As a kid, Mark would have been completely happy eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich three times a day. His mom got him to try new things by bargaining with him: he could have half of a PB&J if he agreed to try a new food. It turns out that Mark loved dairy. He could eat three or four bowls of cereal with milk if his mom let him. He also had particular preferences about his food. He was willing to eat almost anything, but he didn't like it if different foods touched each other. He sometimes got upset if the vegetables were touching the steak on his plate. Even with his voracious appetite, Mark was always skinny. He just had a really fast metabolism as a kid.
One thing he didn't like was sleeping. His mom remembers having fights to get him to take naps, and she would usually lay down with him at night to get him to sleep. Nine out of ten times, she would wake up in the morning to find that he had gotten up before her and was watching Sesame Street or playing in the living room.
Mark's mother was a teenager when she was pregnant with him, and she considered WIC vital to helping her successfully raise a baby. At that time, she didn't understand everything that was happening to her body, and it was difficult for her to ask for help. She remembers that the WIC workers never made her feel judged or insignificant, and the formula they provided was vital when it turned out that Mark was tongue-tied and had trouble latching on for breastfeeding.
It's pretty easy to see that Mark is the child of a teacher. He was always inquisitive and trying to figure out how things worked. He would take things apart and try to put them back together. When he got injured while playing sports, he wanted to learn about his different body parts and how he had gotten hurt. He became an avid reader as he grew up, and some of his favorite authors were Thich Nhat Hanh and Herman Hesse.
Today, Mark has dedicated his life to serving others. He knows that he wouldn't be here without the help of others and without help from programs like WIC. He has been a paramedic and part of a nuclear emergency response team. When we spoke to him, he was busily helping Montgomery County set up their food distribution system and their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Everywhere he went, Mark saw unequal treatment and services, and he made a promise to address inequality wherever he saw it. When we contacted him about telling his story with us, he asked us what we were doing to make sure our campaign represented Marylanders in all their diversity and different walks of life.
"I just want ours to be a world where every person receives what they need to reach their fullest potential, like Mom and I could with the aid of WIC," says Mark. It's a big issue to tackle, but if there's anybody who is ready to take it on, it's Mark.
Are you a WIC Baby? We would love to tell your story! Email us at MDH.WIC@Maryland.gov or message us on Facebook or Instagram @MDH.WIC.