By Teresa Varley
Ryan Clark knows what it's like to have the sickle cell trait and he knows first-hand that it's a trait that can be passed along, as his youngest daughter Loghan also possesses the trait.
That is why it meant so much to him to be able to lend a hand to the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation in Pittsburgh, hosting Dazzle & Denim with his wife Yonka to benefit the charity.
"For me, and with adults, they know what is going on with their situation and can take care of themselves," said Clark. "For young kids, they need to be educated on how to take care of themselves and they need places where they can get information to take care of themselves.
"We all have an affinity for kids, a feeling of love for them. It's an opportunity for us to give back to something that is near and dear to us."
Clark discovered the impact of having the sickle cell trait when he played in Denver in 2007 and his blood reacted poorly to the Denver air, resulting in an illness that eventually forced him into surgery to have his spleen and gall bladder removed.
It was a scary time for Clark and his family, but eventually led to them to learn more about medical research and inspired them to do something to help. "I was happy to have an opportunity to do this for the foundation," said Clark. "It's a blessing. It's fun. When you see the way you have been able to help it's a blessing. God put us in these positions where we are able to change people's lives so it's awesome to be able to do it."
The event, which was held at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, was a chance for guests to dress up jeans, brining attention to the fact that sickle cell is something that is passed down through an individual's genes.
"We are able to raise awareness on a different level," said Andrea Williams, executive director of Children's Sickle Cell Foundation. "Involving them has helped get the word out to certain people we aren't able to reach. Because they have a personal story it gives them a way to get involved. At the end of the day it means the kids are able to receive services and we can continue to provide programs for them."
For a full photo gallery by Teresa Varley, click on Dazzle In Denim and go to Off the Field.