Walking with sickle cell warriors

A group photo of volunteers who participated in the Strides for Sickle Cell Walk 2023
Volunteers at the Strides for Sickle Cell Walk 2023

Constant pain and frequent hospitalizations are some of the difficult challenges facing patients with sickle cell disease. To bring the strength of this community together, University of Florida Health, the Streetlight program and over 190 participants walked in solidarity with these ‘warriors’ on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2023.

“We wanted to show our patients and their family members that we acknowledge the challenges they experience,” said Emily Marchi, M.S., director of the Streetlight program. “We also wanted to provide a loving community to connect them with resources like counseling, information on new medications, and spiritual support, while fundraising for our Streetlight Sickle Cell team.”

Participants walked for the cause at Gainesville’s Depot Park, and shared health resources and information about community-based programs. They also enjoyed delicious foods from local vendors including Germain’s, Kona Ice and Blueline Q. Special thanks to event sponsors Can-D’s Confections, Greg Bradley Insurance Agency – Allstate and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Proceeds from the inaugural Strides for Sickle Cell Walk 2023 supported printing books that feature the patients’ artwork and stories of resilience, and winter wellness kits that provide items of comfort like a custom sweatshirt, bean bag heating pad, and other supplies to help regulate their temperature during the winter months.

Sickle cell disease, or sickle cell anemia, refers to a group of inherited red blood cell disorders affecting more than 20 million individuals worldwide, most common among African American and Hispanic American communities.

To help focus attention on the need for research and treatment of sickle cell disease, Congress designated September as National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Streetlight’s sickle cell team organizes several events throughout the month. The team connects with patients for their ideas and thoughts about events to educate, celebrate the month and bring the community together.

The Streetlight program focuses on young patients aged 13 to 30 living with chronic diseases, including sickle cell. These resilient individuals face hurdles in their pursuit of education, employment and participation in everyday activities due to the complications of the disorder. Through the dedication of Streetlight volunteers, these patients find invaluable peer companionship, providing support throughout their medical journey at UF Health.

Sickle cell disease stats

1 in 13 African Americans carry the sickle cell trait, and many do not know they have it.

100,000 An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease.

2,000 Approximately 2,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease annually in the U.S.

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