The William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund will hold its fourth annual fundraiser at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Hyatt Inner Harbor, 300 Light St., Baltimore.


    The founders of the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund are getting some extra strength behind this year’s fourth annual benefit.

    Baltimore Ravens linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs signed on to help the Proudford family this year as one of its ambassadors and will attend the benefit, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Hyatt Inner Harbor, 300 Light St., Baltimore.

    Held in conjunction with Sickle Cell Awareness Month, the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund was established in October 2005 following the 2004 death of the fund’s namesake, a Dover resident, Air Force veteran and father of four.

    Sickle cell disease, the most common genetic disorder in the United States, occurs when blood cells form abnormally and look like boomerangs or sickles. Because of their abnormal shape, cells can’t carry oxygen throughout the body effectively and die easily. When the cells clump together, it causes pain — what is commonly referred to as a “crisis.”

    Suggs, a three-time Pro Bowler, got involved in the Proudford Fund because of a touching piece of artwork displayed at last year’s event created by a child with sickle cell. The young man painted a scene of a football field, which read, “If I didn’t have sickle cell, I could play football.”

    “So little is known about sickle cell, so the more people we can have out helping us inform the public, the better,” said fund president Dr. Karen L. Proudford, daughter of the late William E. Proudford. Another ambassador at the 2009 event will be Maliah Hebb, an 11-year-old Baltimore resident who suffers from sickle cell. “The public wants to hear from high profile and from people who have the disease.”

    Suggs also has made the Proudford Fund a beneficiary of his Team Sizzle Worldwide Celebrity Weekend. The inaugural 2008 celebrity weekend netted $15,000 for the fund, and he will present the Proudfords with the proceeds from this year’s weekend of events, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 11, through Sunday, Sept. 13, in Baltimore.

    Rubye Proudford of Dover, the wife of the late William E. Proudford, said she was overwhelmed by Suggs’ generosity and said she now has to wear two jerseys — one for the Ravens and one for the Eagles.

    “We were saying we would have been satisfied with $1,000,” Rubye said. “When they brought out the check and we saw it was $15,000, we were just blown away.”

U.S. Senator, Maryland legislator honored

    This year’s keynote speaker at the benefit will be Jackie Gaines, former executive director of Healthcare for the Homeless, and honorees are Maryland Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam and Delaware’s U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.

    “I am proud to be associated with the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund. The Proudford family took a personal tragedy and built a platform of outreach and education that will, I believe, help save lives,” Carper said in a statement. “It is time to promote increased attention to sickle cell disease in our nation’s medical schools and academic medical centers so that health professionals are trained appropriately to diagnose and treat sickle cell patients.”

    In November 2008, the Proudfords gave $25,000 to Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children’s Sickle Cell Program, a portion of the $100,000 pledge the family made to the hospital following the fund’s founding.

    The Wilmington hospital provides state-of-the-art treatment for children with sickle cell, as well as research and outreach for children throughout the region, Karen said.

    “That program is the kind of program we would like to see other hospitals have,” she said.

    “Even though a child is affected, the entire family is affected so they need a whole team of people to support them.”

    While endowments from the Proudford Fund primarily will go toward research and education programs, Dr. Robin Miller, pediatric hematologist and head of the sickle cell program, said the Proudfords’ caring about the disease has an effect on sickle cell sufferers and their families.

    “It really means a tremendous amount to the families of sickle cell kids that there are people like this who are behind them,” Miller said. “In a lot of families’ minds, this is a disease that hasn’t gotten that much attention over time. To know there are people who really care about sickle cell is huge.”

    Since A.I duPont’s Division of Hematology and Oncology began caring for children with sickle cell in 1994, the program treats approximately 250 patients per year with approximately 24 new babies with sickle cell each year, said Jean Wadman, pediatric sickle cell nurse practitioner.

    With newborns screened virtually immediately for the disease, A.I. duPont will receive new patients at approximately 2 or 3 weeks old and treat them until about age 18.

    Approximately one in 600 African American newborns are born with the disease, Wadman said. While the disease disproportionately affects those of African heritage, those of Mediterranean, Arab, Latin American and Asiatic Indians also may carry the sickle cell trait or have the genetic disease.

    According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, sickle cell conditions are inherited from parents the way other physical traits are. If one parent has sickle cell anemia and the other is normal, all of the children will be born with the sickle cell trait. If one parent has sickle cell anemia and the other has sickle cell trait, there is a 50% chance that each child will be born with either sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait. If both parents have the sickle cell trait, there is a 25% chance that each child will be born with sickle cell disease.

    For more information about the fund or to purchase tickets, call 410-963-5093 or 983-8455, visit www.wep sicklecell.org or email info@sicklecell.org.

    Transportation is available from Dover, leaving from Delaware State University the day of the benefit. For more information, call Rubye Proudford at 736-6423.

WHAT THEY MEAN

Sickle cell disease: A group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Normal blood cells are round like doughnuts and move through arteries and capillaries in the body to deliver oxygen. Sickle red blood cells become hard, sticky and shaped like sickles. These sickled cells can clog the flow of blood and break apart, causing pain, damage and low blood count, or anemia.

Sickle cell trait: A condition in which a person carries one abnormal hemoglobin gene inherited from one parent and a normal hemoglobin gene inherited from the other parent. A person with the sickle cell trait will not contract sickle cell disease, however he or she may pass the abnormal gene on his or her child.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: William E. Proudford Fund fourth annual benefit
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17
WHERE: Hyatt Inner Harbor, 300 Light St., Baltimore, Md.
ADMISSION: $75 per person or $125 for VIP reception
MORE INFO: Call 410-963-5092 or 302-983-8455, or visit www.wepsicklecell.org

Email Maureen Raitz at maureen.raitz@doverpost.com.