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Perham middle school student Melissa Barvels was surprised for her 12th birthday with a gift of a laptop computer--thanks to more than two dozen area donors. Melissa was born with spina bifida, a defect that involves incomplete development of the spinal cord.

The 'Melissa Project'

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Melissa Barvels was all smiles on her 12th birthday, when she received a laptop computer as a gift.

But then, smiling is nothing unusual for Melissa, a Perham Prairie Wind Middle School student who is afflicted with spina bifida.


"What is special about Melissa is her beautiful smile," said her grandfather, LeRoy Johnson. "She is not a complainer and a very special 12-year-old."

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