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Bringing laughter to sickle cell patients

Shirley Hawkins | 10/8/2008, 5 p.m.

Many African Americans suffer from sickle cell disease, an ailment that has no cure.
Sickle Cell disease affects approximately 72,000 people in the United States and affects 1 in 150 African Americans.
"The red blood cells don't flow through the body of Sickle Cell sufferers like they should. Instead of the blood cells being smooth and round, they come out sharp and misshapen," said Roger Brown, director of development and public affairs for the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of Southern California.
"The hallmark for Sickle Cell disease is excruciating pain and the disease can strike anywhere in the body." And, according to Brown, the disease leads to other ailments, as well. "It is not uncommon to find incidents of strokes, heart attacks, joint degeneration, and infection in sufferers of sickle cell disease."
Because of the disease, Brown said that people suffering from sickle cell disease often have difficulty trying to live a normal life. "My sickle cell clients spend an inordinate amount of time in the hospital. The majority of kids do not graduate from high school. They also have difficulty holding a job because they have to frequently attend to their disease," he acknowledged.
Comedian Chris Reese, 35, is one young man attempting to bring laughter into the lives of sickle cell disease survivors with Hoopla's, a comedy bus tour that offers live comedy shows.
The charter bus travels to regional casinos and shopping outlets where audience members get a dose of Reese's infectious humor.
Reese was on hand at a press conference with the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation on Sept. 27 to unveil the new comedy company whose goal is to bring laughter to sufferers of Sickle Cell disease and their families. Reese announced that a percentage of the proceeds from every bus ticket sold will go to the Foundation. Reese kicked off his bus tour during September, which was National Sickle Cell Disease month.
"Hoopla's merges entertainment, transportation and tourism-and if that wasn't enough, we contribute to an important cause very close to my heart," said Reese, a Washington, D. C. native who now lives in Los Angeles.
"I always knew that whatever I did in my life, I had to help the cause for sickle cell," said Reese, who has struggled with the disease most of his life.
Members of The Sickle Cell Disease Adult Support Group of Southern California and the Cayenne Wellness Center as well as Sickle Cell disease survivors and their families were recently feted to Reese's zany comedy that got everyone laughing.
To contact Chris Reese or Hoopla's, call (310) 946-3751.