Ballet has helped Sara Pavesi, 12, combat the complications of neurofibromatosis, or NF. It’s a disease that affects one in 3,000 people and causes tumors to grow on nerve endings. It also causes scoliosis and low muscle tone.

“(Ballet) stretches my back and makes it stronger,” she said. “It’s like it’s not even there when I’m dancing. It helps me forget I have it.”

Sara dances three to four times a week at Dance Magic in Hammonton and at the ACBT Performing Arts Academy, which is affiliated with the Atlantic City Ballet.

The Hammonton Middle School student recently won a handmade tutu contest, sponsored by tutus.com, with a blue and green piece she designed and made with her mom, floral designer Theresa Pavesi.

Blue and green are the colors of NF support ribbons, and she’ll wear a version of the tutu when she dances at the NF Hope concert this October in Las Vegas. She and her mom plan to make more of the winning design, in a fundraising effort called Tutus for Tumors, Theresa said.

Sara has tumors in her chest, on her rib cage, under her arm and on her optic nerve. But they are stable and have had little effect on her development so far, Theresa said. But some children aren’t as lucky. If tumors threaten sight or hearing, they must be removed with chemotherapy or surgery.

The Pavesis would like more people to know about the condition so it can be properly monitored. One of its markers is brown “cafe au lait” birthmarks that continue to spread after babyhood.

Visit Sara’s Arts for NF Awareness on Facebook, nfnetwork.org, and ctf.org.

Handwriting awards

In addition to a $1,000 prize and trophy, Weymouth Township School first-grader Nathan Bartley’s Grand National Champion Award for best first-grade handwriting in the U.S. has won the school $1,000 for instructional supplies. His teacher, Amanda Gianfurtune, won a trip to the International Reading Association’s Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Three other Weymouth Township students won medals as state champions for their grades in the 2013 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. They are Hannah Appleget, fourth grade; Erin Levari, seventh grade; and Cortni Bartley, eighth grade.

Service club honors

Southern Regional High School seniors Nick Munafo, Russell Risden, Steven Schwartz and Patricia Terhune have won outstanding achievement awards from The Beach Haven Exchange Club, a service club.

Risden and Schwartz also won the club’s district award and will be honored at a convention in Harrisburg, Pa., in May.