The Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association will celebrate 30 years of service by holding its annual telethon at Killeen’s Shilo Inn.
About 30 volunteers will answer ringing phones from noon to 5 p.m. this Sunday.
“This agency needs all the assistance we can get,” said the Rev. Gene Carter, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization. “This year, our theme for the telethon is ‘Community coming together to save sick children.’ The essence of that is to try to overshadow the old myth that it only affects one group.”
The telethon is the main fundraiser for the nonprofit organization. The association spans eight Texas counties and has more than 100 volunteers.
The money raised goes to educational presentations, psychiatric counseling and referrals to those who have the disease.
Younger people are mainly the ones affected because their lifespans are shortened, Carter said.
It turns normal blood cells into a “sickle,” or a crescent shape.
The misshapen cells can get blocked in the bloodstream, causing extreme pain that can last for hours or days.
Often, patients need expensive bone marrow transplants and are prone to anemia and infections.
“Sickle cell affects Asians, African-Americans, those from Mediterranean areas. It affects dark-skinned people more than others,” Carter said. “But, all races have sickle cell. We have 37 derivatives of sickle cells.”
The group raised more than $11,000 last year for the disease, short of its goal of $50,000. More community support is a key goal for the nonprofit.
“Before our existence,” Carter said, “anyone who had sickle cell had to seek help wherever they could get it, sometimes driving as far as Houston or Dallas.”
Residents can support the organization by tuning into Fox 44 this Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and calling in to donate, or by going to centtexsickle.org and to donate online.