Sickle Cell Disease Benefit Dinner & Extravaganza

The 44th annual Sickle Cell Disease Benefit was held at the Magnuson Hotel Sat., Sept 17


ST. PETERSBURG – The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), St. Petersburg Chapter held its 44th benefit dinner last Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Magnuson Hotel. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit client programs and services.


Amongst the beautifully decorated tables, awesome entertainment provided by jazz great Henry Ashwood on saxophone and the Bus Stop Band rockin’ out to old-school funk and R&B, friends and family enjoyed an evening of good food and fellowship in the name of sickle cell awareness.

“I am so very pleased to see so much of our community here today around the cause that is so very important and makes a difference for so many people,” said Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin.

She went on to praise the SCDAA for helping to advance research of the disease.

“Because of the support of the St. Pete chapter and chapters like it across our nation, lives and stories are changing for so many people who suffer with sickle cell.”

Tomalin urged the audience to donate to the cause not only financially, but also intellectually and with human capital.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition that affects the red blood cells. It is characterized by the red blood cell becoming sickled shape and stiff. Sickle cells are fragile and break up easier than the body can replace them, causing anemia.

If you have the sickle cell trait, you have the gene for sickle cell disease. Over 2.5 million Americans, mostly African American, have the trait, and if both parents have the trait, they can have children with the disease.

Master of Ceremony Dr. Kevin Gordon, Provost of Midtown, Downtown and the Palladium campuses of St. Petersburg College, introduced the 2015-17 Sickle Cell Poster Child, Xavier McKinney.

Xavier is a nine-year-old student at Lakewood Elementary, whose hobbies include making creations with Legos, going to the park and attending movies.

Although he whispered to Gordon that he didn’t have anything to say to the crowd, the former Gibbs High School principal managed to get him to reveal his favorite movie: “Captain America: Civil War.”

“For 44 years we have been providing service while serving. I can’t do it alone, but with the help of the board members and volunteers throughout the city, we are able to take care of our families and promote research towards a cure,” said Mary Murph, president of the SCDAA, St. Petersburg Chapter.

With two children suffering from the disease, Murph has witnessed first-hand the painful episodes persons with sickle cell experience.

People suffering from the disease can be victims of what is known as a sickle cell pain episode. When a large number of sickle cells damage and plug blood vessels, it is difficult or impossible for the blood to circulate normally. This causes severe pain, which may occur in any part of the body.

And that is just what happened to little Antonesha, who attends Pinellas Park Elementary School. Before and after school, Antonesha goes to Broderick Recreation Center, where she was found in the bathroom stricken with severe pain.

The center contacted her mother, Jasmin Jackson, immediately. They also wanted to know how they could help.

“I went to Mrs. Murph and explained that we have some people behind us that want to know more about the disease and help find out in what ways that they could help bring awareness to the disease,” said Jackson.

And help they did. The Broderick Recreation Center in Pinellas Park coordinated two days of fundraising for the association. June 10-11 were set aside for a golf tournament and auction, all in efforts to raise awareness and help find a cure for sickle cell.

Members of the chapter were also honored guests of Pinellas Park’s mayor and chief of police at city hall. They were then presented with a check from monies earned at the fundraiser for $3,037.97.

Murph invited everyone who represented Broderick Recreation Center up to the podium and presented them with a Community Service Award for their dedication and support in promoting the endeavors of the association.

Other awards, recognitions and scholarships were given out before Marita Harris and her little sister Danielle taught the room how to do the Sickle Cell Stomp. Harris called audience members up to the dance floor, and about 15 people answered.  This choreograph dance helped them work off the extra pounds put on from the delicious meal they ate earlier in the evening.

You might have missed out on the fun Saturday night, but you still have a chance to donate to the association by calling 727-896-2355.

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