By Jessica Camerato
For many of the Boston Celtics, a Christmas Day game in Orlando means packing up the family and heading down to Florida. For others, it means being away from loved ones who live elsewhere.
For Marquis Daniels, however, it means going home for the holidays.
Daniels grew up in Orlando, where his mother and step-father still reside. Even though his family is dispersed around the country now, they will be together on Christmas.
Its going to be great, he told CSNNE.com, Just to be around family.
Daniels two children, Syriah (4) and Antwane (2), live with his wife in Georgia where they attend school. His oldest brother lives in Indiana, while his younger brother is a student in Alabama.
Daniels hasnt been home for Thanksgiving since his junior year of high school, so he looks forward to being in Orlando for the second straight season on Christmas, thanks to the NBA schedule.
Two times in a row, thats great, he said. Its rare that you get to do that. I had to put that in my contract (laughs).
And when Daniels returns to Florida, he will be reaching out to more than just his relatives.
Daniels formed the Q6 Foundation as a way to give back to underprivileged children in the Orlando community. He has since performed outreach in every city he has played, including Boston.
It revolves around sickle cell in amateur sports, he explained. Its an epidemic that goes unheard of in the black community, and it affects the black community a lot.
Daniels knows the impact of sickle cell anemia firsthand. He was in shock the first time he ever witnessed the effects of the disease.
My wife, her youngest brother has a full case of it, he said. When I first saw it, I was like what is wrong with him? All his bones just locked up on him and he locked up. He was so stiff. He was crying. He was 18 and crying and I was like, what is wrong? I had never seen anything like it.
Daniels helped rush the teenager to the hospital, where he received one of many morphine treatments.
Hes immune to morphine now, thats how much hes had, Daniels said. Its bad.
The vision of suffering stuck with Daniels, and he became interested in learning more. Soon he would need to know more than he ever imagined.
Months after his daughter was born, routine tests revealed that she carried the genetic trait for the disease.
You dont want anything to happen to your kids, regardless of what it is, he said. Once I found that out, I was like, 'Ok I need to find out more so when she gets older, she can be educated on it also.
Fortunately Syriah does not have a full case of the disease, but it could affect her in years to come. Daniels explains that she cannot have a baby with another carrier of the trait because there is a chance the child could have sickle cell anemia.
Daniels wife also carries the trait, and he recently found out his mother does as well (his son does not). With so many people in life touched by sickle cell anemia, Daniels felt compelled to help.
Theres stuff about it that I wanted to get out there, he said.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, approximately 1 in 12 African Americans carry the trait. Daniels has used the Q6 Foundation as a platform to raise awareness.
On Christmas Eve, he will host a holiday event in Orlando for children of single mothers who have been affected by the sickle cell anemia. In partnership with Kmart Kares and Lil Caesars Pizza, the Q6 Foundation will donate bikes to the children and Kmart gift cards to the mothers.
Daniels has also taken his cause to the international level. He has already begun outreach in Haiti (he met with the mayor this fall) and plans to conduct a basketball camp there next summer. Theyre big Celtics fans, he points out.
Whether it is delivering a bicycle in Orlando or teaching a child how to play "net ball," as basketball is referred to in Haiti, Daniels hopes each event will work toward his ultimate goal of beating the disease.
I just want to spread the word, to get everybody out there to hear about it, he said. Hopefully try to find a cure for it and just take advantage of it and try to help people out that go through that process.
For Daniels, being able to spend time with his family and help others makes the holidays even brighter.
Follow Jessica Camerato on Twitter at http:www.twitter.comjcameratonba