Editor's Note: Be sure to continue after the video for the rest of Ronnie's story and a photo gallery.
When I met Ronnie Alley, the quote "Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities" came to mind.
Ronnie's physical struggles started at birth when he was born with cerebral palsy, which causes weakness on the right side of his body. He recalls being a child and listening to other kids physically playing outside. And although his body restricted his activities, his mind and determination were always strong and active.
Ronnie used to worked as a volunteer at Gate City High School. He volunteered at the high school throughout the school year. Then, in 2001, he started volunteering at Holston Valley Hospital in the pre-admission department during the summer months, because as Ronnie said, "I had to do something for a few months while school was out."
There is not much idle time in Ronnie's life as he keeps a very busy and consistent schedule. He has volunteered at Holston Valley Hospital for the last 14 years and treats his volunteer job as a full-time position. "It give me something to look forward to each day," he explains.
"I get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and get on the bus in Gate City at 6:45 to arrive at the hospital by 7:30. I usually get right to work on consent forms and reports in pre-admissions, and later on in the day in the pastoral care office to take care of mailings or spreadsheets, when they need me. I stay here until 2:45 or 3 and then take the bus back home," said Ronnie.
In his 14 years of volunteering, he has seldom missed a day unless weather-related issues cancel his public transportation or "I'm really sick," said Ronnie.
"I realize people are depending on me to get my job done and I feel guilty if I'm not here. I don't want to let them down.," he said.
Ronnie credits his parents for his strong work ethic and dedication to his volunteer job. He says that physically he can't compete in sports, but this is how he competes in life.
"I believe in giving my all and giving my fullest. Because I need assistance with so many physical things, what I can do, I want to do to the best of my ability."
During his years of volunteering at Holston Valley Hospital, Ronnie has formed some great friendships.
"Connie Justice, the associate clinical leader in pre-admission, inspires me by her character, class, and integrity. I feel like being around her makes me a better person and brings out the best in me," he said.
"Leigh Ann Begley, director of same day services, has been more like a mentor to me. She's also been someone I can lean on and a real inspiration to me. Kim DeGreen is another good friend I've met along the way. All the employees here treat me with respect and make me feel good about myself. That encourages me to give my best everyday."
When Ronnie is not volunteering his time, he enjoys watching NASCAR and is a season ticket holder for the races at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"I'm also very interested in government and I'm a news junkie. I like to read a lot of biographies and books on U.S. History."
"People at the hospital tell me I'm an inspiration to them but I don't think anything of it because I'm just trying to do my job. ... I think of my volunteer work as serving my country and my version of the American dream, and I hope it will inspire others. I feel like I'm 'Serving a cause greater than ourselves,'" said Ronnie, quoting George W. Bush.
His friend, Leigh Ann Begley, said, "Ronnie has a heart for people and he looks at this as a job, and not volunteering. He is very dedicated and never wants to miss a day. He has been resilient in the fact that as health care has changed, he has had to change in his volunteer work and has been a trooper about it."
Leigh Ann laughingly said that Ronnie is also her news and political source, as he always know exactly what is going on and can always give her all the information on political candidates.
Karen Fox, manager of volunteer services, praised Ronnie's commitment.
"Whenever I need help, Ronnie is always willing to do it. If you ask anyone throughout the hospital, they know Ronnie. He's an awesome guy, compassionate and caring. I appreciate all the work he does as a volunteer, as everyone does, and I hope he realizes it," she said.
As we were walking down the hall in the hospital, most people smiled and said hello to Ronnie as he went by. I mentioned he probably knows everyone in the hospital. He said most people just know him by the walker he uses to get around. But I think people know Ronnie Alley because of his dedication to his job and his outstanding ability to, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, "Do what you can with what you have where you are."