For Steven Hull the passion behind the annual Flip Flop Festivus is more than just an opportunity to give back. It’s personal.

For the last 13 years of his mother’s life, Hull watched as doctors were unable to figure out what was wreaking havoc on her body. In 1996, at age 59, Ida E. Hull, his mother, succumbed to a mysterious disease that seemed to devour her.

It wasn’t until an autopsy was performed that Hull learned the matriarch of his family had sarcoidosis, a debilitating disease that can fatally damage the lungs and other body tissues.

Feeling a need to create more awareness about the condition, Hull began The Life and Breath Foundation in 1998 with the sole purpose of finding a cure.

“My thoughts were about other patients or families that are struggling with this disease right now,” said Hull. “I put together the foundation to not only raise funds for clinic research for a cure, but to also use some of that money for an awareness and support campaign for those who are in the closet or in the dark about where to go and where to seek treatment.”

According to research compiled by the Life and Breath Foundation, sarcoidosis affects nearly one in 2,000 American men and women.

According to researchers at Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center the condition is more prevalent in the African American community than in White enclaves but women are more affected in both Black and White communities.

The disease can negatively affect the female reproductive system and can also easily mimic or be mistaken for other illnesses such as rheumatic and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, and lymphoma.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), symptoms of the disease found in most sarcoidosis patients include chest pains and dry coughing. These signs can be accompanied by fatigue, fever, discharge from the eye, nosebleeds, or swelling of the abdomen.

“There is no way for an individual to reduce their risk of developing the disease,” said Dr. David Muller, director of the Sarcoidosis Clinic and Research Program at Johns Hopkins University. “It does affect all populations and it’s a very significant health issue.”

“The Life and Breath Foundation has supported our research for over ten years,” he said. “They have provided very valuable support in helping to bridge the gap between the need for resources with the reduced funding from government agencies.”

For the past four years the organization has been the mastermind behind what has been called “Baltimore’s Best Football Party.”

All proceeds from the event went directly to the Sarcoidosis Clinic and Research Program, where Moller is on the brink of developing a blood test that would detect sarcoidosis.

Currently, doctors rely on biopsies to diagnose the disease.

The Flip Flop Festivus brings together the best of the Baltimore Ravens both past and present, invested leaders of the regional community, and members of the professional realm for food, music, raffle drawings, and wine.

This year’s event took place Sept. 22 at The Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, and attendees included current player linebacker Brad Jackson and retired wide receiver Qadry Ismail.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer