as much as was allowable due to the tumors on his spine.

In November of 2011, Charles was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a medical condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain. The condition required the placement of a shunt, a one-way valve that drains the excess fluid from the brain and carries it to other parts of the body. In July of 2012, an MRI indicated the growth of one of the tumors—which means that Charles is presently undergoing a new regimen of chemotherapy.

In addition to these medical battles, the family (Charles, his mother, and his younger sister and brother) endured a great family tragedy. Charles’ father—Charles I Caldwell Sr.—passed away within a month after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.

In the face of all this, Charles never ceased the struggle to not only survive, but to excel. French instructor Julian Brooks wrote, “Charles embraces life and greets everyone with the most positive attitude. I have never seen him in a bad mood, even when he is weak and nauseated by treatments.

Charles is a member of the percussion section in the Ramsay High School Band. During his freshman year, though challenged by his illness, he was able to participate in the marching band. Band Director Anita Dye commented, “It was a joy to see him attempt and become successful at the maneuvers and routines. He serves as a wonderful example for others to follow.”

An excellent scholar, Charles also participates in the Golden Pen Club, the tennis team, and the school choir. In service to his community, Charles is a volunteer at the McWane Science Center, the community garden program, and the Brother Bryan Mission to feed homeless people. Active in the ministries of his church, Charles also serves as one of the church’s drummers.

Young Hero Sponsors

The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Derek Chen

Harris Trust


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