CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – The Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois held its 30th Annual Walk/Jog/Bike-A-Thon June 12 along the city’s downtown lakefront trail. The event is the association’s major fundraiser for the year, with a goal of $150,000.  Hundreds attended to show support in the form of volunteering and/or participation.

The association is the only organization that services the needs of individuals with sickle cell disease and their families in the entire state of Illinois stated Valerie Beckley, executive director of the association.

“The state of Illinois does not provide enough funding for sickle cell disease, and so we’re petitioning the state legislature to ensure that enough money is provided towards services for sickle cell disease,” she added.


Some of the services that are available through the association are emergency grants, scholarships, patient referrals, genetic counseling, newborn screening program and a summer camp.

One of the co-sponsors of the event, The National Pan-Hellenic Council of Chicago, Inc. has been involved with sponsoring and fundraising for two years. Debra Underwood, the president of the council, said “the walk/jog/bike-a-thon is a good cause and this is something that affects the Black community.”

Two long-time participants in the event shared their reasons for their commitment. Yvonne Williams has participated in the event for the past 15 years simply to help, she said, with fundraising, scholarships, summer camps, and various other programs.

Lorraine Cole, who has also participated in the event for the past 15 years, explained that it is a worthy cause that needs as much participation as it can get.

There are two distinct forms of sickle cell. One is the sickle cell trait, a condition that occurs where a person gets an abnormal gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent. There are no sickle-cell shaped cells in the blood of these individuals, so they do not have sickle cell anemia; which means they do not have painful episodes, they do not tire easily, their eyes are not yellow, and their life expectancy is normal.

In some individuals with sickle cell trait, sickling in the blood stream and symptoms may occasionally occur at high altitudes or while they are receiving a general anesthetic for a surgical operation. Sickling can occur in the kidneys, which may cause bleeding from the kidneys, turning urine red.

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that occurs in one of every 500 Black people. Sickled cells flow differently in blood vessels. Round red cells are soft like a bag of jelly, so their shape can be changed readily, permitting them to flow through small blood vessels very easily. But sickle cells are hard like pieces of wood and tend to jam up in small blood vessels, which can cause blood flow to stop.

Some of the complications of sickle cell disease are severe and recurring pain episodes, strokes, kidney and liver problems, leg ulcers, bone malformation, jaundice, blindness and shortened life expectancy.

–Shawntell Muhammad

(For more information, contact the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois at 312-345-1100 or visit their website at www.sicklecelldisease-il.org.)