SCDAA celebrates 45 years of sickle cell awareness

SCDAA celebrated their 45th anniversary at the St. Petersburg Country Club last Saturday, Sept. 30



ST. PETERSBURG –The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), St. Petersburg Chapter celebrated their 45th anniversary with a benefit dinner last Saturday, Sept. 30 at the St. Petersburg Country Club. This fundraiser is held annually to help support client programs and services throughout the year.

Amongst the beautifully decorated tables sat elegantly dressed ladies with equally handsome men all there to support sickle cell awareness. Senator Darryl Rouson played the role of Master of Ceremony and kept the program moving with his folksy brand of comedy, helping eventgoers feel at home.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch brought greetings from the county while reminding the audience how blessed Pinellas is for not feeling the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s fury. He also asked for prayers for those who are suffering in Puerto Rico and other parts of United States.

Welch emphasized the role SCDAA has played in bringing awareness and advocacy for individuals and families who are dealing daily with the disease.

“I want to thank all the supporters and members of the organization,” said Welch, turning his focus on the chapter’s founder and President Mary Murph. “I just want to thank you and let you know you continue to be in our prayers. This is our first event without Terri, but she’s with us in spirit and always will be. This work will continue.”

Murph’s passion for sickle cell awareness and research was born in 1966 when her daughter, Terri, was diagnosed with the illness. Terri succumbed to the disease May 2 at the age of 52.

Sickle cell disease is accompanied by severe pain attacks and poor oxygen delivery throughout the body that can cause critical damage to organs. Currently, the only cure is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation—a costly procedure in which stem cells are taken from the bone marrow or blood of a healthy donor and then injected into the recipient to generate red blood cells free of disease.

Unfortunately, many people with sickle cell disease in the United States do not have a relative who is a full genetic match and able to be a donor.

In 1972, Murph and former Senator Bill Fleece founded the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation in St. Petersburg.

“With little knowledge, she began to blaze new trails during the sickle cell movement,” said Rouson. Shortly thereafter, social clubs, sororities, fraternities joined the cause. She set up the first sickle cell office in her home with a telephone and an answering machine.”

For years, Murph has advocated for those stricken with the illness. She worked full time as an educator while she and her husband cared for two children with the disease. She selflessly volunteered an inordinate amount of hours for the cause.

“We all know that giving time of oneself is precious,” stated Rouson.

A pinnacle of strength and courage, Murph soldiered on with this year’s event.

“I want to thank you for all your prayers, for your blessings, for your contributions and all acts of kindness that you have given over the 45 years,” Murph stated humbly. “With the help of wonderful board members, I was able to make it.”

Attorney Tamara Felton-Howard reflected on those who transitioned within the last year from the disease.

SCDAA-2, featured“We know that even in death their lives continue on in the memories of those that love them and in the memories of those whose lives they touched,” said Felton-Howard.

She asked the family members of Cozy Reed (transitioned June 7 at the age of 79), Charles Lewis (transitioned December 31 at the age of 41) and Terri Murph (transitioned May 2 at the age of 52) to all stand and be recognized.

Board member Carolyn Poole introduced the new sickle cell ambassador for the next two years, Antonesia Jackson.  Eight-year-old Antonesia attends Pinellas Park Elementary School where she is a straight “A” student. She also attends the Broderick Recreation Center and mom, Jasmine Jackson, is an advocate for the cause.

Taking over duties from the 2015-17 ambassador Xavier McKinney, Antonesia assisted in the activities for Sickle Cell Awareness Month and for the chapter’s 45th anniversary.

“Welcome to our event. Thank you for coming,” said Antonesia shyly into the microphone.

This year, entertainment was provided by jazz great Henry Ashwood on saxophone and the Bus Stop Band filled the room with the sounds Motown. Friends and family enjoyed an evening of good food and fellowship in the name of sickle cell awareness.

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