Anthony Cook is paying close attention to his younger brother's teeth this month --and not because it's National Children's Dental Health Month.
Rather, Anthony, 7, is waiting for 5-year-old brother Andrew's first baby tooth to fall out so the tooth fairy will pay him a visit. Andrew will donate his anticipated windfall to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which granted his big brother's wish last year for a Florida vacation.
"I know how Make-A-Wish makes kids' dreams come true, and some other kid will have what I have -- pain in his legs and shoulder -- and that's why I came up with this," Anthony explained.
Anthony and Andrew are the sons of Diana and Bilal Cook of Liberty. Anthony has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow along various types of nerves and that can affect the development of non-nerve tissues, such as bones and skin.
It was diagnosed when the youngster was 9 months old after he developed a cold that did not respond to antibiotics.
Following a computed tomography, or CT scan, doctors initially thought he had a neuroblastoma, or a cancerous tumor. But after surgery, they determined it was the non-cancerous neurofibromatosis.
While there is no cure, the disorder may be managed through a treatment program, surgery and, in some cases, chemotherapy.
Due to the tumors on his nerves, Anthony has chronic pain in his right arm and neck.
While he engages in several athletic activities, he said his favorite pastime is karate, for which he has earned a green belt.
Besides being fun, the martial art helps build strength in his arm, which was weakened after nerves were cut out following the initial diagnosis.
Last month Anthony donated nearly $200 to the foundation; the money was made up of rewards he received from family for his straight-A report cards at South Allegheny Elementary School, as well as from his own visits from the tooth fairy.
"Every time he gets a loose tooth he gets so excited because he can donate to Make-A-Wish," Mrs. Cook said.
Anthony, his parents and four brothers flew to Kissimmee, Fla., on April 14 -- Anthony's 7th birthday.
The family spent a week at the 70-acre, nonprofit Give Kids the World Village resort designed for children with special needs. Anthony's most memorable experience, he said, was meeting the comic book character Cyclops, a member of the Avengers' superhero team.
All of the family's expenses were paid by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"It can make any kid's dream come true," Anthony said.neigh_east - neigh_south
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.