TAMPA — The biggest mountain sarcoidosis research faces is lack of awareness.
Sarcoidosis affects thousands of Americans. It is a potentially fatal disease with symptoms easily attributed to other illnesses. Emma Carroll serves as executive director of Janine's Sarcoidosis Outreach Foundation, named for her late daughter, Foyia Janine Carroll-Grant, who died of complications from sarcoidosis.
She's fighting to inform more about the disease.
"The first thing we hear from people is, 'We're so glad we found you' and, 'I thought I was all alone,' " Carroll said. "We don't have the national PSAs or the celebrity spokesperson (like many other diseases have)."
Carroll, the JSOF, and the Tampa Bay Sarcoidosis Support Group are bring their awareness campaign to Tampa on Saturday with a gospel concert at St. John Progressive MB Church in College Hill.
It's not the group's first event in Tampa. The organization staged a walk in 2010 at Al Lopez Park, and hosted a balloon launch at Al Lopez the year after. The support group has been established in Tampa since 2009.
On Saturday, a host of doctors, advocates and entertainers will flock to the banner for a pre-Thanksgiving thanks-and-praise in what is being dubbed Raise the Praise Gospel Concert for sarcoidosis research.
Most everyone at the concert has been affected by sarcoidosis in some way. Gospel artist Ricky Dillard was diagnosed two years ago. Rod Carter of WFLA TV 8, who is hosting the event along with radio host Randall C, has had sarcoidosis affect someone close in his life.
"This is the first time a celebrity (Dillard) has come out to join us," Carroll said. "We have needed a notable spokesperson."
Comedian Bernie Mac, who died of sarcoidosis in 2008, was a likely spokesperson to help boost awareness.
"We were hoping (Bernie Mac) would be an advocate for us, but Bernie and his family wanted to wait," Carroll said. "Unfortunately, Bernie died before we could do that."
Bernie Mac's daughter Je'Niece McCullough, picked up the mantle and helps Carroll and the foundation spread awareness. She will attend Saturday along with Wonder P. Drake, a lead researcher in a Vanderbilt University sarcoidosis study.
Other musical guests are Derek Smith and the New Dimensions, and the Gospel Workshop of America Tampa Mass Choir. Comedian Burchaun Carter will perform.
There will be a meet-and-greet with doctors specializing in sarcoidosis, and support groups will avail themselves. There also will be raffled prizes and much more.
Andy Warrener can be reached at [email protected]