Mother outraged after GoFundMe deems 4-year-old son’s picture ‘too graphic’ for site

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WAYLAND, Mich. – A Michigan mother is outraged after a crowdfunding website took down photos of her 4-year-old son, claiming they were too ‘graphic.’

Sarah Savickas says her life was blessed when her son, Oakley, came into the world.

However, doctors told her that his life wouldn’t be easy.

Oakley was born with a variant of Prune Belly Syndrome, which is a rare disorder that has caused Oakley to battle kidney disease.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, most infants with Prune Belly Syndrome are either stillborn or die within the first few weeks of life from lung or kidney problems.

Amazingly, little Oakley turns 5-years-old next month.

However, the constant battle to stay healthy has led to mounting medical bills for Savickas’ family.

Savickas says a friend created a GoFundMe account to help alleviate some of the stress from those medical costs.

“My friend and I had talked and we wrote the ‘story’ on the GoFundMe page and included many photos to show his amazing and courageous journey so far,” Savickas told KFOR in an email. “Last week, I had received an email from GoFundMe, seemed computer generated, that said they removed a photo from his GoFundMe because it was too graphic, bloody, or violent.”

Savickas says she wrote an email to GoFundMe, asking them to reevaluate their policies.

“Don’t you dare try to tell me that any photo of my child is too graphic, violent, or bloody to share. It is his journey. We are here to make a statement and that statement is to make more aware of his debilitating illness. We do this by sharing beautiful photos of our son and photos of the devices that [give] him a quality of life he may not have had. We do this to make more aware of what he goes through and also to show other parents that are faced with heart wrenching decisions, to not abort and to have hope & faith and to never give up,” the email read.

Savickas says GoFundMe responded to her email, telling her to go ahead and repost  the photo.

“I’m sorry to have to reach out for something like this. Oakely is of course by all accounts a superhero and as a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine going through what Oakley and your family are going through. Please first let me offer my apologies on that email being sent at all. There is no reason a parent should have to receive anything like that especially when GoFundMe is a place created to help families in your situation. We have certain measures in place to make sure that we keep the site suitable for all ages and this is missed execution and an oversight on our part. As we continue to grow and learn from our community, there are things that unfortunately, we get wrong. This is one of those instances and I’m sorry we had to learn it at the expense of your campaign,” an email from GoFundMe read.

However, she received another email just a few hours later.

“Any close up images of injuries that contain blood, are not permitted on GoFundMe. Our visitors are from all walks of life with varying degrees of sensitivity, and we must ensure that all photographs on GoFundMe are appropriate for all audiences. Do you have a different photograph you could use instead?” the second email read in part.

KFOR contacted GoFundMe, who said that second email was sent in error.

“Our sensitive image policy is always evolving,” said Kelsea Little, the media director for the site. 

“Our sensitive image policy is always evolving.”

Little says that after reviewing Savickas’ photos, the GoFundMe team agreed that they should not have been removed, adding that Savickas is now able to post them again.

Savickas says either way, this should serve as a ‘teaching opportunity’ for everyone to be sensitive to others’ needs and situations.

This isn’t the first time the company’s policy has been questioned by a parent.

Earlier this month, Christina Hinks said pictures of her premature son were deemed inappropriate by the site.

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