By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
In its 26th year as an organization, the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association is hosting its annual fundraiser, the Black History Sickle Cell Telethon, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday at the Plaza Hotel in Killeen.
An inherited blood disease, sickle cell anemia attacks the immune system creating ruptured red blood cells that cannot transport oxygen through the body.
"Where there's a lack of oxygen, it causes severe pain. It's a devastating disease and more excruciating than cancer," said Gene Carter, the executive director of the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association. "People regard sickle cell as not a serious disease, but it's very serious because it tends to take our children away at an early age."
Children like 14-year-old Jazmine Bates, who is the poster child for the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association and a military dependent. Bates' father is currently deployed to Iraq.
"In our area of service – spanning eight counties and encompassing Killeen, Fort Hood, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Gatesville and Lampasas – we know of 561 cases of sickle cell disease. So it's pretty prevalent and it's pretty prevalent within the military community. We have several military families who have children with sickle cell disease," Carter said.
Money received by the association have always been put back into the community, helping those battling the disease.
"We've helped people who needed rent paid, helped them pay for medication if they weren't on Medicaid, helped them get their Social Security going, helped them to get back and forth to the doctor. There are lots of little things that we do to help them," said Ruby Graham, the association's coordinator who's been with the group for 25 years and who runs the Killeen office on Avenue E.
The association did not receive enough funding last year and because of that, it had to reduce services to community members.
"We really need help because our funds have been low this year and we haven't been able to help like we normally do. I'm hoping everyone will come out and contribute," Graham said.
The group hopes to raise $70,000 Sunday in order to provide client services like education about the disease and other blood disorders. Carter would like 3,000 people to donate $25 each to reach the goal.
"We need everyone to support us. If one child suffers, we all suffer. The disease does not discriminate against anyone," Carter said.
Featured at this year's event will be the announcer from radio station 92.3 whose stage name is Babysitter; Kim Winn, who is a television announcer for Channel 25; and James Carley, a military man who just retired from Fort Hood.
"He's a wonderful comedian," Carter said of Carley, adding that the telethon will air on Fox 44, which is Channel 14 on Time Warner Cable.
Those interested in contributing to the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association are encouraged to drop off donations to the Plaza Hotel on Sunday. The Plaza Hotel is at 1721 E. Central Texas Expressway in Killeen. Or mail the contributions to P.O. Box 1705, Killeen, TX 76540.
"We're not able to charge credit cards," Carter said.
To place a call during Sunday's telethon, call 501-3914.
"We have eight phones so that means when they call, that's the lead number and it rolls over to the other numbers. That's the only number they need," Carter said.
Contact Iuliana Petre at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7469.