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David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Mellencamp lends star power to Winnipeg spina bifida group: American rocker suffered from disease as a child
Friday, November 30, 2007
CBC News

John Mellencamp, who was born with spina bifida, is now the spokesman for the Winnipeg chapter of the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Canada.

The well-known rocker was in and out of hospital as a child with the birth defect, which affects about 80 babies born in Canada each year.

Looking for a way to raise funds in competition with better-known health charities and illnesses, a member of the organization discovered the Mellencamp connection on the internet.

Jennifer Cook, a graphic designer with the Winnipeg chapter that helps children with the disease, tracked down the Indiana native and asked him whether he would help.

He agreed just days later.

"I just e-mailed him back and I said, 'Awesome. You don't know how much this means to spina bifida and to myself,'" she said. "Often people don't really realize what spina bifida is, but now [this] will help people.… It will stop them to say, 'He has it?'"

Spina bifida is the result of a neural tube defect that affects the spinal cord and backbones and, in varying degrees, affects the ability to walk. Most babies born with spina bifida will also have hydrocephalus, which creates cognitive difficulties and learning disabilities.

Mellencamp is allowing the group to use his image, and is apparently donating some of his artwork to be auctioned off.

His generosity will help in so many ways, said Bonnie Hidlebaugh, who heads the Winnipeg chapter.

"We are ecstatic. We could not possibly have ever dreamed that somebody like John would come on board as our spokesperson and make people aware."

She said just the knowledge that Mellencamp survived the disease despite its challenges and established a successful career will speak volumes.

Mellencamp is on tour and scheduled to perform in Winnipeg in February. Members of the local spina bifida chapter hope to meet with him then.
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