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Teen bullied over her smile is moved to tears by parents’ birthday surprise

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PLANO, Texas — Many middle schoolers ask for gadgets or technology for their birthdays, but not eighth grader Aeva Leck, who has asked for the same thing since the third grade: braces.

"Aeva's been asking for forever," her mother Jessica Benenate said. "It just made me hurt even more 'cause I know how badly she doesn't just want them, but needs them."

Her mother said classmates have picked on her over the years because of her teeth.

"That really impacts a young girl," Benenate told KIAH.

Leck recalled the taunting.

"They have the silver gum wrappers," Leck said. "They would fold them up and put them in their mouth. They'd smile at me and be like, 'Hey Aeva, now I have a dentist you can go see.'"

Braces can cost, on average, between a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000 depending on the provider and what work is needed.

"Then recently I was able to get a little bit of help with that so it kind of made it possible," Aeva's father said.

Over the weekend they gave their daughter the gift she had wanted for so many years.

"They were saving one of the cards for last and I was like, 'OK, well, it's a card,' and then I opened it (and it read): 'Happy birthday. You're the most beautiful person inside and out. Let's get that perfect smile,'" Leck said.

Her appointments are already set up, according to her mother, and she'll be seeing the orthodontist in January.

"Feels good to see her happy," her dad said. "(To) see that raw joy come out of somebody, it's pretty special."

While Leck said she's happy about having a new smile, she agrees with her parents when it comes to the bigger picture and her bullies.

"What I try to think about is, if it's not going to matter in the next five years, you shouldn't really worry about it that much," Leck said.

Her mom said she tells Leck to hold her head up high "because she's beautiful and intelligent and that's all that really matters."