By Traci Chapman
Thanks to a little boy with an angelic smile and the loving and determined family blessed to have him, Mustang will shine a light on a rare condition, with Angelman Day.
Mayor Jay Adams last week officially issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 15 Angelman Day, inspired by Matthew Cook, his parents, Mike and Maggie Cook, and the rest of his extended family. The mayor and his wife, Mindy, know well both the joys and challenges the Cook family has faced, with a bond that has transcended friendship.
Adams said before the Tuesday meeting issuing the Angelman Day proclamation was a special way to commemorate not only an unforgettable little boy, but also help provide support and awareness for the Cooks – and other families who face the uncommon disorder.
Mustang’s Feb. 15 Angelman Day proclamation is part of an international effort designed to spread awareness about Angelman Syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects speech, balance and movement and causes developmental delays, meaning those afflicted with the condition will require care throughout their lifetimes.
Matthew Cook is both an ambassador for those children afflicted by AS and in the shadows and a sort of miracle – while doctors told Mike and Maggie Cook he might never walk or talk, Matthew is able to communicate and walk, while avoiding some of the physical issues some with his condition deal with.
The family’s journey started with Matthew’s birth. Born prematurely, Matthew was first diagnosed with global developmental delays and then Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the next two years, Matthew was subjected to a seemingly endless array of tests, finally undergoing a genetic test that revealed the problem, a syndrome even some doctors had not heard of, Mike said.
“Matthew still wasn’t walking, talking or even really crawling at two-and-a-half and that was kind of the point where they realized genetic testing held the answer,” he said.
It was a difficult time for the close-knit family – Matthew, now 5; teen Trenton; and the couple’s adult sons, Jeff and Mikey – but, between a hugely supportive family and so many close friends, it became easier, Mike said. Through it all, there was Matthew, with his beaming smile and a resilience that astounded all of them, Maggie said.
In 2016, the family’s journey became not only something marveled at by those who knew them – people from far beyond Oklahoma learned what families facing disabilities know all too well, after Mike cook shared his thoughts on “Ten things you need to know about a special needs family.”
The Dell manager’s January 2016 LinkedIn post quickly garnered hundreds of followers; Mike’s support of March of Dimes as “the Walking Dad” reached beyond anything he ever dreamed of, he said.
“Our family loves The Walking Dead so I thought it would be cool to call my page ‘The Walking Dad,’” Mike said. “It’s turned into something beyond anything I every could have expected.”
That’s because Walking Dead cast members – including Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira – have reached out to the Cook family, donating to his March of Dimes walk effort, tweeting support, sending messages and autographs and more, all to help a family that has touched their hearts.
“Of course for us it’s been so special that these people have reached out to us – you know, they’re busy, they don’t know us – but they have this huge influence and they can really help not just Matthew but also other families who are dealing with Angelman Syndrome and other conditions,” Mike said.
That year was another turning point, of sorts. Matthew in 2016 was named March of Dimes’ Walk for Babies’ Child Ambassador; for the first time, he took part in the downtown Oklahoma City event.
This year will mark yet another milestone, as Oklahoma hosts its first-ever Oklahoma City Angelman Syndrome Foundation Walk.
The family’s devotion and determination – like Matthew’s megawatt smile – have shown through with each of those milestones, and everything in between. Matthew is now in kindergarten and despite doctors’ initial worrying comments, he continues to expand his vocabulary, as well as utilizing sign language. For those who have known him over time, there too is a marked improvement in Matthew’s ability to deal with crowds, loud noises and a flurry of activity.
“That’s all down to Mike and Maggie and the rest of their family and how they’ve worked for each and every accomplishment and milestone,” Adams said. “Matthew is a remarkable little boy, in great part because he has a remarkable family.”
The Angelman Walk, scheduled for May 19 at Harrah Park and splash pad in Harrah, will begin with 11 a.m. registration and a noon walk time. Anyone interested in taking part can register online at https://www.angelman.org/walk/, by selecting the Oklahoma walk.
To read Mike Cook’s LinkedIn post, go to https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-things-you-need-know-special-needs-family-mike-cook/.