By Nora Hakramaj

A YOUTH worker with giant lumps of scar tissue covering his face and body has credited the teenagers he mentors with helping to save his life

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Videographer / director: Jordan Wyatt, Lilton Stewart
Producer: Nora Hakramaj, Ruby Coote
Editor: James Thorne

Since the age of nine, Tony Perkins, 57, from St. Louis, Missouri, has been living with keloids - a type of benign growth caused when scar tissue grows excessively at the site of a healed skin injury.

He currently works at Roosevelt High School at the Boys and Girls after-school club where his students look past his scars and appreciate his character and heart.

Perkins discovered his very first keloid on his stomach after scrapping himself while tripping over a fence as a boy.

He told Barcroft TV: “When I got my first keloid I wasn’t sure what it was. It was a scary situation to me and my parents because we weren’t familiar with the condition.

“Anytime I would get like a nick or bruise it would develop into a keloid.

"I went from being very popular to pretty much a hermit because I just closed out the world."

His self-consciousness about his condition even pushed him to the brink of suicide when the keloids began growing rapidly on his face.

He said: “In about 2003 the ones on my face started to grow out of control and I went through a deep depression.

“I kind of pushed people out of my life. I sensed that people were staring at me, talking about me, and it just took a toll on me."

But everything changed for Tony when he begun tutoring disadvantaged pupils at the St. Louis school.

"The turning point for me was when I realised that the keloids were growing a lot, but the kids continued to treat me the same way,” Perkins said.

"They never even asked me what it was or how did it get there.

“About five years ago I began to regain my confidence and be able to have conversations with people and make direct eye contact.

“Once I realised that the kids were still showing me unconditional love, I began to regain my confidence.”

While Tony says passersby still point at him in the street and have called him a monster behind his back, he says working with young people helps him filter out the negativity.

And his pupils are full of praise for their popular mentor.
One of Tony’s students, Michael Monique Mayo, 16, said: “In middle school I was bullied the whole three years terribly.

"Me and my mom were homeless for a while. I seen Tony with a bunch of stuff on his face and I said, ‘I wonder what type of stuff he goes through.’

"I call him Pop-Pop and we’ve been close ever since. He is just an amazing person. You just can’t meet anyone like Mr Perkins.”

Tony says he currently has “around seven” keloids on his body, with the biggest one on his face and a large one in the centre of his chest.

He has already undergone five surgeries, with more operations on the horizon - which he hopes will help him lead a normal life.

However, since the operation is not funded by insurance because it is seen as cosmetic, he is trying to raise $40,000 on crowdfunding site GoFund Me to cover the cost.

Perkins said: "I hope to continue to work with kids. I want in the near future to become a motivational speaker. I want to go around the world and talk to people and share my experience with keloids.

“I want to be able to speak to the kids to let them know that when people are different from you it doesn’t mean you have to treat them differently. They are people just like you.

"My work with school children means the world to me. I absolutely love what I do.”

To donate towards Tony’s surgery campaign visit: https://www.gofundme.com/tonyperkinskeloids