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In Loving Memory of Marqus Valentine

It is with a heavy heart that we formally announce the passing of our co-founder, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend and teammate, Marqus Valentine. Marqus gained his warrior wings on Monday, June 22, after 36 years of so much life. Words cannot explain how incredibly devastating this news is for the Valentine family and all of those who knew and loved Marqus.

Marqus touched the hearts of all of those who knew his radiant spirit. As the co-founder and inspiration for Sick Cells, Marqus was devoted to raising awareness for sickle cell disease (SCD) to improve the lives of current and future warriors and their families. His involvement in the SCD community stretched beyond Sick Cells. He was an advocate for blood donation, a recipient of the 2019 American Red Cross Blood Services Heroes award, a mentor for younger warriors and a go-to source for advice. He was wise beyond his years and never hesitated to share his voice to help those around him. 

Marqus's legacy will forever be a reminder of his triumphs, resilience, positivity and complete dedication to uplifting others in every way he could. A through and through sickle cell warrior.

We love and miss him dearly. Our mission to elevate the voices of the sickle cell community has even more power behind it, today and forever. This month, we'll honor and remember our eternal angel, but first...

A Minute With Marqus

Each month, the Minute With Marqus section of the newsletter updated readers on Marqus's latest happenings. From celebrating his birthday, to Rare Disease Week, to the Faces of SCD storytelling tour, he was always transparent about his day-to-day life and how it was impacted by SCD.

We are devoted to continue sharing Marqus's stories through his and his loved ones' words. Marqus was an avid writer and reader. He left the world thousands of words, in the form of short stories, journals, prayers, cartoons, and oral stories, with his friends and family.

This month, we'll hear from his mother, Francesca Valentine.

Marqus and his brother, Kevin

He was the chubbiest baby in the NICU. Marqus started life with difficulty but overcame it and grew into an amazing adult. Over the years, many trials and tribulations would follow as SCD has no definitive cure. He was here long enough to begin new medication specifically for SCD — and for that we’re grateful. Throughout his 36 years, we strived to provide a life full of as many experiences as possible.

Marqus at the 2019 Red Cross Heroes Breakfast

We lived life often being told all the things Marqus would not be able to do but we made sure we found a way to do everything. If he wanted to play at the beach, we bought a wetsuit to stay warm. If he wanted to play football or run around with his Port-A-Cath, his brother found him little football pads to keep him safe. 

His sister, Ashley, graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and we prepped for six months and we made it. A trip across the pond that we’ll never forget. 

Marqus and his mother, Francesca

SCD never stopped Marqus. He was resilient. As he grew into the age where kids begin to understand life and death, he still got to be just a kid. Fishing, riding a scooter (if the bicycle was too painful) and a host of other kid things. 

Despite every challenge SCD threw our way, as a family, we made a way. Our hearts are broken but we have to be strong. We have to remain as strong as he was. 

Our family is forever grateful for all the love and support — he left us a legacy to share for lifetimes to come.

Francesa Valentine 

The Valentine family 

How We'll Remember Marqus

We took time to collect the memories our community shared about Marqus over the last week. Your words were so kind, compassionate and just another reminder of who Marqus was as a person. 
Marqus after his total hip replacement surgery 
"He was the first one that inspired me to wear my oxygen because I was so relentless in doing so, but now I will wear just in honor of him, you were a strong Warrior you still are you will be missed."  Cynthia

"I’m so grateful for all you all have done and are doing in support of our warriors. Marqus being such an amazing warrior has inspired so many and his hard work has helped even more. I’m praying for comfort for his family and all who love him♥️" 

"It has been amazing to see this vision grow to what is today. I'm so blessed to have known and learned from him and your mom!" 

"I feel privileged to have crossed paths with Marqus. We first met in 2019 at Rare Disease Week in D.C. Seeing his passion for life and advocacy touched me in a way I will never forget. Other than just thoroughly enjoying conversation with him, seeing him advocate for himself and others inspired me and sparked hope in me that my daughter living with a rare disease will also be able to do that someday. Seeing how your entire family took on sickle cell advocacy and policy while never ‘stepping in front of him’ was a beautiful thing to witness. His light shined so bright, and there is no doubt in my mind that his spirit will live on through the many people he touched."

"He was the strongest, nicest, most compassionate person I've ever known, I am so sorry for your loss."

"I had the joy of getting to know him when I worked at the Edward Cancer Center. We bonded over our shared birthday! It didn’t matter how badly he was feeling, Marqus always had a smile on his face."
Marqus and Ashley in Detroit (left), Marqus and Sick Cells Ambassador, Terrance, at BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center, (right)
"I want you to tell him how much we all at BraveHearts love him so much -- how much of a hero he is. Please tell him he touched my life and I will always treasure our rides together. He was and will always be my most radiant student! Tell him I will see him again one day in eternity and if he will love Peaches up there I would sure appreciate it. ♥️ I love you both so much. I hope you know you are both heavy in my heart and prayers and I just am forever touched by your family full of love and joy. I know where he is going he will ride without pain and without oxygen and I love you so much."  Meggan of BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center (pictured above)

"Marqus saved many lives through his advocacy and in raising awareness for blood donation and sickle cell disease research."

