The KIS Foundation, Inc., was founded in 2006 at the urging of many friends and SCD advocates that Ms. KiKi Shepard met over a 10 year period of individually Raising Awareness of Sickle Cell Disease.
KiKi Shepard began working with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA) in 1993 under the leadership of then National President & CEO, Ms. Lynda Anderson, and National Vice-President & COO, Mr. Ralph Sutton. She was introduced to them at a celebrity golf tournament to benefit SCDAA that was arranged by a local celebrity organization called “Celebrity Families and Friends for Sickle Cell Disease”. At that time, KiKi Shepard was starring as the Co-Host of the hugely successful late-night television show called “It’s Showtime at the Apollo”, and had become a “household name.” After hearing the information and statistics on Sickle Cell Disease, Ms. Shepard was approached by Ms. Anderson about using her celebrity status to help SCDAA. She graciously accepted that invitation, and for the next 10 years she traveled across the nation as one of the celebrity faces of SCDAA, hosting events – telethons, dinners, galas, etc., making appearances, and visiting families and patients of SCD, in and out of the hospital. While Ms. Shepard does not have the disease, she does carry the hereditary Sickle Cell Trait and felt a duty at that time to use her well-known celebrity to benefit this worthy cause.
In July 2003, Ms. Shepard turned her birthday bowling celebration into a SCD Awareness Raising party aimed at the black entertainment community, to benefit the SCDAA. KiKi’s “Celebrity Bowling Challenge” was so successful and made so many of her peers aware of the plight of the SCD patient, that she decided to do it again the next year and it had even greater results. This event with the support of the SCDAA was the beginning of Ms. Shepard’s Los Angeles and Southern California awareness raising efforts, and was extremely instrumental in the creation of The KIS Foundation, Inc.
In late 2005, the national association, SCDAA left Los Angeles and re-established its offices on the East Coast. However, the new leadership’s vision and re-organization of the national association’s focus led to Ms. Shepard’s need to seek another path to assist patients and families diagnosed with Sickle Cell Disease.
At the end of 2006, after celebrating the success of our poster child, Paizley Jenkins’, being declared cured of Sickle Cell Disease from a bone-marrow transplant surgery, Ms. Shepard’s friends and ardent supporters began the task of helping her to establish her own foundation.
In 2006, final papers were filed for the status of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, a Board of Directors was established, officers were named, committees formed, and the journey of The KIS Foundation, Inc., began. In the past 11 years, the foundation has reached greater “awareness raising” heights, and, has garnered even more corporate support since obtaining its status as a non-profit.
A unique element of the creation of The KIS Foundation, Inc., is that it was originally described as a “celebrity based” foundation with four of the original Board of Directors being very prominent film and TV actors/hosts ---Vanessa Bell Calloway (Chairman of the Board), Obba Babatunde’, Dawnn Lewis, and Founder, KiKi Shepard. Our board’s strength was rounded out by the addition of our corporate and medical Board members -- Lenny McNeill, Dr. Anthony Calloway, André Dawson, and LaTonia Robinson. Members of the Board make strong use of their associations with other name celebrities, businesses, religious, medical, political, and social contacts to help mount and maintain the programs created by The KIS Foundation.
In 2016, The KIS Foundation successfully launched two of its newest community service programs. The “Crisis Care Package” - a Response-Aid Kit/Package for Sickle Cell Disease patients who have been admitted to the hospital because of a Sickle Cell Crisis. And, The “CATCH-UP Plan” Tutorial Program which is designed to bridge the gap between general instruction in the classroom and detailed independent learning because of unexpected absences. It is a two (2) week dedicated tutoring program created for Sickle Cell Disease patients from grades Pre-K to 12, that supports students after emerging from an in-hospital crises stay.
Both programs are available to SCD patients at no cost.
We have hosted multiple Holiday Toy Drives and distributed toys to Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and other local SCD care institutions, as well as, individual SCD patients and families. The KISF annually participates in the Special Needs Network’s Back-To-School Backpack Giveaway & Health Expo, The SAG Health Expo, and several other Health & Wellness community health fairs, and conferences throughout the Los Angeles area and the state of California
We have visited with patients at Childrens Hospital LA; held birthday SCD patient parties; honored Dr. Thomas Coates, head of Hematology – Childrens Hospital and Dr. Neena Kapoor, top bone marrow transplant surgeon – Childrens Hospital; participated in Blood Drives for King/Drew Medical Hospital; and participated in numerous seminars and conferences with other blood disease organizations.
Our Founder, Ms. KiKi Shepard has carried the mission of the KISF to:
1. The White House (Obama Administration)
2, Howard University, Wash., D.C.,
3. University of Texas – Dallas, Texas
4. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons, State of California
5. SCDAA Chapter – Mobile Alabama,
6. The Maroon9 Foundation in Ft, Worth, Texas... just to name a few.
The KIS Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to improving the social health and quality of life for children, adults, and families diagnosed and living with Sickle Cell Disease because “sickness has no boundaries and compassion has no limits.”