Insider Summer 2009

Meet "Ben the Book Saver" and a man who was "Born to Invent"

by Quest Staff on July 1, 2009 - 2:31pm

QUEST Vol. 16, No. 3

Ben the Book Saver

Ben, center, and a few of his friends.
Ben, center, and a few of his friends

For Benjamin Carpenter, 14, of Brandon, Fla., reading is more than just an enjoyable hobby. It’s a way for him to give back to the community, through his two nonprofit organizations, Ben’s Mends and Ben’s Mends Hearts.

“It was an easy choice to try to help others who may not have the same opportunities as I do and to help them escape from their troubles into a book or story,” says Carpenter, who received a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy at age 2 and uses a power wheelchair.

Carpenter started Ben’s Mends in 2007. The organization, which receives used and abused books from outside sources and repairs them with professional book supplies, has donated more than 3,000 refurbished books to other nonprofit organizations such as Tampa’s Shriners Hospital for Children, the Veteran’s Administration and an Alzheimer’s disease care facility. Books also are mended and donated to Carpenter’s former elementary and middle schools.

A soon-to-be freshman at King High School, Carpenter is involved in every aspect of Ben’s Mends, from picking up used books to repairing them to dropping off mended books. He’s also in charge of fundraising and public awareness events to promote Ben’s Mends. Volunteers (the number varies) are mostly his classmates.

Carpenter’s second organization is still in its beginning stages. Ben’s Mends Hearts will send volunteers into places such as retirement homes or homeless shelters to read books that have been mended to those who may not be able to read for themselves.

“I’m very proud of my organizations, and I think that they’ve been very successful so far,” says Carpenter, who was one of 27 students nationwide chosen as “Nestle’s Very Best in Youth” in 2007.

“Our motto for Ben’s Mends Hearts says it all: We want to change lives ‘one story at a time,’ and I think we’ve really made a difference to those who we’ve touched.”

Born to Invent

The inventor of the Zip-It drain cleaning tool, Gene Luoma of Duluth, Minn., is at it again. The challenges associated with having facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) only add fuel to his creative fire.

Gene, center, and his floating gazebo.
Gene, center, and his floating gazebo

Built with accessibility in mind, featuring wide doors and a ramp to accommodate his scooter, the floating Gazeboat is Luoma’s latest invention. A 10-foot hexagon with a table and chairs on an 18-foot deck, the Gazeboat floats on 12 plastic foam-filled dock floats and has a trolling motor located under the table for convenience. Luoma, 66, also can operate the motor via wireless remote control while he’s out on the deck fishing.

Another recent Luoma invention is the Verti-Grill, a vertical gas grill with upright grilling baskets that cooks both sides of the meat simultaneously.

When he’s not inventing, Luoma is working on a new Web site with his son, Brian, 42, who also has FSHD. Through, people can buy plans for all of the “stuff” Luoma has invented, designed and sold over the years. He hopes to sell the plans to the floating Gazeboat on his Web site.

Luoma, who has been inventing since he was 11 years old, has added a Web page to his site where other inventers can sell their own plans and drawings.

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