SCDAA celebrates 46 years of service and compassion

2017-18 Sickle Cell Ambassador Antonesia Jackson and SCDAA Founder Mary Murph



ST. PETERSBURG — The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), St. Petersburg Chapter celebrated their 46th anniversary with a benefit dinner Saturday, Sept. 22 at the St. Petersburg Country Club. This fundraiser is held annually to help support client programs and services throughout the year.

President and Founder Mary Murph opened the program by introducing Antonesia Jackson, the pint-sized sickle cell ambassador, who is fulfilling her last year of duties.

Antonesia is a fourth-grade student at Pinellas Park Elementary School. She enjoys coloring, dancing and her ambition is to become a doctor.

She walked over to the microphone, clasped it without any hesitation and told the audience about her experience with the painful disease.

“One of the symptoms is when my eyes gloss over, and I get headaches,” said Antonesia.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) 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.

SCD has impacted the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. One in every 365 African- American babies and one out of every 16,300 Hispanic-American babies are affected by the disease.

In addition, one in every 13 African-American babies is born with the sickle cell trait (SCT), which is when a person inherits one sickle cell gene and one normal gene. People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of SCD, but they can pass the trait on to their children.

This situation was a positive for African babies who lived in areas where malaria was prevalent because the one sickled gene inoculated the infant against the chronic and deadly effects of sickle cell anemia.

If both parents have SCT, there is a 50 percent chance that any child of theirs will also have SCT. Also, if both parents have SCT, there is a 25 percent chance that any child of theirs will have SCD. There is the same 25 percent chance that the child will not have SCD or SCT.

On April 4, 1972, the Sickle Cell Foundation of St. Petersburg was founded by Murph and former Senator William Fleece. Her passion for sickle cell awareness and research was born in 1966 when her daughter, Terri, was diagnosed with the illness.

Murph set up the first sickle cell office in her home with only a telephone and answering machine. She worked full time as an educator while she and her husband cared for two children with the disease.


Dozens of door prizes were given away this year, along with entertainment provided the Mt. Zion KINGdom Boys from Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, and the Heffner and Heffner Jazz Band filled the room with soulful jazz and R&B.

Friends and family enjoyed an evening of good food and fellowship in the name of sickle cell awareness.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email

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