A mission with history. Tom Spencer leads the way in the fight against MS

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These Birmingham professionals have joined something bigger than themselves. Photo via NMSS

Tom Spencer is a prominent Birmingham community member and leader. He has a deep-rooted passion for one mission in particular: the fight against MS. Read all about Spencer’s story and how you can be a part of the mission for yourself.

Meet Tom Spencer

Spencer is an expert in plenty of aspects of Birmingham, but he quite literally wrote the book on our hiking trails. Photo via NMSS

Tom Spencer is a Senior Research Associate for the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. He spent two decades working in journalism and has won several national awards from the Governmental Research Association for writing and research.

His Birmingham roots are deep. Spencer and his family live in a house in Homewood that’s about 100 yards from the house where his father grew up. 

That love for community has carried over in a multitude of ways for Spencer. He’s an Elder at Independent Presbyterian Church, a co-founder of the Friends of Red Mountain Park and served on the board of the Cahaba River Society for six years.

Spencer spends any spare time he can outside, whether he’s hiking, running or gardening. In fact, he actually wrote a book entitled Five-Star Trails: Birmingham: Your Guide to the Area’s Most Beautiful Hikes. You can buy it here!

A World Free of MS

Making a better world—together. Photo via NMSS

Tom Spencer’s mother, Rita Spencer, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the early 1990s. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. It mainly affects the central nervous system.

Rita has been involved with the National MS Society for years now. The Alabama-Mississippi NMSS Chapter is actually headquartered right here in Birmingham.

The NMSS was founded to help those affected by this life-altering disease, whether it be through funding research, centralizing information, providing resources or helping people live well with MS.

  • Their vision: A World Free of MS.
  • Their mission: People affected by MS can live their best lives as we stop MS in its tracks, restore what has been lost and end MS forever.

The Alabama-Mississippi Chapter hosts events like fundraisers, group meetings and discussions, activities and more to help serve and support those affected by MS in our state.

Rising to the Challenge

Enlisting the support of your personal and professionals circles is essential in fundraising. Photo via NMSS

Every year, the NMSS hosts the Birmingham Leaders Challenge, where local professionals are nominated to participate in a fundraising campaign. We highlighted the top fundraisers from this year’s challenge, and they are quite an impressive group.

Tom Spencer was the Valedictorian of the 2020 Birmingham Leaders Challenge, which means he was the top fundraiser out of all the participants. He raised over $7,500 that will benefit people living with MS and their families.

I asked Spencer to share his best fundraising advice:

“Tell your story and why you are convinced the cause is a good one. For me, it was easy. My mother has a lot of fans. She has given a lot of herself. People were eager to give on her behalf.”

For Spencer, it’s Personal

Rita Spencer is truly an extraordinary woman. Photo via NMSS

Tom Spencer’s own connection to the mission of a world free of MS certainly plays a large part in his success. Watching his mother live with this disease for almost 30 years inspired him to put his all into the challenge.

“Thanks to treatments that grew out of MS Society-sponsored research, the progression of the disease was slowed and she continued to work as a nurse at Children’s Hospital for almost 20 more years, and she is still walking today.

Throughout, Mom has participated in Society-sponsored activities, which helped her forge relationships and kept her spirits high.”

Rita Spencer impacted countless lives during her decades as a nurse at Children’s. The work that Tom Spencer and the other Birmingham Leaders are doing allows that impact to continue in the lives of people affected by MS.

Want to be a part of the mission? Donate to the 2020 Birmingham Leaders Challenge right here.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.