For any parent that has had a child in the NICU, you know how much of a stressful and emotional time that it can be. For Kat Vandernoot, she’s spent some time in the NICU with two of her children and describes it as a very challenging time in her life. She knew that she didn’t want any other parent who is going through a difficult time to go through those challenges without anything to look forward to. That’s why she started The B Fund, a charity whose mission is to educate and empower participants to use their time, talents and treasures to raise awareness and funds for families caring for critically ill children.
Please tell us a little bit about why you started The B Fund.
If you have never spent any time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, also known as the NICU, consider yourself lucky and blessed. I have been there twice, with two different outcomes. Both experiences were some of the most challenging times of my life. There were many times I felt like I was in a scene of Saving Private Ryan, only I was not a soldier in WWII. I was a parent entering a battle to work with the staff at Boston Children’s Hospital to try and save my child’s life.
While this was an incredibly painful time for me, it was also eye opening. Clear to me was the fact that families like mine were in dire need of support. If you think about it, how many people wake up in the morning, start brushing their teeth and think to themselves as they are looking in the mirror, “I am going to be in the ER or the ICU with my baby at 4:30 PM today?”
Essentially, we were living the darkest days of our lives and, during that time, even a simple smile from a stranger would give us that much needed boost to feel like ultimately things would be OK.
As I sat in the NICU in the midst of my own war zone, I could not help but peruse the room and take inventory of expressions many parents and loved ones wore on their faces. Everyone had a story. Some wore the look of exhaustion from working two jobs and then rushing to the hospital to be by their child’s side while others were painted with perplexed looks because they had no idea what the doctor was telling them about their child. Sadly, many of these expressions were signs of helplessness, exhaustion, and, ultimately, defeat.
At that moment it was clear to me that something needed to be done to support families caring for children who were gravely ill. These families, also known as the bravest soldiers I know, needed support and luckily my friends and family agreed that together we could work towards arming children of all ages the necessary tools to grow a culture of caring, not only in their homes but their communities as well. In an ideal world, it would be incredible to create a movement where people of all ages came together and performed acts of kindness, both large and small.
If you think about it, it really is that simple. We all have the desire to help others and helping others feels great! Why not take this desire and teach our kids to be compassionate and generous, and empower them to use their very own time, talents and treasures to make a difference. From my perspective, it is one of the greatest gifts one could give.
At that very moment, The B Fund was born. Our mission is to educate and empower participants to use their time, talents and treasures to raise awareness and funds for families caring for critically ill children. Using our unique curriculum, The B Fund’s programs are designed to highlight the impact of single and collective acts of kindness. Activities are designed to grow a culture of caring, while providing meaningful experiences for children and their families. Proceeds from The B Fund are donated locally, to provide financial and emotional support for families caring for critically ill children.
Speaking from experience, we have no idea what people are going through and the battle they are up against. Imagine, a smile or a simple act of kindness can get someone through some of the most challenging times of their life.
What have you learned the most since starting the charity?
Personally, I have always known that performing an act of kindness not only helps others, but also feels good. Before our program got off the ground, I never knew how incredible it would feel to witness a child realizing that their efforts, both small and large, can make an impact. It is almost like seeing a light bulb on top of their heads ignite; once a child feels empowered and knows that they are making a difference, the desire to perform acts of kindness quickly follows.
Can you tell us about any future plans for B Fund?
The B Fund is working on a really exciting Signature Event that will involve participants of all ages, from any location. Participants can get involved as a team, with their friends, or on their own!
How can we get involved in The B Fund?
Check out our website www.thebfund.org to learn more or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Our events can be tailored for a variety of ages, interests, and abilities, and they all start from the simple premise that everyone is capable of giving.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Going to the grocery store.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
What is your best parenting hack?
In an effort to keep Legos and all their parts together, I only allow one box opened at a time. The kids build their Lego and all the instructions will then go into a Ziploc bag, which we write the name of the Lego on the front of the bag. Once the kids want to build a new Lego, they disassemble the Lego, put it into the Ziploc bag and start to build a new one. The box is then recycled and the bags are then put into a cabinet, where my kids can pull them out and build again. The kids love it and my feet are grateful not to step on those tiny pieces.
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
When standing in the hallway at their school, I pointed to the sprinkler on the ceiling and said “video cameras…. Mommy is always watching!”
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
Moments where I can listen in or observe my kids completely focused on each other, hanging out and truly having the best time just being together.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Always assume good intent.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
Invest your time and energy in finding a pediatrician you value and respect. Next, spend time getting to know them and developing a strong relationship with them. In the end, it is a win-win situation for everyone. Your kids will feel more comfortable around their doctor and you will feel more comfortable asking questions and sharing information.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
I am fortunate to involve my kids in a lot of the work we do at The B Fund. This allows me to spend time with my kids while also testing programs and concepts.
What was the last book you read?
SPIDERS – National Geographic for Kids.
What’s in your diaper bag?
Aquaphor, one of my most favorite products ever and a deck of cards to play games with my kids. (Thankfully, we are past the diaper phase.)
Favorite Beauty Product:
Favorite Form of Exercise:
What is on your DVR?
Big Little Lies, Dateline and Younger
Favorite Kids Store:
Kodomo in Boston