When I reflect on my brief experience with Marqus, I remember his joy, laughter, humor, insight, enthusiasm, creativity, openness, curiosity, hopefulness, optimism, kindness. He lived a full and impactful life. Thank you for sharing him with us."

"I am simply so proud of the accomplishments of Marqus. He will always be my hero! He had a heart of compassion and energy of fun. He reminds me so much of what rubbed off on you Ashley. Always smiling, full of humor, creative, and simply a go-getter with great inspiration. These beautiful memories are a testimony of his contribution, passion and resilience to impact lives. I have been sad about his departure to heaven, but I am celebrating his new life today because we shall meet again."

"Marqus was a fierce warrior and a true hero. We were honored for Marqus to be a 2019 Blood hero as he embodied every aspect of the honor. Rest In Peace, Marqus."
 American Red Cross of Illinois

"He was loved by literally everyone in our school; there really was no way not to love such a genuinely friendly guy. And as he grew, what a freaking WARRIOR he became for his cause!! I always loved our talks, and I just loved him so much as a person. My Friend: you ran your race like a champion, and you fought your battles like a king. You’ve earned your crown, Dear Brother: can’t wait to give your sickle-free self a HUGE hug when I get there."
Marqus, Team Sick Cells and other rare disease advocates at Rare Disease Week 2020 in Washington DC

A Celebration of Life

Visitation will be at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Lisle, IL on July 23. His Celebration of Life will be held at the Lisle Park District on July 25.

Please stay tuned to our social media pages for updates. ❤️

Share Your Stories

If you'd like to share a memory of Marqus with Sick Cells, please feel free to fill out this form. We'd love to hear from you! 

Thank You for Your Donations!

We couldn't fulfill our mission without you. 

News You Can Use

This month, we're highlighting some impactful, previously published, stories featuring Marqus in the media
Sickle Cell Patients, Families And Doctors Face A ‘Fight For Everything’: To sickle cell patients and their families — most of whom are African-American — efforts to fight the disease appear slow, underfunded, ineffective or too limited in scope, perpetuating disparities that have existed for more than a century.

ABC 7 Great Chicago Blood Drive: The importance of donating blood: Dr. A. Kyle Mack and sickle cell patient Marqus Valentine joined ABC7 to talk about the importance of donating.

Fresenius Kabi Announces 2019 Inductees to Blood Donation Hall of Fame: For more than 20 years, Fresenius Kabi has partnered with blood centers through a nationwide program that recognizes and shares the stories of individuals who demonstrate commitment and passion for donating blood and raising awareness of the need for blood donation. 

12 honored at Red Cross Heroes Breakfast: Each Red Cross hero dedicated their life in different ways to help build a better community across Northern Illinois and Chicago areas, where these people have made a huge difference.

Marqus and Ashley Valentine live at the Drake Oak Brook Hotel: Video

Blood Donations Enable Sickle Cell Patient to Advocate for Change: Living with sickle cell disease and advocating for others with the disease can pose challenges, but blood donations help provide the strength he needs to continue to make a difference.

Siblings Marqus and Ashley Valentine tell stories of those with sickle cell disease: Now, he and his younger sister, Ashley Valentine, are advocates for those living with sickle cell disease. They do so by telling their stories of struggle and success as part of their Sick Cells nonprofit, which they started two years ago.

Why You Don't Hear Much About Sickle Cell Anymore: Why is the road for sufferers of this chronic condition so fraught with obstacles? And how does it compare to the way the government, researchers and the medical community handle more mainstream blood disorders?

Lisle family turns spotlight on sickle cell: A Lisle family has been raising awareness about sickle cell disease and promoting a documentary called “Sick Cells,” a project by Marqus Valentine about his medical condition.

Sickle cell disease is complex on its own, but black men with the illness battle its stigmas and stereotypes too: The disease is complex physiologically, manifesting itself differently in every carrier, but also sociologically, bringing in factors like racial bias, since sickle cell is believed to be most common among minority groups, particularly African Americans.

We Love You, Marqus

In closing, we'd like to thank everyone, once again, for your unfailing support. Marqus meant the world to every member of our team, and we'll do our best to push forward with the same fight and tenacity Marqus demonstrated his entire life. 

— Team Sick Cells
Copyright © 2020 Sick Cells, All rights reserved.

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Sick Cells · 1042 Maple Ave Ste 103 · Lisle, IL Illinois 60532 · USA