September was National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. The purpose is to draw attention to the many challenges of those who suffer from spinal cord conditions.
Hendersonville resident Jim Shannon is a quadriplegic, but his condition is due to cerebral palsy (CP), not an accident. He developed CP as a very young child and it has progressively gotten worse.
The only part of his body he can control is his chin which enables him to use special computer devices to communicate and work.
Shannon has shown what can be accomplished with a strong faith in God coupled with a Christian family and many friends. He has developed an “I can do it” attitude.
This attitude enabled him to attend Sumner County Schools from kindergarten through high school with the help of attendants who attended classes with him.
He graduated 20th in his class of 350 at Beech High School and was voted Most Intelligent Male. He went on to graduate with an Associate’s degree from Volunteer State Community College, and earned a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Computer Information Systems.
While attending MTSU, he lived in family housing with attendants and rode the bus to class.
It was a dream come true for him when he moved into family housing. He had looked forward to being on his own, even though he required an attendant. He decorated his room in a Star Trek theme.
It wasn’t long until he had a community of friends he met attending the Christian Student Center. Several would come to his apartment after church and play cards with him.
When he graduated, he began designing websites. In 2000 he was hired by the State of Tennessee as a website maintainer. He now works for Tenncare as a Manager Care Specialist approving insurance claims.
He is able to work at home using special computer equipment designed for him. He has also lectured on assistive technology all over the world.
His parents built him a nice addition to their home, which includes a bedroom, office and entertainment room. The addition has two themes. One is Star Trek and the other is Gandalf, the wizard from the Lord of the Rings.
He has an attendant 24/7 with the state paying for an 8-hour day, and Shannon paying for the remaining 16 hours. He describes them as literally his arms and legs, and feels blessed to have had wonderful assistants.
Not only has Shannon continued to have great assistants, he has a multitude of close friends.
He said, “I also have a very awesome cool group of friends. I see some of them every week, some more. I am really into Dungeons and Dragons. I am in three separate games — two at my house and online. My friends are in those games. I am a huge critical role fan. It’s a group of voice actors that play Dungeons and Dragons on YouTube. We also play board games and cards.
“I do like video games. I can play turn-based computer games. The games that aren’t turn-based I watch my friends play on computer or play station. My friends mean the world to me. During the pandemic shut down, some of them read to me over zoom and one of my Dungeons and Dragons games kept going due to two great people.”
Close friend J. J. Hawkins said, “His disabilities which Jim fully embraces as his blessings have never stopped him from doing what Jim wants to do. He is an inspiration to many, especially myself, but that’s not where Jim’s inspiration stops.
“He’s served on multiple boards serving different parts of his community. We really have a great relationship. I consider him to be one of my best friends. I also look at him like a big brother I never had.”
Associate minister at Hendersonville Church of Christ Stan Wilson said, “I love him dearly. He is an amazing person and super intelligent. He is a huge hearted person who gives of himself — his time and money liberally to all who need.”
Shannon unselfishly has devoted time to fundraising for various nonprofits such as Raider’s for Christ, a Church of Christ campus organization at MTSU, where he was top fundraiser for six years. He and his mother served on the board of directors for the Technology Access Center where he continued to be a top fundraiser.
Shannon is a powerful example of what can be done, if you see obstacles as blessings. His examples of patience and determination serve as an inspiration to others.
He is the son of Dr. Bill Shannon and Karen Shannon and has two married sisters, Kelli and Mandi and four nieces and two nephews.