Gilroy Gardens Water Oasis apologizes over boy's rare skin condition

A Gilroy mother is hoping to raise awareness about her son's rare skin condition after a difficult encounter she had at Gilroy Garden’s Water Oasis. Employees at the theme park will now be receiving more training after other patrons complained about her son.

Gilroy Gardens and the family are working together to bring something positive out of this unfortunate experience. The mother said her two-year-old son is one of only 30 documented people in the entire country with the disease.

By all accounts, Wyatt Catalano is your normal boy who loves to play on the playground and with dogs. Yet, on the outside, he has a condition that makes him appear different.

“When people shy away from us, of course it makes me feel sad,” said Shannon Catalano.

Wyatt was born with a rare non-contagious disease called mastocytosis. Too many mast cells in his body create dark-colored patches on his skin. People often mistake it for chicken pox or measles. His mother said his condition draws mixed reactions from curiosity to fear.

“Sometimes we have other reactions where people will move away from him or move their children away from him,” said Catalano.

Last Sunday, the family was at Gilroy Gardens enjoying the Water Oasis when Wyatt and his father were asked to get out of the pool to speak to emergency medical personnel. Catalano said the reasoning was several people had complained about Wyatt and his condition.

“I felt sad and disappointed,” said Catalano. “I thought it was an opportunity to be handled differently. I thought it could have been resolved easily and discreetly.”

Catalano said the Gilroy Gardens General Manager expressed a heartfelt apology, vowing more training and a “Mastocytosis Awareness Day" in July. Catalano is now working with the water park.

“She’s even offered to have Wyatt come and teach our young lifeguards about the skin disorder so they can also promote the appropriate response to this,” said Gilroy Gardens General Manager Barbara Granter.

The park would not disclose what discipline, if any, happened with any employees. For Shannon Catalano, she said knowledge is power when it comes to people's differences and she's hoping her experience will create more understanding.

“It goes back to that old adage don't judge a book by its cover,” said Catalano. “It starts with one person being more open-minded, taking pause, considering something else is happening here aside from what I may be afraid or worried about.”

The hope is Wyatt will grow out of the disease. In the meantime, they have launched a website about mastocytosis and are helping to raise money for pediatric research They also plan to return to Gilroy Gardens confident it won't happen again.