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    Acton author writes of his wife’s recovery for Chicken Soup for the Soul

    A garden created by volunteers and sponsors of the nonprofit Hope in Bloom Inc., which provides the healing spaces for about 25 breast cancer patients across the state each year.
    A garden created by volunteers and sponsors of the nonprofit Hope in Bloom Inc., which provides the healing spaces for about 25 breast cancer patients across the state each year.

    A LONG JOURNEY BACK: In 2006, Larry and Joanie Kerpelman were returning from their daily trek to a coffee shop near their Acton home when Joanie, who had jogged ahead around a corner, tripped over tangled shoelaces and hit her head on the asphalt.

    “She was so bloody,” Kerpelman recalled, “that at first I thought she had been hit by a car.”

    Kerpelman, a writer and editor, chronicled his wife’s ensuing surgery and hospitalizations, rehabilitation with multiple specialists, and yearlong recovery in his 2011 book, “Pieces Missing: A Family’s Journey of Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury.”


    Just last month, a recap titled “Joanie” was published in a “Chicken Soup for the Soul’’ anthology, “Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries: 101 Stories of Hope, Healing, and Hard Work.”

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    Although Joanie is averse to the spotlight, her husband said, she agreed to share her story so that others may learn and perhaps gain inspiration from her experiences.

    “With traumatic brain injury, your life and the lives of those around you change in an instant,” said Kerpelman, who noted that Joanie experienced most of the typical effects: extreme head pain, confusion, lethargy, nausea, sleep disturbances, impaired attention, memory loss, and emotional, behavioral, speech, and hearing problems.

    He writes: “Joanie’s experience showed us that those who have to deal with’’ traumatic brain injury, “both the sufferers and their families, face a tough battle. But it also showed us that it can be survived,’’ and that many who have sustained traumatic brain injuries “can fight their way back to health.”

    For more information, visit www.lckerpelman.com.


    PLANTING HOPE: As a music therapist for hospice and children with complex developmental issues, Kathleen Howland uses her craft to promote healing, relieve stress and other symptoms, and enrich the overall quality of life for those who are struggling.

    Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2010, however, she has been on the receiving end of expert care and kindness. A significant example is the healing garden of herbs, organic vegetables, perennials, and other plants installed at her Northborough home last month through the nonprofit Hope in Bloom Inc.

    Founded in 2007 by Dedham resident Roberta Dehman Hershon , Hope in Bloom typically provides 25 indoor, outdoor, and patio container gardens free of charge each year at the homes of breast cancer patients throughout Massachusetts. With more than 120 people on the waiting list, however, applications aren’t currently being accepted.

    The current need, Hershon said, is for sponsors and volunteers who install the gardens. In Howland’s case, donors included Cavicchio Greenhouses of Sudbury (bluestone and cobblestones), Kimball Sand Co. of Northborough (stone dust), Bigelow Nurseries of Northborough (plants), Lowe’s Home Improvement of Milford (three trellises), Howard’s of Framingham (compost and mulch), First Parish Church of Northborough (funds to purchase a bistro patio set), and Chestnut Hill Realty (landscape design and supervision by Medfield resident Thomas Dolan, labor, and other materials).

    Howland, a professor at the New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, said her three-year wait for a garden was “absolutely” worthwhile — for reasons in addition to the peace and joy she experiences from its beauty each day.


    “The story isn’t about me, or my cancer, but about the difference that one person can make in putting goodness and kindness back into the world,” said Howland, noting that she hopes to volunteer alongside her husband, Ed, and daughter, Sofia, in planting gardens for others. “You really can make the world a better place from the bottom up.”

    For more information, visit www.hopeinbloom.org.

    INSPIRING AWARD: Steve Chinosi, director of the Newton school system’s Innovation Lab, said it was “amazing” to receive an MIT Inspirational Teacher Award recently. That he was nominated by a former student at Newton North High School makes the recognition even more special, he said.

    The award allows MIT students to recognize outstanding educators who have inspired them. Chinosi, a member of the English faculty at Newton North who lives in Derry, N.H., is one of 24 educators internationally to be honored this year.

    “Thank you for empowering me to become a lifelong learner with the creative confidence to learn whatever inspires me,” wrote Sam Shames, who graduated from Newton North in 2010. “Thank you for helping me grow intellectually and for teaching me the joy of learning.”

    Chinosi used a grant five years ago from the Newton Schools Foundation to launch the Greengineers program, which has expanded into the Innovation Lab.

    He also created the Senior Year Project, a capstone project-based seminar that teaches advanced research methods.

    Although MIT is a longtime partner of the Innovation Lab, Chinosi was so surprised by the award that he misread the announcement e-mail as simply a nice gesture by Shames.

    “The greatest thing is it shows that four and five years later, students are still thinking about teachers they had in high school,” he said, recalling how Shames designed and built a biodiesel reactor during his senior year. Since graduating, he has remained an adviser for the Innovation Lab.

    “I feel honored and privileged and excited as a teacher every day,” Chinosi added, “and that’s saying something, 20 years later.”

    IN MEMORY OF ABBY: The inaugural Abby Memorial Scholarship, established in honor of Concord-Carlisle High School class of 2006 graduate Abdirauf “Abby” Abdullahi, has been awarded to Edward Akubude, who graduated from the school last month as a Metco student.

    The son of Somali refugees, Abdullahi was known as a peace-loving, quiet leader at the high school, and earned a full college scholarship for the fall of 2006. He was killed in a gang shooting in Boston’s South End that summer in a case of mistaken identity.

    In 2008, high school alumnae Danae Laura, Charisse Gilmer, and Cherisa Hernandez established the need-based Abby Fund dedicated to supporting Metco students, with assistance from the Concord-Carlisle Human Rights Council and Concord Carlisle Scholarship Fund.

    The group’s fund-raising activities over the last five years have included benefit concerts and performances, basketball games, and an “Abby Day” at Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord.

    At Concord-Carlisle, Akubude played four sports and was captain of the varsity football team. In addition, he was a Metco POWER program peer leader and a volunteer math tutor in the Boston system’s Saturday School program. He plans to study biology at Bowdoin College and pursue a career in medicine.

    Gilmer, a 2004 graduate of the high school and communications director for the Abby Fund, said: “Edward is truly the perfect example of an Abby Memorial Scholar: a young man with a great work ethic, matched by the perfect attitude.”

    For more information, visit www.theabbyfund.org.

    People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.