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Mom helps Lola find an online voice

Mother leads charge against social media insults aimed at child

Mom helps Lola find an online voice

Mom helps Lola find an online voice

Lola, an 8 1/2 month old girl diagnos...

LaTonya Williams thought her first Mother’s Day would be a happy occasion. But to her surprise, it was anything but happy.
    Williams, a Bulloch County native and Southeast Bulloch High School graduate, discovered that a stranger had copied a picture of her daughter, Lola, from her Facebook page and made disturbing and cruel comments about her. The photo with the caption quickly spread across Facebook and Twitter, attracting more negative remarks.
    “Words could not even express — I was speechless. I thought it was a dream,” said Williams, who now lives in Savannah.
    Lola was born with Apert syndrome. This rare condition is a gene mutation that affects the skull, hands and feet. Lola has type 3, the most severe case, and has webbed hands and feet.
    At the young age of 8½ months, Lola has already undergone two major surgeries. The first surgery took place when she was only 3 days old, and the second when she was 5 months old.
    In addition to calling Lola “ugly” and other insults, the stranger who stole the picture from William’s Facebook page referred to himself as Lola’s uncle, even though the family has never met him. Other comments Williams saw were racially charged, some even comparing Lola to a dog.
    Once Williams discovered the picture with the comments, she reported it as hate speech, in hopes that Facebook would remove the photo. But Facebook has refused to take down the picture, saying “it does not violate our community standards on hate speech.”
    In reaction to the disparaging comments about her daughter, Williams took matters into her own hands and created pages on Facebook and Twitter called “Lola’s Voice.” The pages focus on spreading awareness about Apert syndrome, as well as trying to prevent this from happening to other children with disabilities.
    “When it’s your child and it hits home, you do everything you can to make sure their voice is heard. You do whatever you have to do, and that is what I am doing right now,” Williams said.
    Along with the Facebook page, Williams has reached out to AT&T, LG, Something Special Magazine – a magazine aimed at parents raising children with special needs – and other organizations to help her spread awareness.
     “We are hoping to prevent this in the future from happening to other kids with the same syndrome – or other disabilities – period,” Williams said.
    Valarie Thompson, Lola’s aunt, is also helping. Thompson attends Columbus State University and has helped organize a walk with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Association, which will help spread the message about cyberbullying and Apert syndrome. The walk is planned for September.
    “My whole university is behind me, and we are trying to get the community behind me,” Thompson said.
    The “Lola’s Voice” Facebook page has more than 2,500 “likes,” and is growing every day. Responses to “Lola’s Voice” are encouraging, and express their shock to the comments. Comments like, “Lola is beautiful,” and “I don’t see how or why any one would post this,” fill up the Facebook page.
    “I want her to know that Mom did step up for her, when she is old enough, Mom did fight for her,” Williams said.

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