Helping hands heal hurting hearts

The Murray Stewart Foundation hosted the first Sickle Cell Fun walk/run in Donaldsonville on Saturday.

Murray Walker and Shaleathia Campbell have one goal for the local community – make it aware of the sickle cell disease. Saturday at the Louisiana Square Park in Donaldsonville, both Walker and Campbell joined efforts to host the first Sickle Cell Fun Run; an effort to educate and bring awareness to a disease their children have.

According to the Center for Disease and Control (CDC), the sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. In SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a "sickle."

“People with SCD can live full lives and enjoy most of the activities that other people do,” the CDC said. “If you have SCD, it's important to learn how to stay as health as possible.”

Walker’s son, Murray Stewart died in 2008 from the disease at the age of 18. Campbell has two daughters: Apprentice, 19, and Shatia, 15, who both have the disease.

“It’s a silent battle and a battle that no one wants to speak about,” Campbell said. “It’s about battle no one wants to talk about but I’m here and Murray’s here and we want to give you the knowledge and pass it on that you would tell somebody about sickle cell.”

Campbell said the sickle cell trait is dominantly in the black community, and it’s not shaming for her and her family.

“It is what it is, and I’m proud to speak about it,” Campbell said. “I’m proud to say I have two daughters with sickle cell and we are fighting it strong.”

For some, sickle cell may be a crippling disease. But Walker remembers his son for not allowing it to hinder him, and Campbell said her daughters live their life the same way.

“It’s not a crippling disease to us because we have not allowed it to be,” Campbell said. “I believe God placed it in our lives so we can be a tool to bring awareness about it and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Campbell and Walker were supported Saturday by Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan, City Councilmen Charles Brown, Sr. and Lauthaught Delaney, Sr., Ascension Parish Councilman Oliver Joseph, Louisiana Development Ready City committee President Robyn Penn Delaney, the Southern University Women’s Basketball team and many other family and friends.

“We’re really appreciative of the good turnout,” Walker said. “It’s for a good cause and I thank God for the beautiful weather and for the people who showed up. Also, my mayor who’s a good friend of mine, I appreciate his support.”

Walker created the Murray Stewart Foundation in his son’s honor to bring awareness to sickle cell, but also to help the community in any other area needed.

“Our motto is simply, ‘where a helping hand heals a hurting heart’,” Walker said. “Just know the Murray Stewart foundation is going to be here for the community and surrounding areas as well.”

Walker said Murray Stewart was a 2008 graduate of Donaldsonville High School where he was well loved.

“He was a very respectable young man and every time you saw him he had a smile on his face,” Walker said.” Even though he had sickle cell disease, it never stopped him. He always participated in sports, basketball and football.”

Walker added, “I want to thank everybody who came out and just look forward to more events and more things to come form the MSF.”

Campbell added, “I thank all who came out. It means so much to us that all of you came out. You have no idea how much it means to us.”