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Williams Brothers singing at sickle cell benefit

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Posted: Monday, September 22, 2008 12:00 pm | Updated: 5:09 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Hayley Kappes

Killeen Daily Herald

Sometimes a little music can help cure an ailing soul.

The Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association will host its first benefit concert featuring gospel group the Williams Brothers at 7 p.m. Friday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

Proceeds from the concert will assist people affected by the disease in the area and toward research for a cure.

The Rev. Gene Carter has been the executive director of the association for the past 25 years.

"God gave me this ministry to take care of those who have been neglected and left behind with no support or assistance to fight this disease," Carter said.

The nonprofit organization serves more than 500 people in an eight-county area. Its mission is to bring greater awareness of sickle cell anemia.

"We're trying to broaden the knowledge of everyone in the community and dispel the myth that it only affects African-Americans," Carter said. "Sickle cell affects every ethnic group in one way or another."

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that occurs when red blood cells are abnormally shaped like the letter "C." Deformed red blood cells, which are normally disk-shaped, cause blockages in vessels, preventing blood flow to limbs and organs.

Sickle cell anemia is passed genetically to offspring when both parents are carriers of the trait.

Ruby Graham, association coordinator for the Killeen area, knows all too well the trials associated with sickle cell anemia. Her daughter, Fina, has the disease.

"I would be in and out of hospitals all night," Graham said. "It's hard for a mother to work if her child has sickle cell because you never know when she is going to be sick. You will have to leave work to take care of her."

Fina frequently missed school due to pain in her limbs from the disease. Graham had to appeal to the school superintendant so her daughter was not held back.

Summertime was the worst on Fina. While other children were running around outside, she had to stay indoors because she tired easily.

"Fina would lay in bed and cry from the joint pain in their arms and legs," Graham said. "She suffered and all I could do was sit by her bed and rub her."

Doctors told Graham that her daughter would not live past her ninth birthday. Fina is now 43 and continues to battle sickle cell anemia everyday. Graham said her daughter is dependent on oxygen tanks, has diabetes and pulmonary hypertension.

After experiencing so much when her daughter suffered through the disease as a child, Graham decided to lend her support and counsel others.

"We started helping people who needed medicine but couldn't afford it," she said. "We help pay bills for people who were struggling because of high medical costs."

Graham said donations have been low recently and they have had to deny people monetary assistance. Their goal is to raise $40,000 from the concert.

Graham said people living with sickle cell anemia should know all hope is not lost.

"You have to have the mindset of 'I'm going to fight this.' You can't just sit there, keel over and let the disease rule your life," Graham said.

Contact Hayley Kappes at hayleyk@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7559.

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