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  1. 4 Ways to Prepare for Sickle Cell Awareness Month

    August 29, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: stocksnap.io

    Photo: stocksnap.io

    It's about that time again: September, just two days from now, is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. While we, along with a host of others, are committed to raising awareness 365 days of the year, Sickle Cell Awareness Month is a much-needed opportunity to heighten awareness among the general public and raise funds for ongoing research.

    Get involved this month -- and beyond -- with these ideas:

    Make an effort to seek out information and resources relating to sickle cell. You can start here, with Xickle's blog. Other options include, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), the CDC, and the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association (ASCAA).

    If you're able, contribute money to official programs that fund research initiatives in the study of SCD. In the United States, you can donate to the SCDAA, the ASCAA, the William E. Proudford Sickle Cell Fund, among others. In the U.K., the Sickle Cell Society is one organization that accepts donations. Check for the appropriate place to send donations where you live. Money isn't the only thing you can donate. Time and blood are also very necessary. Volunteer with local sickle cell outreach projects; or, give blood at the American Red Cross -- and be sure to designate your donation to a sickle cell warrior.

    Once you've increased your own knowledge about sickle cell, don't keep it all to yourself. Share it with family and friends, post links to educational articles on social media, or partner with local churches, schools, and businesses to hold seminars and teach others in your community.

    If you're a sickle cell warrior yourself, you'll be able to help another learn coping skills and generally be an excellent support system. Since you'll understand what your mentee is going through, you can share stories of your own journey and how you've made it this far. Even if you don't have sickle cell, you can still mentor someone. If your mentee is a warrior, consider helping him or her plan for the future -- give assistance on college and scholarship applications, help with homework, or just take him or her on fun outings. Or, advise your mentee (warrior or not) on the various ways they can get involved in community advocacy.

    Got any more ideas on raising awareness in September? Share them in the comments below!

  2. Raise Sickle Cell Awareness by Launching Your Own Podcast

    August 23, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: stocksnap.io

    Photo: stocksnap.io

    There are podcasts for just about everything -- entrepreneurship, murder mysteries, financial planning, politics, we could go on and on. And although these web-based radio shows hit the scene more than 10 years ago and have surged in popularity, it's still difficult to find any that center around sickle cell. In fact, we were only able to find two: Axis Advocacy and WDC Radio (the latter of which, Xickle sponsored at one point). There were other clinical and general podcasts that had addressed the topic before, but no others with the sole mission of raising awareness of SCD. 

    For a disease that directly affects about 100,000 people in the U.S., alone, there definitely needs to be more attention on it in this space. If you've been considering new ways of spreading the word about SCD, starting a podcast may just be the way to go. Here's how you can get started:

    1. Choose Your Format
    Will you stick with interviews each episode? Will there be more than one host? How long will each episode last, and how often will you upload new ones? Create a plan for your podcast and keep these questions in mind. You may also want to create an editorial calendar for the first few episodes to get the ideas flowing.

    2. Build Your Brand
    As with any product -- tangible or otherwise -- you'll need to develop a brand presence. First, determine what you'll name your show, and once you've done that, create a logo for it (or have a talented friend create one for you). The next step would be to write up an accompanying description for your podcast to make it easier for people to find it.

    3. Gather Your Goods
    To record a professional-sounding podcast, you'll need to upgrade that standard mic that's built in to your computer, and opt for one that will produce high-quality audio. You'll also need to invest in headphones, as well as production software. Production software helps not only with recording the episodes, but also with editing them into their final product.

    Once your first (and subsequent) episode is in the metaphorical can, be sure to add it to directories, such as iTunes, YouTube, and SoundCloud. Then, promote the mess out of it on social media to start building your audience.

    Why not start today?

    For a complete guide to launching and growing your podcast, check out Shopify's step-by-step handbook, here.

  3. What Every Warrior Needs to Head Back to School

    August 16, 2016 by Andrea

    Whether you're a teacher or a student, the best part about going back to school is the shopping for new swag -- notebooks, backpacks, clothing, accessories, and more. And since the return of classes also coincides with Sickle Cell Awareness Month, consider picking up items like these:

    1) Knock Out Sickle Cell Anemia Tote Bag, $23


    2) Sickle Cell Awareness iPad mini Case, $5


    3) Sickle Cell Awareness Drawstring Backpacks, $29


    4) Assorted Sickle Cell Warrior Journals and Notebooks, $10



    5) Sickle Cell Awareness Ribbon Mouse Pad, $13


    Not only will you head back to school with a haul of brand-new stuff, you'll also help spread the word about sickle cell to your students and classmates. Simply seeing your items may prompt others to ask about SCD, giving you an opportunity to explain what it actually is and how they can help.

