Motorcycle sales help Sickle Cell ProjectWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
During the month of February, Toledo Harley-Davidson and Signature Harley-Davidson are revving up funds for a good cause, the Sickle Cell Project of Northwest Ohio.
For every new motorcycle purchased, the locations will donate $50 to the project, which offers counseling and resources to those with sickle cell disease or trait.
Harley-Davidson and the project have worked together in the past on events like charity rides.
“There are lots of different ways to let your customers know when you’re a business that you care about their situation,” said Tim Sherman, dealer for Toledo Harley-Davidson and Signature Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson also recently launched the Iron Elite, celebrating the influence of African-American riders on motorcycle culture. Learn more at www.harley-davidson.com/en_US/Content/Pages/iron-elite/iron-elite.html.
Toledo Harley-Davidson and Signature Harley-Davidson’s community outreach program has raised $500,000 since 1999. Last year, the stores made $1,000 for the Greater Toledo Urban League during the Black History Month promotion.
The project, a special effort of the Neighborhood Health Association, is funded with a $50,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Health. Five other similar groups are funded throughout the state with Northwest Ohio’s being the smallest and receiving the least funding.
That grant has to fund “my salary, every copy that I make, every piece of mail, phone, Internet, education materials, any travel, mileage, things like that. I’m pretty much my own business here. That grant money has to pay for everything. So that’s why it’s really great when Harley-Davidson offers to do something like this. Every little bit helps,” said Kortney Weber, project director.
Sickle cell trait primarily affects African-American people, followed by Hispanic people, Weber said. However, anyone can get it.
“Genetics are colorblind,” Weber said. Studies show that people with an ancestor in a part of the world where malaria is common are more likely to have the gene. Sickle cell trait was thought to build immunity to the disease, but when both parents had the trait, their child suffered from sickle cell disease.
About 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, which means they inherited two sickle cell hemoglobin genes from their parents. This means they can suffer from pain, major organ failure and extreme anemia. Average life expectancy is 45-55. Weber sees up to 10 people with the disease per year.
Weber educates schools about sickle cell disease because children who have it can suffer from exhaustion, making gym class difficult, and they have to go to the bathroom more frequently. However, “they need to be allowed to participate so they don’t feel like they’re being punished,” she said.
Those who have sickle cell trait inherited one gene from their parents. One in 10 African-Americans have the trait. Those with the trait don’t usually suffer from the disease symptoms, but do require genetic counseling, Weber said.
“People make different decisions when they have all the information. People who know [they have the trait] ahead of time do decide [having a baby] is worth the risk,” Weber said, adding that others opt to adopt. Weber sees about up to 30 people with the trait per month.
In 1990, Ohio law mandated that newborns be tested for sickle cell trait at birth. However, “I still find people born after 1990 who fell through the cracks,” Weber said. If a baby has the trait, follow-up testing is needed.
The Sickle Cell Project of Northwest Ohio is based out of the Cordelia Martin Health Center, 430 Nebraska Ave., Toledo, and serves Lucas, Wood, Erie, Seneca, Sandusky, Ottawa, Williams, Huron, Defiance, Fulton and Henry counties. To learn more, call (419) 255-7883.
Toledo Harley-Davidson is at 7960 W. Central Ave., Toledo, and Signature Harley-Davidson is at 1176 Professional Dr., Perrysburg. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.