Red Cross To Host A Sickle Cell Virtual Forum In Recognition Of World Sickle Cell Day

Jay was diagnosed with sickle cell at 9 months old.
Jay was diagnosed with sickle cell at 9 months old.

In recognition of World Sickle Cell Day, June 19, the American Red Cross is calling on African American and Latino blood donors to help ensure a diverse blood supply that meets the transfusion needs of patients battling sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease, the most common inherited blood disorder in the country, affects approximately 10,300 patients across the state of Georgia. That is close to 10% of the disease in the country. The Red Cross, in partnership with community leaders will host the Sickle Cell Virtual Forum: For Elected Officials and Government Officials Thursday, June 10, at 5:30 p.m. in honor of sickle cell patients, like 14-year-old Jay Gandia. Registration is open now.

Host committee members for the Sickle Cell Virtual Forum from Southeast Georgia include Chatham County Commission Chairman, Chester Ellis; State Senator Lester Jackson; Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, Liberty County Commission Chairman, Donald Lovette; Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar, State Representative Al Williams.

The Forum is geared toward elected officials, but the program is open to all. For more information, contact Maria Center at or call 912-656- 8269.

Jay was diagnosed with sickle cell disease in November 2007, nine months after he was born. Jay’s mother, Shavonne Lonon, feels thankful for volunteer blood donors who donate time to give for strangers who need blood transfusions to live a normal life. “Jay has fought since birth, and when he receives a blood transfusion his pain level decreases, and his blood count becomes higher. He’s less sickly and he even tells me how much better he feels after a blood transfusion,” said Shavonne.

Jay enjoys watching TV and traveling to new places and restaurants. He’s also a big fan of science and loves playing with his younger brother, CJ. At one point, Jay was in the hospital for six days and his blood count and oxygen levels had dropped to extremely low levels. His mother credits volunteer blood donors for giving her son the gift of life. “I would tell people who are considering donating blood to please do so,” said Shavonne. “Think about your love ones and how your blood could save their lives. Blood donors are heroes. Please share your health in the need of others.”

Donation appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800- 733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.

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