    Did we miss any of your favorite items? Add them to the comments below!

  4. Twins with Sickle Cell Get Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance to Participate in the Rio Olympics

    August 10, 2016 by Andrea

    Ja'Kerria and J'Son Walker are 12-year-old twins from Georgia, and like all twins, they share a lot of the same things in life, including sickle cell disease. However, J'Son was diagnosed with a much more serious form of SCD, and as a result, has required much more significant treatment than his sister, according to an article about the twins written by the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).

    Throught their lives, J'Son has endured many health challenges, including an aneuyrysm back in 2010 that resulted in a 55-day coma, as reported by WALB News. During those times, however, the family has received much-needed assistance from RMHC and its network of chapters around the country that provide families of sick kids with places to stay, so that they can remain close to each other during treatment.

    And this month, RMHC had an even bigger blessing to bestow on J'Kerria, J'Son, and their family -- a trip to the Rio Olympics with the bonus opportunity of participating in the Opening Ceremony right alongside #TeamUSA! "The children are a part of the global McDonald's Olympic Kids Program, which celebrates the spirit of friendship -- a key message of the Olympic movement," states RMHC in their post. "McDonald's has sent children to the Olympic Games before, but this is the first year the children will participate in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games."

    We can't think of a better way for these twins to celebrate life and friendship than together, as always.

    Read the full story about the Walker's here and here.

  5. How to Find Sponsors for Your Next Sickle Cell Fundraising Event

    August 1, 2016 by Andrea
    Photo: stocksnap.io

    Photo: stocksnap.io

    Fundraising is crucial in the fight against sickle cell, and we've talked a lot about that here. One thing we haven't touched on yet? How to find sponsors, so that you can actually pull off that benefit concert, that casino game night, or that silent auction. Check out the tips below, and then, get started planning! 

    1) Decide on sponsorship levels and benefits.
    Before you ever approach anyone (more on that, later), you'll first need to determine exactly what benefits you'll be offering to your potential donors. How many levels will there be? How much will each level cost? What benefits will fall under each level? Definitely take a look at several examples of how others have set up their benefits, and learn even more, here

    2) Research, research, research.
    Sure, there are tons of business and brands out there that sponsor events all the time, but that doesn't mean that they all fall in line with your mission. Take time to fully research companies that have a track record of donating to medical research or that serve your demographic in a relevant way. Then, you can ensure that the potential partnership is truly mutually beneficial.

    3) Make your first move.
    Once you've identified a list of several possible sponsors, it's time to reach out -- preferably over e-mail. E-mail is less intrusive than cold call and allows the recipient to read through and respond to your e-mail when it's most convenient for them. Personalize each e-mail you send as much as possible by referring to any relevant past projects the company has contributed to, mentioning a shared contact who recommended you connect, or something similar. Need some inspiration? Check out these e-mail templates. (Note: These templates are just a starting point. In your e-mail, be sure to lay out exactly what you're looking for in a sponsor and why they should contribute.)

    4) Follow Up.
    This is super important. Many times, you'll find that your first (second, or even third) round of e-mails goes unanswered. Don't settle for the sound of crickets in your inbox -- follow up about a week after your initial contact, and frame your message with a friendly tone that just suggests that perhaps your first e-mail slipped under their radar. You know they're busy and you wanted to make sure your note didn't get lost. If you still do not receive a response, send another two to three follow ups before deciding that this particular donor isn't going to end up working out.

    5) Seal the deal.
    Congrats, you've landed your first sponsor! Now what? Go ahead and schedule a phone/Skype/in-person meeting to go over their benefits and how you plan to deliver them. Then, send a thank you note -- either via e-mail or regular mail -- along with a sponsor contract and how you plan to accept payment.

    The process of finding donors for your next event can take months, so be sure to start planning well in advance. Once sponsors start signing up and committing to your event, you'll be able to nail down a solid budget and get to the fun part!

    Have you ever gotten sponsors for your sickle cell event? Share your own tips in the comments below!

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