HATTIESBURG - Brianna
Spell's wide eyes dart around the crowded room as tolerant would-be
patients line up to a single table with an imposing nurse standing
guard. Spell - a self-proclaimed blonde-but-really-a-redhead athlete
- watches as the nurse grills the crowd.
"Do you have diabetes? Back pain? Headaches?
Heart problems?" The nurse serenely interrogates each member
of the crowd in line, his or her clutched paperwork already filled
out properly (they hoped).
"You checked 'yes' here. Explain." The nurse
pushes it back to one woman, who whips out a pen and quickly corrects
her admission. She hands it back to the nurse with anticipation.
"Good." The nurse's smile is radiant as
she retrieves the paperwork. The room itself seems to sigh in relief
as the nurse hands the woman a test tube and points to the blood
donation table. Crowd members beam at this development - another
one on her way, meaning they are one more closer to their turn.
Even the young, nervous Brianna Spell smiles, though
it's all a part of a serious state of affairs played out at Hattiesburg
Clinic's bone marrow drive Monday, when members of the community
took off one afternoon to donate blood to be a possible match for
someone in need; someone like Dave Freeman--the cause of all this
"It's really something," he says during
the bone marrow drive, as people stop to shake his hand and tell
him they are praying for him. Freeman, a Southern Miss graduate
who works as an athletic trainer for Hattiesburg Clinic, can't get
the look of appreciation off of his face. Just this past June he
found out he is in need of a bone marrow transplant to fight the
multiple myeloma developing inside his body. Since then, he's been
amazed at the support from co-workers, students, church members,
and now, at this drive, the community.
He looks over at Brianna Spell, 23, the first recipient
of the Big Dave Athletic Training Scholarship, a fund generously
set up by a donation from an anonymous Hattiesburg Clinic physician
so that others might do the same kind of work Freeman is famous
for doing. The young girl is still a bit in awe at the people in
the room, the reason they have gathered and the purpose of it all.
Mostly, she is in awe of the wonderful opportunity that came out
"This scholarship allows me to finish my senior
year without having a gap in my education," Spell says. "I
wanted so much to finish, and now I'm going to be able to, all because
of this." In this one day, she met with Freeman, a television
crew, staff members and Freeman's co-workers.
Spell, the daughter of Lt. Cmdr. Martin Spell and
Ann Spell of Collins, attended Prentiss Christian School and is
in the third year of her work toward becoming an athletic trainer
(with a minor in dance). To win the scholarship, she wrote an essay
about her financial need and her dreams for the future.
"I want to be a trainer for extreme sports, like
motocross, skateboarding, snowboarding, and trick riding. I figure
it takes as much athleticism (in those sports) as it does for a
basketball or a tennis player," she says, losing her shyness
as her eyes shine and her shoulders pull back taller. She says if
the X Games route doesn't work out, she would like to work for a
dance company. "I've always been an alternative kind of kid."
She thinks a great deal of Freeman and of the anonymous
donor. "I appreciate this gift so much because it allows me
to concentrate on my education and our athletes rather than on my
financial situation," she says. "It's just wonderful."
Later on, donors move around the room like performers
on a stage fraught with many tables and chairs. Some fill out paperwork,
others look up to see old friends, and many murmur their good wishes
about Freeman. Hattiesburg Clinic's communications coordinator Jennifer
Venditti stands at the door, greeting the incoming and thanking
those leaving with Band-Aid badges of courage stuck to the inside
of their elbows. While Kristy Gould, a development officer with
Southern Miss, sits at a table talking to those interested in the
scholarship, the medical professionals collecting the blood donations
use time wisely to ease the fears of those who dislike needles,
no matter the good cause. Potential donors sit casually in white
chairs, waiting their turn. Freeman himself is here somewhere, probably
chatting with a buddy.
And Brianna Spell? She's in line, waiting for the
nurse to tell her what she needs to do next to get one of those