September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month, a time to recognize the many people living with sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disease that affects more than 100,000 people in the United States and 20 million people worldwide, impacting African Americans at disproportionate rates.
The Urban League of Greater Madison Guild, in partnership with the Divine Nine, the American Red Cross as well as other Black-led organizations, will be hosting a Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drive to help with the blood shortage and to raise awareness about sickle cell disease on Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
“The agenda is being led by the Urban League of Greate Madison Guild, of which Corinda Rainey-Moore is the president, and it is a partnership with the American Red Cross and numerous local Black-led organizations to host a Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drive, something that is very important in our community,” Urban League of Greater Madison President and CEO Dr. Ruben Anthony tells Madison365.
The Urban League held its first Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drive back in partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital seven years ago to let people know about the importance of sickle cell awareness blood drives. It was just the beginning of the conversation that has now intensified with the well-attended Red Cross Sickle Cell Blood Drive held on April 30 at the Urban League.
“The latest one we did in partnership with the American Red Cross went really well and really focused on building stronger relationships with the American Red Cross here and with all of the work of the [Urban League] Guild and Bobby Moore [chairperson for the Urban League Guild’s Sickle Cell initiative] collaborating with the Black Greek organizations,” Anthony says. “That last blood drive we did was just amazing.”
That event, Anthony says, has created a model for getting maximum participation.
“Sickle cell anemia is an African American disease primarily, but the support for sickle cell hasn’t been there,” Anthony says. “So the [Urban League] Guild has really taken on a space that has been vacant for a very long time. The model that we are using in bringing all these African American organizations and other supporting organizations together is a model that the American Red Cross was excited by and we believe that it’s a statewide or national model that we can continue to do to raise the awareness of sickle cell and how important it is brown and Black people to give blood donations.
“It can really help shed light on the fact that there are so many people in this community with sickle cell and that they are suffering and that they are at risk of dying because they don’t have adequate blood donation,” Anthony adds.
Because sickle cell patients often require regular transfusions throughout their lifetime, the blood they receive must be more closely matched to prevent rejection. While a donor from any racial or ethnic group can be a match for a sickle cell patient, the best match for a blood transfusion is an African-American donor. But sometimes it can be really hard to find a match.
“For those African Americans who really need that O positive or some other rare blood match, it’s more likely to come from another African American,” Anthony says. “And so we’re excited to be partnering with the American Red Cross one more time to get people to come out and give blood for this very important issue.”
Anthony says that it makes it easier when well-known people in local communities share their own experiences with sickle cell.
“Lots of people in the community that have sickle cell have come to events like this and they have helped to put a name with a face for the community,” Anthony says. “I think that’s been one of the more effective ways of telling the story is having people in the community who are affected by it participate and tell us their story and tell us how important it is for people to come out and give blood and what it means to them.”
Although walk-ins will be accepted, appointments are strongly encouraged for the Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drive at the Urban League. All donors will receive a free health screening prior to donating.
“The event will have snacks and refreshments. It’s a very important event so we hope that people spread the word and that we get a really good turnout,” Anthony says.
For more information about the Sickle Cell Awareness Blood Drive at the Urban League of Greater Madison on Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., click here.