OCEAN SPRINGS -- A 9-year-old boy with an incurable disease has received a dream come true -- an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas for him and his family.
He and his family are flying to the Bahamas later this month for a stay at the Atlantis Resort, compliments of Make-A Wish-Mississippi and its donors.
Cooper beamed with excitement as his family drove up to Woody's Roadside for his "wish reveal" party Sunday night.
Some 70 relatives and friends were waiting out front with welcome signs along with the Ocean Springs High School cheerleaders.
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"Cooper, Cooper, Cooper," the crowd chanted, followed by "Hip, Hip, Hooray!"
Friends his age surrounded him on couches before a Make-A-Wish representative announced one of his two wishes has been approved. He had been allowed two choices.
So which two wishes did he have?
"The Bahamas and a treehouse," he said with a wide grin.
His parents, Marty and Heather Clower, were caught off guard a few months ago when a Make-A-Wish representative met with the family to see what wishes Cooper wanted granted.
"They had no idea he wanted to go to the Bahamas and felt like that was too much to ask for," said volunteer Amanda Bond. "We'd give him the moon if we could."
His mother said she still doesn't know where the Bahamas idea came from, "but we are very blessed."
Cooper was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy when he was 3 years old. It affects boys and causes a steady decline in muscle strength. Muscle weakening often requires braces for walking by age 10 and a wheelchair by age 12.
Years ago, most boys with DMD didn't survive much longer than their teenage years. With recent advances in cardiac and respiratory care, life expectancy is extending into the early 30s or longer, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Cooper picked Woody's for his party because it's his favorite restaurant. He said he planned to order shrimp and macaroni for dinner.
His mom owns Dreamworks Gymnastics across the street from the restaurant and his dad works at Ingalls Shipbuilding. He has two younger siblings, Adam and Sydney.
Heather Clower described him as smart, funny and loving, and said Cooper also is frustrated and misunderstood but loved by his peers.
"I am so grateful that he will be able to do something that will make his heart happy," she said. "I am overwhelmed with the kindness that Make-A-Wish has shown us."
Cooper is homeschooled by his grandmother. He loves the outdoors and enjoys football, though he's not always able to go outside and play with other kids.
A sign at the party said, "Dreams Do Come True, Cooper."
Danny Chinn, an operator of Woody's, added to the surprise Sunday with a $2,200 donation in spending money. And a donation offered last week will cover the cost of a deep-sea fishing trip in the Bahamas, Bond said.
His wish was sponsored by Cruisin' The Coast, a longtime supporter of Make-A-Wish. Cruisin' raises money for the program through an annual car raffle and other fundraisers.
Make-A-Wish is a non profit organization that helps arrange experiences or exciting trips for children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Make-a-Wish has Mississippi chapters in Gulfport and Ridgeland.