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January 28, 2013

A Tale of Two Coopers

Grassroots effort underway to elicit prayers for two ill boys

CHEROKEE COUNTY — A wealth of signs have been posted around the Rusk and Alto area urging passersby to "Pray For Cooper." The signs signify not one, but two very young boys in differing stages of medical need.

Cooper Lowe of Cherokee County, for whom the signs originally were created, needs a heart transplant. His plight is totally unrelated to that of Cooper Calvin Somers, an Humble-area boy with relatives in Rusk who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

"They are both really young, practically babies," explained Xochitl Castro, an employee of Lindsey's Grocery & Farm Produce, 613 US Highway 69 S in Alto, which is selling the prayer signs.

Castro said Cooper Lowe is probably less than a year old.

"You remember the 'Pray For Hannah' signs?" she said. "Hannah's mother is helping the family and she's in charge of things. The schools are selling the signs and we are selling them."

Castro was referring to young Hannah Olivia Collie, 5, of Alto, who received a heart transplant at age 3.  Similar "Pray For Hannah" signs were placed around the area in her honor back in 2007. Unfortunately, the little girl died Oct. 25, 2009 at age 5.

When relatives of Cooper Somers learned of the signs posted around the county (for Cooper Lowe) they approached the sign creators and it was agreed that everyone would double up on prayers, a relative said.

At least 30 of these signs adorn Highway 69 from Alto to Wells urge motorist to "Pray for Cooper."

"How awesome is this?" said Crystal Somers, the child's mother, in a Facebook post. "I sure hope the drivers that pass by do send up prayers for Two Coopers!"

Cooper Somers, meanwhile, is almost 2-and-a-half years old. When he was six months old, his parents were told he might not make it to his second birthday because he suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1/2. This is the same Cooper for whom the Rusk "Who Let the Dogs Out 5k race," raised awareness and funds for this past summer, his mother said.

In March 2011, Cooper Somers' parents learned he had Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1, the most severe Type of SMA. They were told the child might live two months or two years but either way to enjoy every second they have  him.

The "Cooper's Crusaders" page was created on Facebook to share Cooper Somers' story.

But then the Somers family was struck with tragedy on Dec. 18 when Jason Somers, Cooper's father and Crystal's husband, was killed in a car accident on his way to work. Then, one month after his father died, Cooper was unfortunately admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.  

"The night before the accident. Cooper kept saying 'I want hug daddy' and Jason just kept hugging," Crystal Somers said. "I am so grateful my mom captured this moment on film because it shows the love between these two and it is the last picture I have of my two loves and I will treasure this forever."

Since the passing of Jason Somers, Cooper's story has gone viral through Facebook.

 "We went from 240 followers to over 1,400 followers and one positive thing that has come from Jason's passing is more people are now aware of this horrible disease called SMA," Crystal Somers said. "This is definitely one of the hardest times of my life but I am so beyond thankful for all the support and prayers we have received from people all over the world.  I know Jason is in heaven smiling down on us and is up there fighting for a cure of SMA."

"Cooper's Crusaders" was developed to raise awareness of SMA and help meet Cooper's medical needs.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a motor neuron disease is the # 1 genetic disease killer in children under the age of 2, affecting the voluntary muscles that are used for activities such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, and swallowing, Cooper Somers' mother said.

The doctors now believe Cooper Somers suffers from mix of Type 1 and Type 2. His family prays daily for a cure.

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