Gilroy Gardens guests are told ‘Spots are Beautiful’

Shannon Catalano and her son Wyatt helped spread awareness about a rare disease to workers and guests at Gilroy Gardens Sunday.

It was Mastocytosis Awareness Day Sunday at Gilroy Gardens and Wyatt Catalano’s message about the non-contagious disease was simple, “spots are beautiful.” What led to the special day wasn’t so special though.
In June, Wyatt was asked to leave the Water Oasis by Gilroy Gardens staff because other parents believed he was contagious. The event, organized by Gilroy Gardens and Wyatt Warriors was a way to resolve the incident.
“It’s been going great, it’s been awesome turnout and I’m very excited,” said Shannon Catalano, 33, Wyatt’s mom. “We’re raising awareness and funds for research of Pediatric Mastocytosis, so when people came to the park, they were given an option to make a donation when they bought a ticket and we’ve had a lot of people stop by the booth and make donations.”
Wyatt, 3, is a cute little boy, spots and all. To emphasize that fact, Wyatt Warriors passed out spotted rubber balls and brochures to park goers, helping to inform the public about Wyatt and Mastocytosis.
“The goal is that when people see him, they recognize the disease and know what it is,” Shannon said. “Mastocytosis is an accumulation of too many mast cells in the body and those mast cells release histamine. Everybody has mast cells but his body just has too many. It’s like his body is having an allergic reaction. It’s just spotted, it’s not contagious.”
The Catalano family has been going to Gilroy Gardens since their oldest daughter was a baby. On one visit in June, a day of fun took a turn that wasn’t fun for anybody.
“We were over at the Water Oasis when we had a negative experience where they had Wyatt get out of the pool because they were concerned about his disease, because people were complaining that he was contagious,” Shannon said. “Today was a positive experience that came out of a negative experience. It gives us a good opportunity to let people know about his disease.”
With two teams of volunteers who got started when the park opened at 10 a.m., Wyatt Warriors got a reprieve from the weekend’s stifling heat. Aside from the opportunity to let people know about Wyatt and Mastocytosis, they offered free face painting, karaoke and a free raffle. The family also got some support from another local family.
“There’s another little boy here who has Mastocytosis and you can see now that his spots are faded,” Shannon said. “They saw what happened and they wanted to come out here to show support.”
Fortunately, Wyatt is young enough that he doesn’t remember much of the incident in June.
“He’s realized that he’s a little different,” Shannon said. “He tells me, ‘Mom I’m a giraffe,’ so he kinda associates it with other things that have spots.”
The biggest event of the year for Wyatt Warriors is yet to come. On November 5 they will hold Wyatt’s Walk 2017, a family friendly 5k run or walk at Gilroy Sports Park where proceeds will go directly to fund research for Mastocytosis Society. Participants can register at www.mastowyattwarrior.org.
“There are lots of forms of Mastocytosis,” Shannon said. “There’s the systemic form that stays with you forever and then there’s another where hopefully it can be resolved. We’re not sure which form that Wyatt has but we’re hoping that it’s one that will be resolved.”

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