By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com Wide receiver Santonio Holmes knows how tough it is to watch his son, seven-year old Santonio, III, suffer from the effects of sickle cell anemia and he is one of the lucky ones who have the resources to help him.
What Holmes can't fathom is what it's like for a parent who isn't able to help their child, who doesn't have the ability to take kids to the doctor, doesn't have the health insurance to pay for medical expenses. In many cases, kids are suffering from sickle cell and don't even know it because they have never been screened because finances or family situations don't allow for it.
"It's very sad because family members are being lost over the years because of this illness," said Holmes. "Kids may only survive until 25 or 30. Sometimes there is a way to fight it, the body can fight it. But when it starts young and you have the illness and no treatment, it gets worse. It's hard to cure the disease and brings a lot of pain and agony."
Holmes himself found out this past May that he actually has the trait, something that was passed on to him from his father.
"After 25 years of having the symptoms, pains in my arm, pains in my back, stomach pains, I found out I have the trait," said Holmes. "I didn't know why I was having the pains until I found out I have the trait.
"It definitely got passed down. My dad and I both have the trait and now my son, it skipped two generations and he has the full disease. It's hard to know I always have to worry about him being sick at all times."
Holmes has taken an active role this past year in helping to raise funds for the cause through his III & Long Foundation, which he established to support local charities working with the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and assisting families who have been impacted
Holmes will host the 1st Annual Celebrity Bowl-A-Thon on Saturday, Sept. 5, at the FunFest Entertainment Center on Freeport Road in Pittsburgh.
"Growing up my family didn't have the funds to provide me with going back and forth to the doctor for anything," said Holmes. "I know now that I am fortunate for my son to be able to go to the hospital and get checked out. I can cover his expenses. It can get tough for the families that are less fortunate. As far as starting this event I want to help raise awareness and help raise funds to help with medical expenses for families who are less fortunate."
Holmes is going to be joined at the event by some of his Steelers teammates and can't wait for the opportunity to challenge some of them and those who attend on the bowling lanes.
"It's something I like to do in my spare time, go bowling," said Holmes. "I am happy I can set up an event where I can get a lot of people involved. Bowling is a family-fun event. It brings the families together. You get friends together and you can go out and enjoy it.
"I am going to be challenging everyone that steps in there. I am bringing my 'A' game. I want to do well."
For more information or to register, go to www.santonioholmes10.com