Rickey Smiley hosts Motown-inspired Sickle Cell Foundation of Central Alabama gala

By Je’Don Holloway Talley

The Birmingham Times

Rickey Smiley, the 2017 Sickle Cell Gala host and syndicated comedian, delivers an emotional concluding speech about his family's ties to the incurable disease and the importance of finding a cure. (Reggie Allen, for The Birmingham Times)
Rickey Smiley, the 2017 Sickle Cell Gala host and syndicated comedian, delivers an emotional concluding speech about his family’s ties to the incurable disease and the importance of finding a cure. (Reginald Allen, special to The Times)

The Sickle Cell Foundation of Central Alabama proudly presented its annual gala on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the downtown Sheraton Hotel with “Showtime— Motown Style” as this years’ theme and Rickey Smiley as the celebrity guest and co-host.

Dana “Lady Woo” Woodruff (the show’s producer) did not miss a single décor detail. Life-size cut outs, dangling record covers and pictures of Motown’s greatest acts were placed along the hall leading to grand ballroom.

“Motown is big for most of us” Lady Woo said. “The greatest love songs, crossover ballads, and the biggest music influencers are Motown.  I mean, always thinking local, Birmingham had ties to the Temptations through Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. Because of that, some of the production ideas were a no brainer.”

Lady Wood said, “The Sickle Cell Disease must be stopped, and we have to fight together to eliminate this disease. So stand with us. Fight with us, in the battle against sickle cell.”

In memory of Birmingham’s sickle cell victims a list of names was read aloud as ‘The Jackson Five’s’ ‘I’ll be there’ purred softly from the strings and horns of the orchestra, and the backup singing quartet. Popular local singer and instrumentalist Ashley Sankey was part of the group.

Mickey Ferguson and Jeh Jeh Pruitt of WBRC’s FOX 6 News were emcees during a night where Birmingham Mayor William Bell gave greetings followed by words from the Sickle Cell Foundation’s national CEO, Ms. Sonja Banks of Baltimore and Board President Charles E. Lawson of Birmingham.

All proceeds from the gala went to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Central Alabama. To support the foundation by purchasing a car tag, please visit sicklecellbham.com.

The 19th Annual Sickle Cell Walk will be held in Linn Park, 710 – 20th Street North, Birmingham, AL 35203 on Saturday, May 6th, from 8 am – 12 noon. Contact the Sickle Cell Foundation at 205.780.2355| info@sicklecellbham.org | www.sicklecellbham.org