N’Jhari Jackson will tell you he is a junior at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa. He will tell you he likes to play football and lacrosse for the school. The humble 15-year-old will conveniently leave out that he is helping save lives in his community.
“You never know when an emergency is going to happen,” said Jackson. “It’s good knowing that in case it does happen, I can help as much as possible.”
His way of helping is by providing life saving devices. His Eagle Scout project was to raise money to buy an AED defibrillator, complete with proper training, and special first-aid kit. Jackson’s giving was just beginning.
To date, Jackson has helped train hundreds of adults in CPR and helped provide 20 AED’s in Tampa Bay schools and youth sports program facilities. Three of these devices he bought with his own money and with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015, he was able to do more.
The honor came from the team as one of their Community Heroes.
He also donated to Haley Veterans Home, Shriners Hospital Tampa, The Paideia School, Boy Scouts of America Troop 142 and The Joshua House.
Jackson’s giving and service to his community was far from over though. His next project idea came from a tragic ending to a swim meet.
“Someone dove in next to me and they didn’t come up. He had sudden cardiac arrest diving off the block,” said Jackson. “So many kids have heart problems and they don’t even know it.”
Now, one of Jackson’s non-profits helps raise money to fund heart screenings in conjunction with sports physicals for young people in Tampa Bay. His passion for helping others stemmed from medical hardships of his own.
"A few years ago, I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease," said Jackson.
It’s a condition causing debilitating pain in his joints.
"The doctor told me I would never be able to play football again,” said Jackson.
Following several surgeries, Jackson can now play all the sports he loves, hoping he is inspiring others in the process.
Currently, Jackson is raising money through book sales of one of his books entitled, “One Poke, Two Pokes, Three. This is not a joke!”
He is planning to donate all the money raised from that book, inspired by children battling pediatric cancer, to Dick Vitale’s Gala in May. As of this story’s air date, Jackson has raised $600.
"I just want them to know that I definitely care ... I just want people to know that anything is possible."
In May, Jackson will be honored by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Tony Dungy and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Derrick Brooks as one of the finalists for the 2018 U.S. Army-Pro Football Hall of Fame Award for Excellence.
For more information on N’Jhari’s books and non-profits here.