Monthly Archives: November 2023

Cheryl Opper: Founder of School on Wheels of MA. -254

School is the only normal thing for a child experiencing homelessness. – Cheryl Opper

Great ideas are hatched in lots of places. For Cheryl Opper, the idea of founding School on Wheels, Massachusetts happened back in 2004 at her kitchen table while reading an article about Agnes Stevens of Los Angeles who was the founder of the charity. Cheryl was looking for a pumpkin cheesecake recipe and what she found was a calling to make a difference in the lives of homeless children. The statistics are staggering: there are over 27,000 homeless students in Massachusetts between kindergarten and high school. The average age of a homeless person in the state is just 8 years old and chances are, that child will move 3-5 times a year, leaving giant gaps in their ability to learn. Together with her army of volunteer tutors, Cheryl goes into homeless shelters to provide consistent one-on-one educational support to homeless kids. The relationship begins with the gift of a backpack, stuffed with school essentials and a handwritten note that reads: “I believe in you. You can climb this mountain. Anything is possible.” In this interview, Cheryl looks back on the progress of School on Wheels, MA over the last 20 years. A lifelong school teacher, she is also a person of great faith who believes that “it is such a blessing that God has used my hands, my voice, and my feet to help others.” Her passion for what she does shines through in this interview and you can hear her heartbreak when she describes the children School on Wheels, MA serves. Says Cheryl: “There are homeless students in every school across our state and they are just like your child and my child. They just want to be loved. They just want somebody to show up for them and tell them that they matter. “ #homelessness #education #shelters

Sharon Marrama: Co-Founder, Connor’s Kindness Project -253

I said to him: This is not going to be Nana’s Kindness Project. This is going to be Connor’s Kindness Project. -Sharon Marrama

If you are looking for an uplifting story this holiday season, look no further. We talk a lot about “mother love” on this show, but what about the love a grandmother has for her grandchild? Meet Sharon Marrama, grandmother of 14-year-old Connor Wright, co-founders of Connor’s Kindness Project Hatched during the pandemic, the original goal was to deliver COVID Care Packages to children. Within a year, the organization began delivering Kindness Kits to children in hospitals and shelters and today, nearly 5000 Kindness Kits have been delivered to over 20 hospitals and shelters throughout Massachusetts and into New England. Armed with Teen Ambassadors and volunteers, the charity has also created the Kids Kindness Club, where Connor speaks to students about the power of a simple act of kindness. Recently featured in People Magazine and on The Sherri Show, Sharon Marrama and her grandson have high hopes of taking their charity national. Running CKP is a family affair with Sharon’s daughter Erica (Connor’s mom) as a part of the leadership team. Raised in a humble home outside of Boston, Sharon was imbued with a strong work ethic from a very young age. As a high school student, she got up every morning at 4:30 AM to make the donuts at one of the original Dunkin Donuts locations. Employed at a dentist’s office for over 30 years, Sharon went back to college at age 50, earning a bachelor’s degree with high honors. In addition to her role as Executive Director of Connor’s Kindness Projects, she is a Radiologic Technologist who also teaches radiology at Middlesex Community College. With a heart full of kindness Sharon says: “Life is about taking a tough or vulnerable situation and making it into a positive moment, one act of kindness at a time.” For 20 minutes of inspiration this Thanksgiving or any day of the week, just hit that download button. #kindness #thanksgiving #connorskindnessproject

Bracha Horovitz: Israeli author of Soldier On -252

Success for me is determination. As long as you are alive, you don’t give up. You don’t quit.  -Bracha Horovitz

