Guests at the Sickle Cell Association Banquet on Saturday included, from left, Tiffany Whitfield, Venise Hyman, Eric Hyman, Nathan Smith, Vivian Whitfield and Abreika Boone.
Guests at the Sickle Cell Association Banquet on Saturday included, from left, Tiffany Whitfield, Venise Hyman, Eric Hyman, Nathan Smith, Vivian Whitfield and Abreika Boone.

Sickle Cell banquet supports patients

Published 12:51am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

John Mayo Sr. counts a sister, grandson and nephew among his many family members who suffer from sickle cell disease. That’s why he was at Saturday’s Sickle Cell Association awards banquet to support the cause, he said.

Association Suffolk Advisory Committee Chair Felton Whitfield said the event, held at Tabernacle Christian Church, was successful and will help fund the organization’s services for another year.

“It was real nice and well-attended,” he said. “The speaker was excellent. We just had a very nice program.”

The disease affects an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people, primarily blacks, in the United States. It is inherited and causes a defect in hemoglobin, which results in oddly-shaped red blood cells. The disease’s complications can include frequent blood clots, extreme pain and damage to vital organs, as well as life-long anemia because sufferer’s red blood cells survive only about one-tenth as long as normal blood cells.

There is no cure besides a bone marrow transplant, which is available to very few because of the lack of matched bone marrow donors. However, medical advances have increased the lifespan of sufferers, who now can look forward to living to middle age and beyond. In the 1970s, the average lifespan of someone with sickle cell disease was only 14.

Locally, the Sickle Cell Association helps educate people about the disease and supports people with it, including with monetary help and health education.

“Many of them do not have health insurance,” Whitfield said.

Saturday’s program included dinner and guest speaker the Rev. Dr. Dwight S. Riddick of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Newport News.

“The speaker was excellent,” Whitfield said. “His subject was living in hope, and he left us with hope. By having hope, we have something to hold onto to inspire and keep us encouraged in these trials and situations we’re going through.”

Awards included the Mary A. Goodman Volunteer Service Award, presented to Earl Kindred. Whitfield said Kindred has always been working behind the scenes to make the Sickle Cell Association run. A number of organizations also were recognized for their work for the cause.

A number of donations were presented to the organization, including $1,500 from city Treasurer Ron Williams’ annual golf tournament and $1,350 from First Baptist Church Mahan Street’s C.H. Wilson Men’s Bible Class.

“Every little bit counts,” Whitfield said, adding people can still send donations to Sickle Cell Association Inc., 861 Glenrock Road, Suite 120, Norfolk, VA 23502 or call 466-0332 for more information.

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