Aflac Gift Supports Sickle Cell Research at Children’s Hospital in DC

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Aflac, a U.S. supplemental health insurance company, has given $100,000 to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., to support research into sickle cell disease (SCD) and its treatments.

The donation was made to honor World Sickle Cell Awareness Day, observed each June 19.

“We are honored for Aflac’s partnership to ensure Children’s National can provide expert care and groundbreaking research to support children and their families who are battling sickle cell disease across the greater Washington, DC metro region. Their generous gift to our research program will help us develop and implement treatments that are both innovative and family focused,” Julie Butler, vice president of Children’s National Hospital Foundation, said in a press release.

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“At any time, more than 100,000 American families — most of which are African American — are impacted by sickle cell disease,” said Bradley Knox, senior vice president of federal relations at Aflac. “Aflac’s contribution will help Children’s National Hospital conduct groundbreaking research that we hope will someday lead to a universal cure for this terrible disease, with which 1 out of 365 African Americans are born.”

Aflac also sponsored a June 19 event that brought children with SCD and their families to a Major League Baseball game — the hometown Washington Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals won that match, 9–3.

“We are pleased to provide a day at the ballpark to celebrate the children, families and caregivers who manage the impact of sickle cell disease every day,” Knox said.

All of the children who attended the ballgame received their own “My Special Aflac Duck.” These robotic ducks are designed to help children understand treatments and communicate complex feelings related to their condition through play.

The Aflac Duck program was initiated in 2018 to help children with cancer, and it has since expanded to children with SCD, including those undergoing treatment at a hospital. Aflec stated that its robotic ducks have helped nearly 16,000 children affected by cancer or sickle cell.

“Families facing sickle cell disease often feel forgotten, as funding for and awareness about the disease are far less than similar inherited conditions,” Knox said. “Expanding our My Special Aflac Duck program and providing funding for research and treatment enhancements at a prestigious hospital like Children’s National is our way of saying, ‘you have not been forgotten and we are here by your side.’”