Positively Jax winner: Founder of First Coast Lupus Fight

Shennette Sparkes used her diagnosis as springboard to help others

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Shennette Sparkes is a wife, mother, educator, coach, author, mentor and lupus advocate and is this month's Positively Jax winner. 

After being diagnosed with two types of lupus while on a basketball scholarship at the University of North Florida, she found her passion in fighting for those suffering and those with no voice. 

“I am thankful that my scars are symbols of hope. That my life is a symbol of strength,” said Sparks.

Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. Symptoms vary but can include fatigue, joint pain, rash and fever. These can periodically get worse and then improve. While there's no cure for lupus, current treatments focus on improving quality of life through controlling symptoms and minimizing flare-ups.

Sparkes became an advocate for the Lupus Foundation of America Florida Chapter, and began First Coast Lupus Fight in 2013 as way to spread awareness about the horrible disease in Jacksonville.  She continues to use her own story to give hope to those suffering from lupus.  

“ I am a firm believer that our input will impact our output,” Sparkes said.

She coaches and empowers young people through her organization, Higher Learning Hoops, and dares them to be different. 

Through First Coast Lupus Fight, she has been able to raise awareness about lupus and its effects on those who suffer from it.  

With Higher Learning Hoops, she has also helped feed the homeless and raised money to award students college scholarships.

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