CHARLOTTE – TJ Burns started posting YouTube videos of himself riding elevators around Charlotte as a young kid. Ten years and more than 15 million views later, it remains one of his greatest passions.
His fascination with elevators began when he attended physical therapy for his mild cerebral palsy.
“It was really hard and there were a lot of times I didn’t like doing what the therapist would need me to do, but the building that she was located in had an elevator and she knew that I was fascinated with the elevator,” TJ said. “She would say, ‘If you do what you’re supposed to do in therapy and do a good job, we’ll go to the elevator at the end of the day.’”
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Since then, he has posted more than 3,000 videos of elevators, hotels and other tours. He has filmed elevators all over the Charlotte region.
TJ has also traveled around the country to see different elevators. He can recognize various makes and brands.
“Sometimes, you find some unique ones,” TJ said. “We’ve gone down to places before like Georgia and Florida where they have a lot of Mowrey elevators and those are not really common up here, so you do have some neat ones that you don’t find everywhere. And of course, it’s always fun to ride glass elevators, too.”
His favorite elevator of all time is the fireplace elevator at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville. Around Charlotte, he said there are nice elevators, but they are not as unique as some of the ones he’s seen in other places.
Hotels and elevator brands began noticing TJ’s content in 2012. Hampton Inn declared him an Ambassador of Hamptonality. The Hampton Tunnel Road in Asheville dedicated an elevator in his honor.
“The vice president of Hampton noticed TJ Elevator Fan was appearing every time he would do a search of Hampton hotels on the internet,” said Jeff Burns, TJ’s father. “He got to noticing that and asked his assistant to find out more about what TJ was doing.”
TJ said he and his family seek out Hampton Inn or Hilton hotels to film or stay wherever they travel.
TJ’s fans have watched him grow up on his channel. He graduated from Hope Academy in May with honors and was the school’s first student to participate in the dual-enrollment program with Central Piedmont Community College.
Now, he’s an official college student, though he does not yet know what field he wants to go into. He and his father took a course together to get certified in television studio and control room operations, so that could be a possible career path.
No matter what field he ends up in, he plans to continue making and posting videos.
“I’ll ride elevators and post videos for as long as I can,” TJ said.
TJ’s mother, Julie Burns, said his videos have made an impact on his viewers over the last 10 years. When he posted a video of Loretta Lynn’s childhood home, many of the county music singer’s fans thanked him for giving them a chance to see it.
She’s most amazed by the impact TJ makes on children with medical conditions.
“Some of the viewers actually have worse health conditions than he does, and their mothers will say that TJ’s an inspiration for them to keep motivated,” Julie said. “That’s the most rewarding and proudest moment that I’ve gotten with his hobby.”
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