Updated: June 16, 2021 11:39 PM
Created: June 16, 2021 11:29 PM
(ABC 6 News) - You may have seen them, even taken a photo next to them. A new set of angel wings can be seen outside of Collins Orthodontics in Rochester. However, these wings are not ordinary, as you are about to find out. Several local children, including an Austin girl, are riding on those wings of hope.
17-year-old Anika Chesak of Austin has been waiting a long time to be in an orthodontist's chair. That's because, for a long time, she was in a hospital chair fighting cancer.
"It was painful at times and sad at times," said Anika. "It was very hard because I mean I felt sick, I didn't feel well at all."
Anika was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in the soft tissue. In this case, behind her right eye.
"When you get that news, your life just turns upside down overnight," said Sherry Chesak, recalling the challenging cancer journey with her daughter. Mom and Anika headed to Houston, Texas for seven weeks of radiation followed by a year of chemotherapy. Separated from her dad and two siblings, many of those days proved to be difficult to smile for Anika.
"I didn't want to eat, I didn't want to do anything, I just wanted to lay in bed, but to have my mom there really helped, because she just guided me through it, she was always there for me," said Anika.
For the past 11 years, Anika has been cancer-free and the one thing she is hoping for is to smile more confidently.
"I have been wanting this for a long time, I've been a little insecure about it, so I'm really glad there is a path waiting for me, that I will have a perfect smile again," she said.
That's where Dr. Grant Collins comes in. "When your kid sees their smile for the first time, it's life-changing, it brings a level of confidence in them, even they didn't think they had," said Collins.
His business launched the Adopt-A-Shark Program in 2018. It offers free braces for pediatric cancer survivors, so families have one less financial burden to worry about.
"Financially, it just seemed out of reach for these families to get braces on top of the medical bills they were receiving," said Collins, "we're just super excited to turn around and give back to our community this way."
Every toy shark purchased, is money to help children like Anika. "They understand, I want a perfect smile, and the fact that they are going to do something about that, makes me very happy," she said.
"So, you'll see four sharks are hidden in the wings and you'll see the cancer ribbon hidden in there too," said Collins as he describes the inspiration behind the wings, "we thought it was a good representation of the kids that were going through this because they are strong, they are fighters."
"We all survived cancer and now someone is helping us to become even happier than we were before," said Anika
Wings, helping to lift families in a time of need.
Since the Adopt-A-Shark program launched in 2018, it has helped 10 children receive free braces.
To support the program and purchase a shark, you can click here. If you want to know more about Kelsey Montague Art, you can check out her wing murals all around the world.
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