Photo by Dani Wilson
Tammy Smith holds the signed proclamation designating Sunday, Sept. 21, as Sickle Cell Awareness Day in Alton.
ALTON — The organizer of an annual fund-raising walk wants families affected by sickle cell disease to know they are not alone.
The second annual A Precious Organization Walk for Sickle Cell will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, at Rock Spring Park in Alton.
Tammy Smith, founder of A Precious Organization, said last year’s walk raised about $10,000 for sickle cell treatment and research and came with a proclamation from Alton Mayor Brant Walker that Sept. 21 is Sickle Cell Awareness Day in Alton.
Smith founded A Precious Organization to help people in the community struggling with sickle cell disease or supporting a loved one coping with the disease. Smith named the organization in honor of her daughter, Precious, who has sickle cell disease.
The idea came to Smith out of a time of grief — her fiancé had just died, her daughter was in pain from her disease, and Smith felt alone in the struggle.
“I had almost given up,” she said. “I wished somebody would do something.”
Her answer came to her in the middle of the night. She said she could sense God telling her “you’re somebody.” She immediately started writing down ideas, and came up with the idea for A Precious Organization and the Walk for Sickle Cell. Smith says she and her fiancé used to walk through Rock Spring Park, and she wanted to spread awareness of what her family was going through. From this idea, the walk was born.
Now, Smith works through A Precious Organization to spread awareness about sickle cell disease and provide support for those affected by sickle cell disease.
“Just helping somebody makes me a better and happier person,” Smith said.
She also hosts a support group once a month for sickle cell patients and their loved ones.
“I can’t take their pain away, but if there’s something I can do, I want to do it,” she said.
She said she did not have that support with her daughter, so she tries to give it to others. Smith also goes to conferences for sickle cell disease education and petitions for policy development in treatment and research in Washington, D.C. Smith said treatment has come a long way but has a lot further to go — and so far, there is no cure.
The Walk for Sickle Cell will start in Alton Middle School’s parking lot for registration and head to Rock Spring Park for a one-mile walk. After the walk, participants and guests will enjoy a barbecue lunch as well as music, games, popcorn, snow cones, and items from local vendors. There will also be special guests including state Sen. William Haine and a live performance from local singer Peggy Neely Harris. Participants will see representatives from the Madison County Health Department, the American Red Cross, and Be the Match bone marrow registry, along with other supportive businesses.
“I’ve got a lot of supporters this year,” Smith said.
Grief has fueled Tammy Smith’s journey from a struggling mother to a symbol of empowerment and support to those struggling with sickle cell disease.
“Five years ago I would have never imagined or thought I could do this,” Smith said. “I give God the glory; I couldn’t do it without Him.”
She also said pushing past her fears was integral in her journey.
“I feel like I’ve pushed past my comfort zone, and now I’m really making a difference,” she said.