A former top junior gymnast who broke her back in a trampolining accident has set herself her toughest challenge yet - walking 300 yards to raise cash for her treatment.
Melissa Wolfe, from Tel-ford, Shropshire, has gradually built up the number of steps she is able to walk through determined daily practice and a series of pioneering treatments.
The 17-year-old wants to raise £1,000 towards treat-ment to enable her to lead as independent a lifestyle as possible when she goes to university.
Melissa, who is studying A levels in art, business, hospitality and catering, and IT at Thomas Telford Technology College, turned to trampolining after being struck down with a brain tumour at the age of eight.
At the age 12 she was training for the national trampolining finals when tragedy struck. Trying to complete a mid-air double somersault, she landed awkwardly on her neck. She dislocated two vertebrae and crushed her spinal cord.
Paralysed from the neck down, British doctors said there was just a five per cent chance that her condition would ever improve.
But they reckoned without her determination and the devotion of her grandmother Jean Boyd - who last year won Age Concern's Grandparent of the Year award.
Mrs Boyd researched Melissa's condition and, in August 2001, found a controversial specialist in the Loire Valley called Albert Brohbot, who practices a unique form of laser acupuncture for paraplegics.
Every month her mother and grandfather drove Melissa to France for the treatment while Mrs Boyd raised the £1,000 a time that was needed to pay for the treatment.
"The treatment re-routes nerve impulses going from my brain to my legs," explained Melissa. "Instead of going straight through the break it goes a different way through my spinal cord. It is not used anywhere else.
"Within two weeks of having it I had got myself up in callipers between parallel bars. It was the first time I had ever done that since my accident."
Now Melissa goes to the treatment centre every school holiday and needs to raise more money to help finance her visits.
With the use of callipers and a walking frame she can manoeuvre herself around her house and school, but is unused to long, sustained spells of walking.
She is hoping to go to Manchester Metropolitan University to study interior design.
She is now practising every day for her walk, which will take place at her school's annual fair on Saturday.
"I've just reached the fifth anniversary of my accident, July 4," she said. "It was a shock when it happened, but I tend not to think about it now because I've seen such an improvement.
"My family has raised so much money for me and now it's my turn."
* Donations can be made to the Melissa Wolfe Appeal at Lloyds TSB or by phoning 01902 684469...SUPL: