Moody High School senior Clay Gilley was recently named one of five “Young Heroes of Alabama” by Alabama Public Television.
Gilley will receive a $5,000 scholarship, a notebook computer and other items. He also will be featured on the aptv.org website and other APT media publications.
Gilley, 18, is the son of Craig and Bridget Gilley. He said he was excited to not only be nominated, but to be chosen for the honor.
“It feels amazing,” Gilley said. “I called my mom as soon as I got out of school, and she was crying on the phone.”
Moody counselor April West nominated Gilley. She said when she had the chance to nominate a student for the Young Heroes program, Gilley's name immediately came to mind.
“Clay is an amazing young man, and I believe that he has a powerful story to share with others,” West said
At the age of seven, Gilley was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a very rare autoimmune disorder in which the body stops producing enough new red blood cells as a result of bone marrow damage.
Gilley said he sought different treatments for years, but never found anything sustainable.
“I went through stages of just recovering for about a year and then relapsing,” Gilley said, adding he relapsed about three times.
Gilley said he searched for a donor to receive a bone marrow transplant, but was unsuccessful in Alabama. However, in 2017, Gilley found a donor in Wisconsin before receiving the transplant in 2018.
Throughout the process, Gilley had to isolate himself in Wisconsin for about a year and attend school online before receiving the transplant.
“The hardest part of bone marrow transplant was isolation for a year,” Gilley said, adding he had a lot of support throughout the process.
“My family has been very supportive of me,” Gilley said, adding that his friends were also supportive throughout his journey.
Since returning to school, Gilley has been able to join his school’s cross country and tennis teams.
Moody High School principal Christopher Walters said Gilley has continued to be a model student as his drive to succeed is higher than most.
“Clay is such a good kid. He does things the right way and is just a great representation of Moody High School,” Walters said. “We have tried to build expectations that are really high over here over the last several years and he is the model and epitome of the expectations that we set.”
West said Gilley told her earlier this year that his health struggles have taught him to "never give up, stay strong, and know that suffering does not last forever."
“Not only does he say these words, I believe that he lives them each and every day with his attitude, his graciousness and his eagerness to take every opportunity given to him in this second chance at life,” West said, adding that his positive personality is often infectious.
“Clay is always smiling. He seems to befriend anyone that happens to be near him. He is eager to try new things, including joining both the cross country and tennis teams post-transplant,” West said.
“When I think of Clay, the word that describes him best is joy. He is full of joy and shares it with everyone he meets.”