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Garden of Hope for the Bristol community:

Bristol woman wants others to benefit from her experience

Aug 17th 2012

BRISTOL — On Friday, Aug. 17, Laurie Cordeiro of Bristol will be sitting in Gooding Plaza, trying to raise money for the Flames of Hope, a charity event sponsored by the Gloria Gemma Foundation. She’ll be accompanied by the 40-foot-long Hope bus, where she offers support to other women with cancer.

“I was diagnosed in 2009 with triple-negative breast cancer. There is no cure. I know my time is limited,” she said.

In the time that she has, Ms. Cordeiro is working tirelessly to help others.

“When I found out I had breast cancer, I didn’t know where to go,” she said.

When she was diagnosed, Ms. Cordeiro left her job with the United States Coast Guard so she could undergo chemotherapy treatments.

“It was a battle from the get-go with different chemos,” she said.

While the diagnosis was life-changing, Ms. Cordeiro also sees the opportunities presented.

“I always say, when God opens up a door, she opens up a floodgate,” Ms. Cordeiro said.

While undergoing treatments for a disease that can’t be cured, Ms. Cordeiro found comfort among friends, family and the resources provided by the Gloria Gemma Foundation. In May 2012, a group of friends and family worked with Gary Calvino, director of development of the Gloria Gemma Foundation, and Craig Marciniak of Tranquil Water Gardens in Cumberland, R.I., to create a Garden of Hope in Ms. Cordeiro’s backyard. On Tuesday, Ms. Cordeiro sat with Walter Burke, Bristol’s director of parks and recreation, and landscape architect Hali Beckman, within view of the garden, to discuss a similar project on a grander scheme.

“Bristol is going to be the first site for a community Garden of Hope,” Ms. Cordeiro said.

Despite her disease, her efforts are tireless. After touring the town to find a suitable location for the garden, Ms. Cordeiro and Mr. Burke drove by the former Army Reserve center that will soon become the town’s community center.

“Why don’t we have it here,” Ms. Cordeiro said. “That’s where the garden has to go.”

When the word reached Ms. Beckman, who helped with the Rhode Island Veterans’ Home courtyard project, she enthusiastically supported the idea. After a brief conversation that focused on flowers and design in the backyard garden, the emotional power of the Garden of Hope came into light.

“There was a lot of love here,” Ms. Cordeiro said of the effort put into her backyard.

Ms. Beckman agreed.

“Your goal is not about the plantings or the features. It’s about the people,” she said.

In the coming weeks, volunteers will converge on the soon-to-be town community center as they did at the veterans’ home to create a Garden of Hope for Bristol. When complete, cancer patients, survivors and their families will have a place to go to meditate, plant in memory of a loved one, or enjoy a peaceful place. Blue Cross Blue Shield has donated $5,000 and 35 staff to volunteer in the construction of the garden. Other volunteers and donations will be sought to complete the project.

“I feel like this whole plan has been schemed way before we sat down,” Ms. Cordeiro said.

Bristol Phoenix