PUBLISHED SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2002
News Journal correspondent
For the first time in two years, Rita Torok recently took a trip on her own two feet to the mall. It was her birthday, and she wanted to celebrate.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, Torok had been paralyzed from the waist down and used a wheelchair, and later a cane, until she slowly regained feeling and movement.
Because of her health problems, Torok's son Casey, 14, submitted her for the Multiple Sclerosis Society's 2002 Mother of the Year award. His nomination won out over dozens of others from 34 counties in Northwest Florida.
"She always encourages me, when I should be the one encouraging her," Casey Torok wrote in his nominating letter. "She shows the most courage of anyone I know. When my grandmother died, she stayed with her for 14 hours on that day. My mom was in terrible pain, but no one knew it. She doesn't complain a lot."
Sabrah Marvin, program director for the North Florida Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, praised Casey's efforts on behalf of his mother. "(Casey) wrote a fabulous letter and sent photos."
Rita Torok says she knew Casey was submitting the letter because he asked her to proofread it.
"I just felt so special when I read it. He is a special boy," she said.
Neighbor Pam McKinney says Torok is a very devoted mother and deserves this recognition.
"She has had a lot of health challenges over the years," said McKinney. "She's thrilled about winning the award and honored that her son thought enough of her to write the nomination and send it in."
Times got even tougher for Torok 10 months after being diagnosed: Her mother, who lived with the family, died of congestive heart failure, and her husband, Rocky, was laid off. More bad news followed when Rocky was diagnosed with colon cancer.
"They got all of it during the surgery, and he just went back to work this year," Rita Torok said of the cancer. "We are praying a lot about this."
Casey said despite all the obstacles and difficulties around her, his mother gives all she has to give - and more.
"She makes me brownies for a surprise, even when she is tired and weak,"
Casey Torok wrote. "My mom is the greatest. You would really want to know
her. I hope I can have the same qualities she has."
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