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South Allegheny third-grader's charitable efforts recognized by Steelers

| Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 3:56 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Tony Cook, a South Allegheny Elementary third-grader, shows classmates an autographed football he received from the Pittsburgh Steelers for his charitable contributions to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Bilal Cook proudly watches as his son Tony, 8, a third-grader at South Allegheny Elementary School, explains to classmates what took place when he was recognized by the Pittsburgh Steelers for his efforts with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Tony's younger siblings Alijaj, 4, and Abel, 2, listen as well.

A South Allegheny Elementary third-grader was recognized by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Make-A-Wish Foundation for his charitable efforts.

Tony Cook, 8, of Liberty served as the foundation's special ambassador for a presentation on Friday and watched the Black-and-Gold practice.

Tony has been instrumental in raising about $44,000 for Make-A-Wish, which includes a $30,000 contribution from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation.

He shared his experience with classmates on Monday morning.

“It was really cool,” Tony said of his visit with the Steelers. “They made it sound like they were at a real game.”

He showed the class an autographed football, picture and jersey worn by Roethlisberger during the game against the Oakland Raiders. He also received a Terrible Towel signed by other players, watched practice at the Steelers' South Side facility and checked out Roethlisberger's locker.

“It's like a really big locker room,” Tony said. “I found he had the left top corner (locker).”

Roethlisberger on Friday presented a $30,000 check from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation to Make-A-Wish president and CEO Judith Stone.

Tony handed over his savings to Make-A-Wish last year, making a Christmas donation of $185.35. He raised $264.50 this February through a bake sale during parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school, and continues to raise funds through other bake sales and a golf outing organized by his uncle, David Hoffmann, and DB Root & Co.

“He's a very nice guy,” Tony said of Roethlisberger.

Tony said linebacker Larry Foote joked with him about wearing the quarterback's jersey instead of his.

Students were impressed with Tony's memorabilia and stories.

“I think you should let him have a homework pass,” classmate Brielle Boyle said to teacher Julie Doughty.

Tony began saving money for Make-A-Wish after the organization sent him and his family on vacation to Disney World in April 2012 because a family friend nominated him for the trip.

“The thing that makes me most proud is that he came up with this on his own,” said his father, Bilal Cook. “He started it with his own money. He was very unselfish and very thankful. He was very thankful for everything Make-A-Wish did for us, which we all were.”

Tony was diagnosed with noncancerous neurofibromatosis at 9 months of age when a chest X-ray during a severe illness revealed a tumor in his lung.

He father said it causes severe pain as tumors grow on nerve tissue. He said Tony has some weakness in his right arm but is not held back by the constant discomfort.

Tony is an honor roll student, plays soccer and practices taekwondo.

“It's a very selfless thing to do,” South Allegheny spokesperson Laura Thomson said of his efforts. “Anthony didn't do that to get attention from anybody. He just did it because he thought it was a nice thing to do. Because he was doing nice things, that caught some people's attention. That's the neat thing about this story. When you do nice things people notice.”

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965.

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