Born in 1952, just 6 years after the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, Bracha’s name means “a blessing” in Hebrew. The daughter of a holocaust survivor whose entire family was killed at Auschwitz, Bracha grew up believing that in order to succeed, you must never look back. Raised in the idyllic town of Ein Kerem, just south of Jerusalem, she recalls a simple life, steeped in family traditions and a deep devotion to Israel. One of the first settlers to come to Israel when the death camps were liberated, Bracha’s father was the founder of agricultural settlements and would travel throughout the country, teaching people how to grow things in an unforgiving climate with rocky soil. As a first-generation Israeli, Bracha is called a “Sabra” after the cactus that grows in the region. Tough on the outside, but sweet on the inside, she was raised to be resilient. At 18, she proudly entered the Israeli Defense Force or IDF, fulfilling the requirement for all men and women to serve their country for two years. Says Bracha: “ It is the whole idea of giving something to your country. You are part of contributing to society and in doing so, you become a mature, strong adult.” At 20, Bracha married a man named Zvi, attended college to get a degree in textile engineering, and gave birth to two daughters. The family landed in Boston when Zvi was offered a job at Malden Mills in Lawrence, MA. Tasked with leading the famous mill’s research and development team, Zvi was at the helm during the creation of the fabric known as polar fleece. In this interview, Bracha shares the story of their severely disabled son who taught the family powerful life lessons: Says Bracha: “Ronnie taught us all how to love, how to be compassionate, how to feel, and how to see a light in someone, without voice. “ As an Israeli, Bracha shares her insights into the war between Israel and its aggressors declaring “I am far away physically, but very close emotionally with my mind and my soul always in Israel.” #israel #resilience #holocaustsurvivor #IDF #polarfleece @maldenmills @templeemanuelandover

Melissa Michelon, MD: Dermatologist, -251

I don’t want my patients to leave my office feeling different. I want them to feel refreshed, an even better version of themselves. – Melissa Michelon, MD.

They say “time is a thief” but is it possible to turn back the hands of time just enough to give yourself a boost of confidence? Dr. Melissa Michelson says: “Yes, you can!” A board-certified dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, Melissa is a proud member of the elite team at the Boston Center for Facial Rejuvenation. With an eye for symmetry, balance, and proportion, her specialties include non-invasive procedures such as laser rejuvenation and resurfacing, treatment of scars, melasma, rosacea, neurotoxins and filler injections, micro-needling, and more. Born and raised in a small, blue-collar town about an hour north of Detroit, Melissa was the first person in her family to attend college. It was her parents who instilled a deep need in her to do well in school, and this propelled her through Worcester Polytechnic Institute and on to medical school. Now the mother of four, Melissa gave birth to her first child in medical school, her second child during her residency, and her third child during her dermatology residency. Says Melissa: “I have learned so much about myself by being a mom. Mostly, I know that I can handle anything. “ She’s had many role models along the way, but in this interview, Dr. Michelon shares the story of a woman who worked at her father’s automotive repair shop. “The shop was all men and watching her taught me to stick up for myself, always.” And if you’re wondering if Dr. Melissa Michelon can change the oil in her car, the answer is “yes,” For a 20-minute tutorial on an inspiring female physician, just hit that download button. #dermatology #womeninmedicine #skinrejuvenation #workingmoms #motherhood

Connie Johnson Hambley: writer, author & renaissance woman -250

I have always wanted to try something new, to put myself in situations where I was a little breathless, where there’s an itch to scratch, and where I ask myself: can I really succeed at this? 
-Connie Johnson Hambley

After struggling with how to describe this week’s guest, I’ve landed on “Renaissance woman” not only because she is an expert in so many fields, but because she is prolific at everything she does. Born and raised on a dairy farm in upstate New York, Connie recalls a childhood where she could step out her back door and roam 400 acres of idyllic farmland.  The farm was a family business. Connie’s family grew their own hay and corn for their cows, processing the milk at their own dairy, and delivering it to customers far and wide.   But it was also at this dairy farm where Connie’s internal compass was rattled when a disgruntled employee struck a match setting the barn on fire at feeding time.   This singular event sparked a lifelong interest in discovering why people do what they do.  Says Connie: “ A new mantra came into my life after the fire:  bad things happen to good people.  And bad people can look wonderful and still do reprehensible things. “  A prolific writer and author, Connie has a law degree, she’s been a fashion model, worked at an ad agency, been the vice president of a bank, and an adjunct professor of finance.  But in this interview, we learn that along the way, this two-time winner of the Best English Fiction Literary Award for her crime stories not only has a love affair with words, but a deep desire to hear what isn’t said, mining for gold between the lines.  And Connie sets daily goals for herself as an author:  “When I’m really into my writing, I park my butt in that chair and I don’t get up until I’ve put down 1000 fresh new words.” The mother of three, Connie is also a world traveler whose love for adventure has been passed on to her grown children. In this latest chapter of her ever-evolving story, Connie is focused on the financial exploitation of elders and is determined to use everything she knows to shine a bright light on the systemic mistreatment of our senior citizens.  #author #writer #crime #elderabuse