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Natalie Bolinger

It was a picture-perfect moment in the delivery room as a baby girl named Nicole joined big brother Brock, 10, to complete the family of Natalie and Brian Bolinger. That picture changed dramatically when, at a routine newborn checkup, Nicole’s pediatrician diagnosed a tiny cut next to her nose as a vascular birthmark called a hemangioma. Although the doctor assured the Bolingers that the deep purple mark would fade on its own, they watched as the raised tumor consumed half of Nicole’s face and obscured her right eye. Still, the doctor advised the family to take a wait-and-see approach.
 
Natalie’s mom instinct said otherwise – it was time for action. “It was as if I could see the word ‘persevere’ in my head like a vision, and I knew that’s what I would have to do,” she says. That was almost a decade ago, when it wasn’t as easy to do an Internet search for needed medical information. After much research, Natalie finally found a surgeon in Arkansas who specialized in aggressively removing vascular birthmarks, but even then, it took daily calls to the surgeon’s office before he would agree to take the case. Her vision paid off, and today, after five surgeries, Nicole is a healthy 9-year-old. Free from the days of constant phone calls to doctors, Natalie has time to explore her passion for crafting, including a home business that creates custom wreaths. When her “crafting obsession” swallowed up the entire living room, husband Brian surrendered the garage to Natalie, where she can be found on the days when she isn’t volunteering in her kids’ school classes.
 
The crafting table is set aside for the moment as Natalie switches hats to fundraising coordinator for the Vascular Birthmark Federation (VBF). Drawing upon her former role in public relations, she’s turned a simple neighborhood fundraiser into the largest single event for the VBF. “I just wanted to help other families who were walking this same road,” she says. Preparations for the 2012 Angel’s Kiss Golf Classic fundraiser on October 22 in Corinth are in full swing. “It will be a great day of fun,” Natalie says. “But most important, we will be spreading the message of hope about vascular birthmarks to other families in need.”