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Children and their families grappling with sickle cell disease are able to experience special programming offered by The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, thanks to a $100,000 leadership grant from the Aetna Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE:
The Aetna Foundation funding is helping the organization established in 1988 by the late actor Paul Newman provide comprehensive services free of charge to children afflicted with the disease. The programs include summer camp sessions and family retreat weekends at the camp’s 344-acre facility in Ashford, Conn., and weekly in-patient visits to children hospitalized in the Northeast.
“At The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, children with serious health conditions not only can enjoy just being a kid, they also gain valuable skills in managing their disorder and build a life-changing network of support,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation. “The result is a powerful experience that can empower kids with sickle cell disease to lead healthier lives. We are pleased to be able to help The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp strengthen its efforts to reach children grappling with this difficult chronic condition.”
A vastly underserved disease, sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that changes normally round red blood cells into a sickle-like or crescent shape. Sickle-shaped blood cells can get stuck in blood vessels, blocking normal blood flow, which can lead to serious infections, intense pain episodes and organ failure. Infants inherit the disease when both parents are carriers of the sickle cell trait. Babies may start exhibiting symptoms as early as four months of age. The lifelong disease is most prevalent among African Americans and affects about 1 in 400 African-American newborns.
Jimmy Canton, chief executive officer at The Hole in Wall Gang Camp, says that kids with sickle cell anemia form the largest disease group, representing nearly a third of those attending the nonprofit’s onsite summer programs for seriously ill children.