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Best known as the “Queen of Fashion,” and co-host of the original "It’s Showtime at the Apollo, " for over fifteen years, Kiki Shepard and the K.I.S. Foundation held the Annual Celebrity Bowling Challenge to raise awareness for sickle cell disease last week.

Many of Kiki’s celebrity friends came out to support the former Apollo host at the PINZ Entertainment Center in Studio City, California. Celebrity guests included James Pickens, Jr., Dawn Lewis, Tatyana Ali, Bill Bellamy, Loretta Devine, Jackee, Gina Ravera, Jenifer Lewis, Kristoff St. John, Salli Richardson-Whitfield and DJ MC Lyte among others.

Tatayana Ali
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Each year, the Bowling Challenge – which is sponsored by corporations such as Bank of America, Herbalife, Mercedes Benz-Beverly Hills, and Behind the Bench-NBA Wives Association – helps to raise awareness about sickle cell, an inherited, non-contagious blood disease which is life threatening. When asked about why it is important to raise awareness about sickle cell, Ms. Shepard stated, “It is important because it is a disease that is prevalent in the African American, Latino and Asian communities where little is known about its debilitating effects, how to prevent it and the need to get immediate testing.” As a carrier of the sickle cell trait, Shepard believes that the K.I.S. Foundation must, “…inform and educate the public and raise awareness [about] the disease through community outreach programs and educational scholarships,” said Shepard.

Some of Kiki’s close friends have played an active role in the Foundation for many years. James Pickens, Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy), has been involved in the foundation for the past six years. Pickens believes that it is “[his] duty as a citizen of the community to spread the word about the disease and the importance of early detection.” Dawn Lewis (formerly of A Different World), has also been an active member of the Foundation since its inception seven years ago. Lewis, who serves on the Board of Directors, is proud that the Foundation has been able to “…raise enough money in the past year to fund bone marrow transplants for two children.”

Kristoff St John with Kiki Shepherd and Dawn Lewis
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When asked how others can get involved in raising awareness about this deadly disease, Gina Ravera (Soul Food/The Fighting Temptations) stated that, “We live in the digital age where the power is not only in the pen, but in the keyboard. People can express their support by blogging to educate others and encourage them to get tested early.” Tatyana Ali, (formerly of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) became involved with the K.I.S. Foundation a few years ago. “I watched my roommates’ sister struggle and suffer from the crippling, painful effects of sickle cell. I’ve watched first-hand the devastating impact of the disease and wanted to get involved to make a difference.”

For more information about the K.I.S. Foundation, visit www.thekisfoundation.org.

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