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Greg Antonelle works multiple jobs. One such job is as a board member for the Washington Township school system, which he says, “puts food on the table.” Another job is coaching his two eldest sons’ baseball, football, and lacrosse teams, which he finds equally rewarding.
The third job, though, he makes no money off of at all, and that’s because it’s purely volunteer work, a title he took on because his third son, Nicholas, was born with a rare, incurable birthmark condition, known as lymphatic malformation.
“When he [Nicholas] was born, we were given a wrong diagnosis,” Mr. Antonelle says in regards to the lack of information many doctors have on vascular birthmarks. “I got more and more frustrated with the lack of information [on vascular birthmarks], so I said, you know what, I’m going to stop complaining and do something about it.”
And that something was getting involved with the not-for-profit Vascular Birthmark Foundation (VBF).
Antonelle got so involved, in fact, that he’s now the executive vice president of it, a job he took on to help families, such as his own, that have a child who has been affected with a birthmark, tumor, or other rare syndrome.
“We get two million hits per month on the website,” Antonelle says of the central hub, www.birthmark.org.
Mr. Antonelle, who was merely looking for treatment for his son, didn’t even plan on attaining a position in the organization, but his intuitive ideas for fundraising made him a likely candidate for the job.
“On May 15th every year, we have a VBF Day of Awareness,” Antonelle says of how he first got involved with the organization, “and I wrote to celebrities with something called, Celebrity spring cleaning. [We were able to get things like] a cowboy hat signed by Garth Brooks, a pair of pants from Courtney Cox, and other things.”
Antonelle took these items and put them up on eBay alongside information about the VBF. With many of the items viewed by 1,000 people, he did the math and found that with everything he managed to acquire, that number soon jumped to 10,000 people reading and learning about vascular birthmarks.
“So you’d see a CD signed by Coldplay and also read about vascular birthmarks,” Antonelle said, “And that’s how it all started.”
He’s continued that outreach to celebrities for the past three years up to the VBF’s biggest day of the year, the annual “Mark of Beauty” gala in Manhattan on November 15th, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m at the Hudson Theatre in the Millennium Broadway Hotel. There, many of the items Antonelle has reached out for, such as a guitar signed by Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers, a bat signed by Reggie Jackson, and a 2007 New York Giants signed helmet, among other things, will be auctioned off in hopes to acquire more money to sponsor physical education, research, and programs that promote acceptance for living with a birthmark.
Birthmarks are, after all, something many babies are born with everyday.
Paraphrasing the VBF President and Founder, Dr. Linda Rozell-Shannon, “one out of ten babies are born with vascular birthmarks,” Antonelle says, “Some will go away within days, and some can’t be found by the human eye, but what Nicholas has is extremely rare…[but] the only thing you really care about is that you’re child is healthy.”
Following the “Mark of Beauty” gala the next day will be the 2008 Vascular Birthmarks Conference on November 15th, beginning at 8:30 a.m. It will take place at Beth Israel’s Phillips Ambulatory Care Center and will include lectures by the country’s top specialists, as well as examinations for children. Reservations are required.
To contribute to the organization, contact Basia Joyce at (518) 374-2062 or email@example.com.