A suburban Chicago family, overwhelmed by medical bills from their infant son who was born prematurely, alleges the popular crowdfunding website GoFundMe did not make their donation page available to the public because the photo of their ill baby was deemed offensive.
According to the family, Baby Jacob’s fundraising page was originally only accessible to those who had a direct link, making it difficult to raise the needed funds to help offset the mounting medical expenses that come with his condition.
When the organizer of the page, a close family friend, contacted GoFundMe, they claim the popular crowdfunding site told them the photo of the young boy was "graphic” and may be deemed offensive to some viewers.
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“They responded right away and said, ‘Unfortunately, we never published it because your son's image [was] too graphic and too inappropriate for our viewers to look at,” said Jacob’s mother Christina Hinks.
The parents say they were heartbroken that “someone, let alone a company that specializes in raising funds for these types of emergencies could be so callous and hurtful.”
“A preemie- born at 27 weeks gestation usually needs a breathing tube. The wires are for the heart and blood oxygen monitoring. Jacob had no open wounds, just the tube and wires,” Baby Jacob’s page reads. “Gofundme requested a photo of Jake and his parents side by side. There is only ONE of these photos in existence, because Jacob had been so sick- mom and dad have only held him twice.”
Jacob was born 13 weeks early at just 1.5 pounds. His condition was initially listed as “grim,” but has since been upgraded to “guarded,” following at least one surgery and numerous complications.
After the incident was made public Thursday, a post on the page says it has turned into “a huge support for preemie page” and noted that other parents have reported similar issues with their pages not being made public by the website.
Jacob’s mother said the family has not yet received a response from GoFundMe on their photo policies, but hopes to change “this insane policy.”
When NBC Chicago contacted the crowdfunding website, they issued the following statement:
"GoFundMe requires that campaign images must be suitable for all ages and audiences. Visitors to GoFundMe are from all walks of life with varying degrees of sensitivity, and we must ensure that all photographs in the Public Search Directory are appropriate for all audiences. All campaign organizers are held to these requirements.
It is not true that we ever took down the campaign. Even if campaigns are not listed in GoFundMe's Public Search Directory, they are still able to receive donations. The campaign for baby Jacob was always live and able to receive donations, including the time while the original photo was up.
We wish all the best to the Hinks family during this difficult time."
Once the Hinks family changed the photo, the page went public the donations started pouring in. Now they hope to be able to solely focus on getting Jacob well.