One in every 400 African Americans has sickle cell anemia, but raising awareness about the disease has become increasingly tough, which means that funding is hard to come by, and even worse, finding African American blood donors has also become a major issue, according to Mary E. Brown, president and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California.
Brown said in past years that the foundation does not get much support from the government.
That is where members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Beta Psi Lambda Chapter (Los Angeles), Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Tau Tau Omega (Santa Monica) and Alpha Gamma Omega chapters (Los Angeles) have stepped in.
For the last five years, the fraternity and sorority have purchased presents, decorations, and served lunch to families who are affected by sickle cell. At this year’s event the children had smiles of joy on their faces as they received presents from Santa Claus and were grateful to have a Christmas party given in their honor.
It was also a way for the Alpha Phi Alpha and Alpha Kappa Alpha to give back to the community.
The event was part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha health initiative conducted through their Global Leadership Through Timeless Service program, which aims to bring attention to diseases that affects the African American community.
Sickle Cell has affected at least one member of the Alpha’s Beta Psi Lambda Chapter. Chris Olphin has been affected by the disease, so members of the chapter are aware of how this disease can affect African Americans.
“It’s very important that we take care of our own,” said Damon Oliver, who is one of the creators of the lunch event. “When you see what these beautiful children and their families go through, it’s the least that we can do.”
In the past, Beta Psi Lambda has also participated in a blood drive for sickle cell with the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.
Then, realizing the lack of awareness about the disease, members of the chapter wanted to provide for families in need while bringing to light the importance of addressing this disease.
Dorsey High School was gracious enough to open their doors to Alpha Phi Alpha and Alpha Kappa Alpha for this event, and they provided students to help put this event on.
“I want to give Dorsey a positive light and let people know that we have a lot of kids who are committed to community service,” said Dr. Reginald Sample, school principal who is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha. “Not only are they intelligent individuals, they are passionate and they care deeply about themselves as a culture, but they are also want to giving back. A lot of times you hear negative press about the school. But I want to be able to showcase the positive things that we do on campus.”
The students who lent a hand were from the school’s leadership program. This group is the voice of the student body, and serves on committees when there are shared decisions that need to be maded in conjunction with the school’s administration.
To make this Christmas party happen was a total group effort by all four organizations, and events like this are critically important to helping families cope with sickle cell. The challenge of treating this disease is finding the right match, because many people do not step forward to donate blood. African American children need blood donated by other African Americans.
And contrary to popular belief, donating blood is not painful at all, and it only takes a few minutes, said Brown. There are many children who are in serious pain as result of the disease.
To help support the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, contact the organization at (310) 693-0247, or visit their website at www.scdfc.org.
Alpha Phi Alpha’s Beta Psi Lambda Chapter can be contacted through their website. www.BetaPsiLambda.org; Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Tau Tau Omega Chapter can be contacted through their website at www.TauTauOmega.org/, and Alpha Gamma Omega can be contacted through their website at www.akaago1927.org/