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Mandy Jenkins noticed the bright strawberry bump on her daughter’s neck the month after she was born.
It didn’t bother the mother of two other children because vascular birthmarks were common in her family. Her son has a spot under his arm that, after nine years, has faded to a pale pink.
Jenkins, who lives on the Grant/Pendleton county line and attends Williamstown Christian Church, kept watch over puckered spot and didn’t get worried until she noticed it was growing under her daughter, Naomi’s skin.
Naomi’s condition is known as hemangioma, or a red to purplish raised lesion on the skin. They are an abnormal buildup of blood vessels in the skin or internal organs.
Most hemangiomas are on the face and neck and usually disappear on their neck. Ninety percent of them are gone by the time the child turns 9.
Well-meaning family members questioned Jenkins as to whether she was going to have the golf ball-sized tumor removed or would she let her daughter’s hair grow long enough to cover it.
Because she was familiar with the condition, she took the comments in stride, but they made her determined to want to educate her family and the public about it.
“It can be scary to a new parent to have a child that has a birthmark and there’s so much information out there about this condition,” Jenkins said.
That’s what prompted her to begin to research the disease and to become an activist.
She took Naomi, now 15- months-old, to Children’s Hospital where she was put in touch with a support group.
“I wanted to do more,” she said.
In an effort to do more, Jenkins has organized a bake sale on May 15 at the gravel parking lot across the street from Williamstown Christian Church. The proceeds will be donated to the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation in honor of the VBF International Day of Awareness, which is May 15.
“I just want people to know that this is a treatable condition and there’s help out there for families going through this,” Jenkins said. “There’s also ways the community can get involved to offer support to families dealing with this.”
Jenkins’ ultimate goal is to help organize a fundraising walk in Lexington, or maybe some day in Grant County.
She’d like to see local schools get involved by doing projects such as a Read-A-Thon using the Buddy Booby Read-Along book written by child with a birthmark and his mother. The book teaches that it is OK to be different.
She said she’s grateful to her church family at Williamstown Christian because they’ve been supportive.
“Someone did ask why I had my babies neck tattooed,” she said. “I just told them that Jesus blessed her with special marks. It’s one of those things that just make you want to teach others that it’s nothing to be ashamed of because it’s a treatable condition.
Naomi’s birthmark has made Jenkins less shy and willing to speak up.
“If people want to talk, I’ve got no problem talking and listening,” she said. “I just want to help spread the word.”
Jenkins can be reached at 859-654-1450.
VBF BAKE SALE
8 a.m. - 4 p.m., May 14
gravel parking lot across from Williamstown Christian Church