KILLEEN, Texas — More than 25,000 people have died from sickle cell since 1979.
The inherited disease affects red blood cells, primarily in people of color.
One family in Killeen honored their son after losing him to sickle cell in 2011.
The Townsend family held their annual sickle cell awareness walk.
“Rashaud was a strong person, he just did not want people to feel sorry for him, " said Renee Townsend.
Renee and Terrance Townsend’s son Rashaud died when he was 27 years old in 2011. Now they're taking strides to end Sickle Cell Anemia.
“We’d walk past people in a crowd, and they’d found out oh he was a little shorter than others, and he’d say 'oh I have sickle cell,' and people would say I’m sorry, and he’d say, 'don’t feel sorry for me, I'm alright,'” Renee said.
This is the second year the Townsends organized the annual sickle cell awareness walk in Killeen. They said it’s to get people informed about sickle cell complications.
The Townsend’s had to move to Texas from Arizona because the elevation affected Rashaud.
“You got to look at that because the elevation thins out the blood a lot, so he would’ve started sickling a lot more. If you have a kid that has sickle cell, some things you can and cannot do because you can put that kid at risk of sickling a lot," Terrance said.
It’s also to show support within the community.
“We hope and pray that we can help other families and answer questions, sometimes just meeting with another families, you can be supportive to that family, what did you go through, what happened, how did you handle things,” Renee said.
Chaka Davenport is with Central Texas Assembly 306. She along with several others are taking a step to get the word out.
“We talk about cancer, we talk about diabetes and things of that sort, sickle cell is one of those things that’s kinda downplayed. So we wanted to bring people out, raise this awareness, in hopes of everyone understanding how important sickle cell is," Davenport said.
The Townsend’s plan to host the walk annually, to carry on Rashaud’s go-getter attitude and strong will.
“Rashaud had told me one time, 'Mom this is the life I'm supposed to live,' and I as a parent I broke down and I cried because I’m thinking 'wow I gave you this disease,' me and his dad, and he was like 'no Mom, I'm here to educate,' and look at it today. He’s here helping others,” Renee said.
For more information, visit the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation.