The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 28, 2013

Person of the Week | Helping family of sick boy becomes project for fifth-grader

— Melissa Murin and her classmates at Cathedral Catholic Academy in Upper Yoder Township are preparing for an interscholastic reading competition Thursday at Forest Hills Middle School.

It’s a safe bet that her classmates that day will be using the bookmarks that she created for a good cause.

Melissa, a fifth-grade pupil, came up with the idea to make religious and “fun” bookmarks to raise money to help an infant boy from St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic in Woodvale, who is battling a rare form of leukemia.

The 11-year-old, who also attends St. Clare, sold the bookmarks for 50 cents each to her classmates, teachers and staff at school, raising nearly $400 to help pay the expenses of Mark Iannello and Crystal Mitchell of Tire Hill, whose son, Dominick, was a long-term patient at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh and who still goes there for examinations.

“I felt badly because Dominick was born with leukemia,” Melissa said. “I just wanted to find a way to help them meet their expenses.”

Melissa’s project called for using gift-wrapping paper bearing secular and religious pictures and fastening them to scrapbook paper. To make the bookmarks durable, Melissa laminated them.

“I’m selling them to students and teachers at school,” she said.

“They’re really kind. Some of them paid more than 50 cents for the bookmark. One student bought 20 of them. He wanted to give them away as presents for Christmas.”

Some people ordered custom bookmarks, she said.

One person wanted footballs and baseballs on his bookmark, while one of the teachers wanted the words Grade 4 and Grade 5 on the bookmarks, Melissa said.

Melissa, daughter of Tracy and Michael Murin of Johnstown, said she has finished making the bookmarks for this year but will start again in September.

She said her mother and grandmother, Sandy Wilson, were a big help with the bookmark project.

Melissa keeps busy at school, serving as an altar server before daily Mass in the mornings.

A trumpet player, she is among students who are practicing for a joint concert of all Johnstown parochial schools May 15 at Bishop McCort Catholic High School.

Melissa also is an altar server at her church and sings in the children’s choir, called The Chorale.

She also takes dancing lessons at Jacqueline’s School of Dance in Westwood.

For her efforts, Melissa is the Person of the Week.

Iannello said his son, who will turn a year old May 6, has been in remission for nine months and is doing fine.

“She (Melissa) has a lot of compassion for someone that young,” he said, adding that trait is what is needed to do such a project.

He said he and Crystal think the world of Melissa.

Melissa also has organized dress-down days at school to raise money, he said.

“When Dominick came home from the hospital, we took him to the school to show him to Melissa and her classmates, the teachers and the principal,” he said.

“They were thrilled to see him and had their photographs taken with him,” Iannello said.

Rose Batzel, school principal, said Melissa’s compassion and empathy for baby Dominick is heartwarming.

“She demonstrated leadership skills by enlisting the aid of her classmates to create and sell the bookmarks,” Batzel said.

“These are traits learned at home and in school and carried out into the world. We couldn’t be more pleased and proud of her efforts.”

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