They chose the College of Charleston in the heart of downtown Charleston for their education. Now that they have graduated, they strive to make a difference. They are changing lives in the community that is home to their alma mater and around the world.
Our News 2 series for the week of Monday March 27 through Friday March 31 is dedicated to CofC graduates making a difference here and abroad. All week at 6:15AM on News 2 Today, we will bring you their inspiring stories.
Monday: Griffin Peddicord ‘14
Peddicord is the owner of Redux Yoga in downtown Charleston. The studio on President and Line is centered on Bikram style yoga—75 minutes of postures in a room set to roughly 105°. Peddicord has not always had the strength and flexibility to lead yoga students. “I have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and I also tore my meniscus fractured the bone marrow in my knee and contracted limes disease.” In his teens, he found yoga. “In that first month, I fixed all of my problems. I got all the movement back in my knee and I went off the [medicine] and I stopped getting cortisone shots and then it became my mission to give back.” That year Peddicord won the international yoga competition and the founder of Bikram himself paid for his teacher training. He taught yoga while at CofC and then a few years after he graduated, he opened Redux with the help of investors he met through founding startups. Peddicord was invited to the White House after he was selected for a group of “30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs.” He encourages anyone to try a class. “A lot of people are afraid of hot yoga, but the heat is actually a tool it works like a heating pad so that your muscles and tendons stretch in a way that’s a lot safer than practicing in a 70° room.” His practice allowed him to break the chains of doctors’ visits and medication. “I get to have the full and fulfilling life and not worry about this pain that I was told I was going to have for the rest of my life. “My goal is I want everyone to be healthy and to find a way that’s sustainable. I think there are healthy ways to manage life’s hurdles and set up factors that will energize you and help you through the rest of your life.”
Tuesday: Jared Aaronson ’15
Aaronson is a DJ/music producer and goes by the stage name Collective Disparity. He creates music he calls, “intentionally uplifting.” He uses his music to lift people out of the depths of a cancer diagnosis. His first interaction with a cancer center came when he was a patient himself. “I was a patient with Hodgkins Lymphoma.” He went through 6 months of chemotherapy and says music was a huge part of his recovery. Now, he uses his mixes to help others. “I just DJ’d in there. It went so well, I had people with chemo bags in hand coming up to me. I was like…I would love to try and take this on the road.” He raised a full tour budget of just shy of $17,000 using a Go Fund Me page. “We did 33 sets in 15 cancer centers, I think 4 cancer support communities couple of yoga sets along the way.” He said the hardest part for him during his fight with cancer was the walk to chemotherapy. He wants to make that walk a little more rewarding for other patients. “People would leave with huge smiles on their faces, which is huge for hospitals. There’s a bit of residual stress just in the waiting rooms and being in that sterile environment.” He livened the grim hospital environment with a bright tapestry and kaleidoscopes next to his DJ board. “It was an immensely powerful experience. We had one woman who came up to me who was in such tears and was so grateful we came. She said she thought it was an act of God that she saw us because she wasn’t supposed to be at the hospital that day.” Often people assume he only does this for kids, but Aaronson says it is important to connect with people of all ages. “We actually played a couple nursing homes as well and to see dementia patients go from literally unresponsive to lit up and happy is amazing as an artist.” His own fight with cancer was hard, but he considers himself fortunate. “To be on the healthy side of it, I felt very lucky, um, but definitely still connected with people who were worse off than me.”
CLICK HERE to connect with Jared Aaronson.
To email him about creating a DJ mix or some music for someone in the hospital–send your requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday: Samantha Sammis ’11
Sammis is the Director of Loving America Street. Her mission started when she paused her jog through the Upper Peninsula for a game of pick up. “I started playing basketball with kids at Mall Park in 2010,” says Sammis. “That turned into me just going every Friday, bringing my friends, bringing my classmates and neighbors and roommates.” Then she made the decision to serve full time. “I decided to move here in 2012 so instead of coming to serve kids once a week in a low-income neighborhood, which can be condescending and hurtful, I wanted to live in the community. Anyone who was anyone came into my home for a meal and bible study— homeless veterans, rich, poor, young, old, people who speak English, people who don’t speak English.” Before even intending to make this an organized effort, people just started giving her money! “I needed a place to put that money. I literally googled how to start a non-profit and we became incorporated in 2014.” The organization Loving America Street was born. “We’re at Mall Park on Fridays, we have Bible Studies on Thursdays, we lead a walking group on Mondays and then we do a free adult computer class on Wednesdays.” The biggest milestone for Sammis and her friends was buying the only laundromat in the area. “It was just totally dysfunctional. The Lord just revealed to me very quickly that there are tons of folks in the Eastside that don’t have washers and don’t have dryers, so we signed a lease and the Landlord said, do you know how to run a laundromat and I said, no, but God is my dad and that is what YouTube is for!” They raised $50,000 in 4 months. They now have 13 washers and 12 dryers and they employee 2 men from the community. “W’re able to empower folks with dignity and pride and a livable wage.” Sammis says this is the why behind Loving America Street–“Jesus 100%!”
CLICK HERE to donate.
Thursday: Emily Hoisington ’16
Hoisington is the Executive Director for Charleston Hope. Her heart broke when she heart about kids in Title I schools who would not be opening Christmas presents. “My sister worked at a Title I school,” says Hoisington. “A lot of her students not only weren’t going to receive Christmas gifts that year, really they did not have the basic necessities they needed in order to learn.” That first Christmas, she and her friends bought gifts for 40 kids. The next year was her first at the College of Charleston. “We went from adopting 40 students to 900.That year we founded Charleston Hope. I didn’t want to be in the schools just at Christmas time.” Now they do a day of service called Heart for the City. “We’re painting murals, cleaning closets, to one, save the district money and two, To teach that there is poverty in our community and we can do something about it.” They have also started a mentor program partnering with CofC. “In 3 months, we saw a 20% increase in of the amount of students on target. Yet, all of their success, did not come without struggle. In 2014, Hoisington’s boyfriend died suddenly, just one week after their big Christmas event. “Chad was a big supporter of Charleston Hope, of my dreams.” Many donations were made in Chad’s honor. Hoisington and her friends started a social media trend using the hashtag #ChadEffect. “We wanted people to know that the reason Chad acted in the intentional ways that he did is because of his relationship with Christ. That’s just being intentional with the people around you. Not only in, serving with a non-profit or with your church, but in your day to day life. And so we really try to teach that with our students.” They teach that lesson most tangibly at Christmas time. “It’s pure joy that you don’t really realize that a single toy…and it is the toy that brings them joy, but what’s the best part is that immediately they get up and hug the person that gave it to them. I firmly believe that they understand that it’s not about the toy, like, we’re here to love them and they want to receive that love and they want to give it right back. I mean it’s just unbelievable. It teaches you a lot.”