KiKi Shepard’s Celebrity Golf Event to Raise Awareness, Funding for SCD

LA Lakers legend Byron Scott to host Nov. 14 fundraiser in California

Andrea Lobo, PhD avatar

by Andrea Lobo, PhD |

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Dozens of red awareness ribbons come out of a megaphone.

Television host KiKi Shepard’s 4th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic, taking place Monday, Nov. 14, aims to raise awareness of sickle cell disease (SCD) — and funding for programs and services at the nonprofit she founded, called the KIS Foundation.

The golfing event, organized by Shepard and select corporate sponsors, will be held at the Porter Valley Country Club, in Northridge, California, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

LA Lakers legend Byron Scott will serve as host, with celebrity guests that include basketball coach Michael Cooper, a former Lakers player, actors James Pickens Jr. and Rocky Carroll, actress Dawnn Lewis, and singer Ty Dolla $ign.

Already in its fourth edition, the event aims to educate the public about sickle cell disease — especially its causes, diagnosis, prevention, symptoms, and impact on quality of life — and raise awareness as well as funding.

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“I have witnessed the severe impact of sickle cell disease on the lives of so many individuals who have had to endure the pain and suffering that comes with this horrific disease,” Shepard, host of “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” said in a press release.

The KIS Foundation she started in 2006 is a nonprofit that seeks to improve the quality of life and social health of patients and families living with SCD, by providing yearly hands-on support.

Raising funds, awareness in sickle cell

SCD is caused by mutations in the beta-globin gene, which contains instructions for a hemoglobin component that leads to the production of a defective protein known as hemoglobin S. It causes red blood cells to acquire the sickle-like shape that gives the disease its name. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that is responsible for oxygen transport.

A person must inherit two defective copies of the gene to develop the disease. Those with a single copy of the faulty gene don’t develop the disease, but are carriers of the sickle cell trait, and can pass it on to their children.

“A lot of people don’t know that I carry the sickle cell trait (SCT),” said Scott, a golf ambassador who will host the event.

“It is extremely important that we continue to help others that have the disease or the trait, by educating them and making them aware that there is a possibility to live a normal life,” Scott said.

Sickled red blood cells break down and die faster than normal cells, resulting in anemia — one of the major symptoms of the disease. These cells also have difficulties passing through blood vessels, sometimes blocking blood flow and reducing oxygen supply to tissues and organs. This ultimately leads to tissue damage, inflammation, and severe pain crises.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans, with 1 of every 365 African American babies born with the disease.

The KIS Foundation provides education, support, mentoring, and advocacy support to young people with SCD and their families in their communities and schools. Foundation initiatives include educational health fairs, financial literacy planning, backpack giveaways, holiday care packages, and social events during which patients and families have the opportunity to share information with people in the entertainment, athletic, and business fields.

The upcoming celebrity-driven event is presented by UPS, with a fundraiser kick-off party on Saturday, Nov. 12, according to a foundation webpage. Other sponsors are US Bank, the James Pickens Jr. Foundation, the LA Lakers, Rocky Carroll, Retirement Choices of CA, and Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills.

Among the celebrities confirmed for the event are former pro basketball player Norm Nixon, actress Nicole Murphy, comedian Alex Thomas, actor Joe Torry, and model Kathleen Bradley.

“As a father of two sickle cell warriors, it is important to me that participants know that their support enables the KISF to provide a daily positive and tangible affect upon the SCD community,” said André Dawson, golf chair and board member.