On May 1st, Jay Rattanavong will be inaugurating the first Joy Luck Club walk in honor of his aunt Joy Elliott, who passed away in December from complications of beta thalassemia major and diabetes. Thalassemia is a condition found in many Lao and others around the world. The walk will be at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis rain or shine on May 1, 2011 from 1pm to 4pm.
I first met Joy Elliot in 2007 while I was doing outreach for my first full-length book On The Other Side Of The Eye. She was the same age as I was, and I was struck by her initiative and her constant commitment to seeing other people happy. She was always sociable to a fault, and I was impressed by her continuous entrepreneurial spirit and her willingness and determination to try new business ventures.
She was able to plan wonderful gatherings for her friends and associates and she worked hard to support other emerging Lao entrepreneurs. The first time we met face to face was at a new Lao-owned restaurant in Minneapolis called Otho's. I'd interviewed her once for Asian American Press' business section, because I believed she would contribute positively to the vibrancy and diversity of Minnesota's economy over the years ahead. I was always happy to see her at community events and she was always a welcoming presence whenever our paths intersected.
I was also impressed by her philanthropic spirit. She organized a fund-raiser for thalassemia awareness in Minneapolis which was where I first met her nephew Jay and she supported many other good causes in her lifetime. She was a part of the Lao American Writers Summit in 2010 and I was deeply impressed by her enthusiasm and skill in talking about the journey of Lao refugees over the last 36 years. In losing her, I feel our community has lost a wonderful friend and a fine voice.
Thalassemia, a fatal genetic blood disorder affects many people throughout the world. By being a part of CareWalk, Jay and his fellow walkers will not only help raise money for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation (CAF)'s fight against thalassemia, but will also be showing support for people who must daily meet the challenges of thalassemia.
CAF is the nation's leading advocate for people with thalassemia, who must endure lifelong blood transfusions as often as every two weeks and who battle a wide range of complications, including heart and liver failure, diabetes and hepatitis. The Foundation provides valuable patient service programs, funds important medical research and educates the public, the medical community and elected officials about thalassemia.
Jay Rattanavong and his family and friends have my deepest support and best wishes as they work on this issue, and it's a fitting and fine tribute to the memory of Joy Elliott. She will be missed, but she is not forgotten.