STEWARTVILLE (AP) -- In the Hagan household, the preferred way to eat an Oreo is with a tall glass of milk and repeated dunkings.
The Hagans, generally speaking, never tear apart their Oreos and eat the frosting first. And in this Stewartville home, the passion for the Oreo is not confined to humans but extends to the cat, Elvis Presley, who enjoys nibbling on an Oreo from time to time.
"We're big Oreo eaters," Elaine Hagan said.
It was during just such an Oreo moment that Elaine glanced at the Oreo package and saw an advertisement for a writing contest called "What's Your Favorite Oreo Moment?"
"I said (to Rusty, her son), 'You think of yours and we'll write that one and then I'm going to do one,"' she said as Rusty sat beside her in his wheelchair, interjecting his own highlights to the story.
Her younger son, Kevin, thought the idea was lame and refused to participate.
And then Rusty won.
In Rusty's case, his favorite Oreo moment was a day of triumph. In November 1996, Rusty, then 7, was struck with a mysterious viral illness that threatened his life.
His body swelled so much that huge blisters broke out and circulation slowed to his extremities, eventually requir-ing the amputation of his legs and some of his fingers. When the disease had run its course, Rusty couldn't lift his arms or head and had less muscular movement than a newborn.
Rusty had to re-learn how to move his tongue and talk. He underwent several swallowing tests before doctors would allow him to drink a thickened liquid. Six months after being hospitalized, Rusty ate his first Oreo cookie, in the presence of two nurses, a doctor and a respiratory therapist to make sure he didn't choke.
Eating that single cookie meant Rusty was getting better.
Rusty, in his essay, described the moment like this:
"Mom dinked (sic) them in milk and fed them to me on a spoon. ... It was scary, but delicious. It was almost normal, watching a movie and eating Oreos. I will never walk again, but now I can say Oreos and eat them by myself, messily."
Larry Baumann, a spokesman for Kraft Foods, said Rusty's essay "was a really moving story, and there were a lot of great stories. Rusty's was really touching."
Rusty was one of 90 grand-prize winners chosen from 1,100 submissions. He, his mother, brother and personal care attendant won trips to New York to attend Oreo's big 90th birthday bash.
In addition, the winners were each awarded a one-year supply of Oreos. And that might be the best treat of all.
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