ALTON — From humble beginnings, A Precious Organization’s annual walk for sickle cell awareness and support has grown into a community event in its fourth year.
More than 400 people participated in the one-mile walk and fundraiser last year at Alton’s Rock Spring Park, and organizer Tammy Smith said she hopes to draw even more to this year’s event Saturday, Sept. 17. The walk will once again be at the Alton park, 2116 College Ave., with registration opening at 8 a.m. and the walk starting at 10 a.m.
Smith created the event four years ago as her daughter, Precious Lee, was dealing with complications from sickle cell anemia, a genetic disorder that damages the red blood cells. The disorder causes the cells to become crescent-shaped and rigid, making it hard for the cells to travel through small blood vessels. Less blood flow can cause damaged organs, eventually leading to death from compromised health.
A Precious Organization was founded shortly thereafter, and Smith has worked hard in subsequent years to keep the annual walk growing. Smith said the organization last year was able to give out a $500 scholarship to a young man afflicted with sickle cell who attends Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Through last year’s event, the group raised more than $15,000, a total Smith called “amazing.”
“I could not do this without them,” Smith said of her family, friends and community members. “They are always there, always supporting me, always volunteering. Everything that they do, I appreciate. I’m so happy that I have them. I could not do any of this without them. They’re just awesome.”
Smith said many of the people who come out, even from outside of Alton, are affected or know someone affected by the disease. According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, roughly 100,000 Americans are affected.
“The people walking in memory of someone, walking because they know someone — everybody that’s walking, they just want to contribute,” Smith said. “And that makes me feel really good.”
She’s got her sights set even higher this year, with hopes of being able to give out another scholarship through the organization. Smith also said the money she has raised will allow her to take three members of a sickle cell anemia support group she facilitates at Alton’s YWCA, a group that meets the third Monday of every month, to the SCDAA’s 44th Annual Convention Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 in Baltimore.
“That’s one of the things that I try to do for the people that attend my support group meetings,” Smith said. “I try to keep them involved and take them to conventions and conferences so they can meet other people across the United States and network with other organizations that are doing the same thing we’re doing.”
Like in past years, this year’s event will also include lunch, entertainment, games for kids and more. Registration will be at the JoAnn Dillion Tennis Courts and will be $25 for adults and $15 for children. A rainout date is set for Sept. 24. For more information, contact Tammy Smith at (618) 975-9020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.