Racing to find a cure for sickle cell

Runners and walkers lined up on Saturday for the 37th annual 5K run-walk to support those coping with sickle cell anemia.

The race featured a Tim Simpkins one-mile fun run and a 5K run-walk, sponsored by The Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc. and Gulf Winds Track Club.

The new course was designed to be faster, safer and easier to manage as a stretch along Orange Avenue was replaced by a run down the St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. North Ridge Road was replaced by Notre Dame Street that has very little traffic. Hills were banned from the course.

The runners ran in a clockwise direction, opposite from the direction they have run in prior years. The start and finish of the race remained on Bragg Drive in front of Jake Gaither Recreation Center and Golf Course.

The Sickle Cell Foundation was started on Feb. 21, 1980 and is a nonprofit organization. It is currently the only local agency serving District II providing services to Leon, Jefferson, Wakulla, Madison, Taylor, Gadsden and Jackson counties. There are 16 chapters in the state of Florida.

The race is the foundation’s largest fundraiser. Velma Stevens, executive director for the Sickle Cell Foundation, said, “We are fighting for a cure, and in order for us to get to that point we have to bring awareness about how it impacts people living with sickle cell. Not only does it impact the person with sickle cell, it also impacts the caretakers and the entire community.”

Medline Plus defines sickle cell anemia as an inherited red blood cell disorder that affects hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Those who have the disease are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. A blood test can show if you have sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait; All states now test newborns to be able to start treatment early if needed.

Symptoms include painful swelling of the hands and feet, fatigue from anemia and a yellowish color of the skin or the whites of the eyes.

Most of the people affected with sickle cell disease are African Americans. About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with sickle cell trait and about 1in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease.

“We are often at FAMU and encourage people to get tested. The actual test only takes about five minutes to see if you have the trait,” said Sherri Hill, community outreach coordinator for Sickle Cell Foundation.

For more information regarding the Sickle Cell Foundation Inc., visit or visit at 1336 Vickers Road.