A single mum has told of her heartbreak after her son was bullied over his rare facial disfigurement.
Kathleen McGrath thought she had prepared her five-year-old well for his very first year of school.
In September, the mum-of-one had sent little Benji Baker, who has a cyst known as lymphangioma, to the local school.
Benji’s class was due to be full of children from his nursery school, who would already be aware of how one of his cheeks looks as though he’s eating a large sweet.
But Benji and his mum never imagined that the older schoolkids would bully him instead - and some of his old friends would follow their lead.
Kathleen, of Mytholmroyd, who is an executive director of a community arts organisation, said: “Benji’s so smart, funny and outgoing, but when the bullying started he changed.
“He was so new to school that he didn’t even know he could tell the teacher he was being bullied.
“He started not wanting to go to school, waking up crying in the middle of the night and not even wanting to go out to play with his friends at home.”
The 41-year-old struggled to tackle the new issue on her own.
“He couldn’t understand why his friends would change so I had a talk with him to explain why people can be mean,” she said.
“Kids will ask about his face in different ways and I usually answer for Benji, but I had to tell him it was time for him to start explaining lymphangioma for himself.
“I said that if he explained it to people when they ask, they might be nicer when they meet the next person with lymphangioma.
“But then he liked the idea that he was helping people so he didn’t want to go to get it removed anymore, which he needs to for medical reasons.
“I didn’t know how else to help him so I started researching more support online.”
That’s when Kathleen found a charity called Changing Faces, which specialises in supporting people with disfigurements.
She now takes Benji to counselling once every six weeks, on top of his numerous hospital appointments to have the cyst removed.
Kathleen said: “Benji’s counsellor is amazing. She’s teaching him coping skills for life that most adults don’t even have.
“He can now imagine himself inside a suit of armour that words can’t get through and, if that isn’t enough, inside a bubble filled with everything that makes him happy, which he said is candy floss, hugs from mummy and Lego. He’s so sweet and he’s back to his normal self now.
“As much as I can try my best, I don’t have those skills - the suit of armour idea is amazing, I never would have thought of that.”
Now, she wants to give back to the charity by doing climbing 24 miles in 12 hours across three mountains in the Yorkshire Dales.
She has fundraised over £400 of her £1,000 target so far.
Donations can be made via: www.justgiving.com/Benjitrek .