Inspirational volunteer brings compassion to patients

Published: Dec. 16, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - It is easy for J. J. Jackson to bring smiles to the faces of the Patients he visits when he volunteers at Sparrow, but the journey to each room is a different story.

Jackson is blind, so he keeps an audio recording listing the Patients he plans to visit each day and travels the halls while feeling for Braille room numbers until he reaches his destination.

"We want them to know Sparrow cares for them beyond the Patient part," Jackson says. "That level of caregiving, it's loving other people."

Jackson credits his best friend, Motown legend Stevie Wonder, with inspiring him to become a Sparrow volunteer in November 2010. Jackson depended on his friendship with Wonder to help battle two bouts with cancer. Jackson now wants to provide this kind of love and support to others.

"I wanted to find a way to give back the love," says Jackson, who met Wonder when they were teenaged students at Lansing's Michigan School for the Blind.

Jackson was featured in Sparrow's Annual Report this year for his inspirational story and the care he provides to Patients. To access the Annual Report, visit

Jackson has earned rave reviews for his visits to Sparrow Patients. He reads jokes from his Braille Reader's Digest, pulls out a photo of himself as best man at Wonder's wedding, displays artifacts from a trip to Africa, and tries to inspire others with his unlikely life story.

"As a volunteer caregiver, J. J. embodies the warmth, compassion and kind-hearted personality that we want at the bedside of each Patient," says Melissa Sherry, Sparrow's Director of Volunteer Services.

For more information about becoming a Sparrow volunteer, visit or call 517.364.3606 and select option 5.