Robyn Bell is an honor roll student, a ‘trooper,’ and a ‘survivor,’ mom says.
Thirteen year old Robyn Bell of South Los Angeles will be representing The Sickle Cell Foundation in the 119th Tournament of Roses Parade January 1 on Kaiser Permanente’s float. Bell, described by family and friends as a “trooper” and a “survivor,” will be the only African American to ride on this year’s float, which is promoting the “Thrive” message of living healthier lives. The thirteen-year-old honor student is “out of her mind with excitement,” her mother said.
“She was selected [to ride on the float] out of about 20 kids,” she told the Sentinel.
Bell was born with sickle cell, a blood disease characterized by sickle shaped cells that make circulation difficult. The condition can cause severe pain, damage to vital organs and for some, death in childhood or early adulthood. It occurs when an individual inherits two sickle hemoglobin genes from both parents or a combination of one sickle hemoglobin gene and another abnormal hemoglobin gene from the parents.
According to medical experts, sickle cell disease affects Blacks almost exclusively.
Annually, in California approximately 150 babies are identified with sickle cell disease and one in every 70 infants is identified with sickle cell trait or another hemoglobin trait, the carrier status for sickle cell disease and other hemoglobin diseases. It is estimated that there are approximately 5,000 persons with sickle cell disease residing in Los Angeles, however the actual figure is currently unknown, says the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California.
Although there is currently no cure for sickle cell disease, a few effective treatments and appropriate medical care have greatly improved survival and the quality of life for persons with the disease.
From sickle cell Bell deals with necrosis, a condition that makes her hipbones like those of a senior citizen.
“She was on crutches for a while, but she’s not right now, thank God,” Bell’s mother said.
“She has her good days and bad days but she knows to just hang in there.”
Kaiser’s float with the theme “Aloha Festival,” includes ten real-life young Kaiser Permanente patients, ages 12-17, who are heroically fighting through significant diseases such as sickle cell, cystic fibrosis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and various cancers, according to Kaiser officials. “Each of the young float riders has their own inspiring story,” they said.
“In recommending this diverse group of incredible kids, their physicians referred to them as ‘heroes,’ ‘survivors,’ and ‘great kids that I have the honor of caring for.’ If these kids have the strength and commitment to fight for good health, so can you. Start 2008 right. Make a new year resolution to improve your health…”
Over 400 Kaiser Permanente employees are scheduled to decorate the float from Wednesday, December 26, through Friday, December 28, during the daily hours of 8 a.m. through 11 p.m., at Fiesta Parade Floats, located at 2144 Buena Vista Street, in Duarte. Employees will volunteer their time to add the finishing touches, which includes gluing thousands of fresh roses to the float. Bell will be involved in the decorating on December 28.
“We hope our Rose Parade float can be an inspiration to collective action, a passport to a better life,” said Benjamin K. Chu, MD, president of Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
The float features four eight-foot tall sculpted children dressed in traditional Hawaiian skirts and sarongs and festooned in over-sized leis and wreaths, said Kaiser officials.
One sculpted child paddles an enormous outrigger canoe poised on six-foot high floral waves made with more than 37,000 white roses, orchids, irises, delphinium, hydrangea blossoms, and other flowers. Other sculpted children dance and play Hawaiian music while shimmering dolphins frolic through a cascade of sparkling floral ocean waves. Sea turtles, shells, and starfish are scattered on an ocean floor of roses and irises. Giant floral fans, palm trees, and sculptured hibiscus enliven this island scene. Moving on the street alongside the float will be 22 dancers (11 on each side) performing traditional and modern hula.