Olivia Shorter, a 9-year-old Matteson, Illinois resident, was joined by business leaders, elected officials and her family as she hosted a huge party for over 100 children who like herself have been diagnosed with Sickle Cell.
Earlier this year Olivia sat down with her parents, Adam and Danielle Shorter, and made a huge request for her upcoming 9th birthday. Olivia, said, “I want to have a party for kids who have Sickle Cell like me.”
Of course her parents were stunned and amazed by Olivia’s request. Olivia had just recovered from her splenectomy procedure. But she always wondered if there were other children in her neighborhood who had Sickle Cell. Olivia adds, “Am I the only person like this?”
Olivia’s curiosity was more apparent after a recent transfusion. It was then when she had to say goodbye to a friend she met while being treated at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Olivia said, “What if there are other kids like me and they don’t know; they think they are alone and they don’t have to be.”
It was from that particular conversation with her parent that led them to follow Olivia’s lead and assist with the big party.
With the help of the Village of Matteson (for donating the space), The American Red Cross for collecting blood and making sure that “Black Donations” are counted towards the Blue Tag Program; Olivia’s party is expected to be a huge success.
Olivia’s hope is to bring together children living with Sickle Cell and Sickle Cell Trait for a day of fun, socialization and encouragement. Olivia’s family are proud partners of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois. The family is encouraged by the organization’s accomplishments within the Sickle Cell community nationally.
Olivia’s father, Adam, is a Village of Matteson Trustee who is hopeful that Olivia’s story and energy will raise awareness here in Cook County. “I just hope that we are able to do our part locally to assist in advocating for Sickle Cell Awareness. If Olivia’s party can reach those lawmakers and institutions who are responsible for the funding of research programs, then her efforts will never be in vein,” says Adam.
Danielle Shorter adds, “Sickle Cell is the more common inherited blood disorder. But it receives fewer funding and research dollars. As a result, children aren’t given an equal chance at life. This has to change.”
The event took place at the Matteson Community Center and included dancing, food, face painting, balloon animals and more. Blood donors was accepted. The children’s party was from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Olivia Shorter was born with sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that causes anemia, lung damage, tissue damage, strokes and terrible pain. Ninety percent of all sickle cell disease patients in the United States occur in people of African descent.
“It’s really tough on her. When she isn’t sick, she is getting over a cold or on her way to get another blood transfusion,” said Danielle Shorter.
For her 7th birthday, Olivia didn’t want a big party or toys. She wanted to celebrate her birthday by bringing awareness to sickle cell. Over 200 guests attended the event, 75 of which donated blood.
“Olivia said instead of having a party, she wanted to have a fundraiser.” Trustee Shorter said.
Her efforts caught the attention of The American Red Cross, which named Olivia their 2018 Blood Services Hero. Olivia and her family were honored at the organization’s annual Heroes Breakfast, which is held downtown Chicago. Additionally, last summer, the Shorter family took a trip to Washington D.C. where Olivia urged several members of Congress to help children like her.
September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and here are two things you can do to help—register to donate blood and make a monetary donation— https://tinyurl.com/DONATEBLOODFOROLIVIA or PayPal.me/sickleschmickle.