A multi-platinum artist, actor, and youngest winner of American Idol is using her celebrity to help children with sickle cell disease. Jordin Sparks lost her step-sister to sickle cell and is trying to help ease the pain of others suffering from it.
Sickle cell disease is a debilitating and inherited blood disorder that often causes children to suffer through many painful visits to the hospital. It can affect anyone of any race or ethnicity, but it's more common in African Americans. One in every 365 Black children in the U.S. is born with sickle cell.
The disease claimed the life of musician Jordin Sparks’ step-sister.
"She was amazing! She was really sweet. She was super vibrant and lovely and she was a warrior, not only just her fight but for anybody else who was dealing with a disease or felt like they were isolated from the disease or needed support. She was always wanting to do that, and so being able to partner with Aflac and have this conversation with you, it's really an honor and it's a way to honor her legacy and continue to carry it," reflects Jordin.
Jordin is teaming up with the insurance company Aflac to raise awareness about the condition. Aflac has been recognized for years from commercials with their talking duck. That duck is on a whole new level now, turning robotic, to help children suffering from blood disorders.
"He's able to express emotions for the patients when they can't, but it also helps them feel comfortable and there are accessories that will help the child feel and understand, feel familiar with what they have to do with the procedures they have to do, different things like that. It has soundscapes, it's got an app, you can feed it, you can take care of it, and it responds to you," explains Jordin.
Buffy Swinehart with Aflac has seen what a difference a duck can make. Her company has been helping sick children for years.
"We actually have to look back 26 years if you can believe it, to when we first began our fight in the advocacy for children with cancer and sickle cell, and our partnership with the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center really has transformed Aflac as a company! We've given over $154 million to the cause and most of that, quite honestly has come from our agents, all across the country. And so this latest launched in 2018, and it was mainly for children with cancer, but we learned that while we were also piloting it with children with sickle cell that many of the benefits for children with cancer, could also be translated to help those with sickle cell," says Buffy.
The ducks are going to get even more high-tech. Young patients will soon be able to get their own customized duck. Jordin hopes it will lift their spirits.
"I can only imagine the comfort and joy it's going to bring to kids who maybe aren't having the best day. I've had it on my lap all morning and it's like a comfort to your body. It's comforting, it eases anxiety, just holding it like makes me feel like I'm getting a hug from something, it's a little bit weighted too, I think it's incredible," exclaims Jordin!
Aflac has donated more than 12,000 darling ducks to children, and certainly, many more kids will get to experience the same comfort. Jordin is one busy lady, also writing and recording a lot of new songs, she plans to release those soon and she'll also appear in a special Christmas movie.