My-Vida recognizes the family unit as a whole, rather than the sum of its parts. We recognize the unique challenges that each of the members face, understanding that, while the family is all on the same journey, each of its members are part of a unique experience. We strive to provide education, support, services, self-care, and inspiration to meet the individual needs of each human in the family, which in turn, strengthens the whole family community.
It is estimated that there are nearly 44 million individuals in the United States providing unpaid care for their loved ones every single year. This caregiver role often presents itself in an unexpected manner, when a child, sibling, parent, spouse, or other loved one in one’s life receives a diagnosis of a chronic illness, degenerative condition, disease, or becomes disabled. While many find great joy in providing daily care for those they love, the caregiver role is not an easy one. It comes with great responsibility to manage medical care, including in-patient, out-patient, and in-home settings, a need to organize and facilitate support systems in school and the community, a requirement to foster communication between all members of the care team, in addition to providing unconditional love and support for the person being cared for.
The caregiver is only one piece of the equation. While the caregiver has many responsibilities, they do not face the same challenges, emotionally, psychologically, and physically that the human they are caring for endures. Living with chronic illness, disease, and/or disability takes an enormous toll on the individual, as life morphs into a completely different look than it once did or was anticipated to. Relationships, work, leisure, and overall sense and purpose are affected, as the individual must modify expectations, desires, and goals to fit within whatever confines the diagnosis has placed on them.
There are many nonprofit organizations that exist to support virtually every possible medical condition. While their intentions may be good, they possess one drawback: their focus is often very much one-sided. They put efforts and financial resources into the individual with the illness or disease, and research surrounding the condition, yet leave the caregiver without support, feeling lost to navigate their journey alone.
The few organizations that do exist to provide support for caregivers do so with the idea of respite care or a “much-needed break,” as opposed to giving caregivers real tools to thrive in their daily lives. They lose sight of the fact that, for a caregiver, leaving the loved one they are caring for, even for a few hours, let alone a few days, can be incredibly difficult. It requires careful planning, arranging alternate care, and allowing one’s self to let go of the constant worry and meticulous organization of their loved one’s routine and scheduled needs.
In addition, many establishments provide experiences, retreats, camps, and other “breaks from reality,” some that do involve the entire family, which is a true gift. However, once the experience has occurred for a specified amount of time, which is often only once, or the individual has reached a certain age, the support for the family ends nearly completely.
values that drive us
The Values of My-Vida as an organization are modeled after our Mission and Vision for the families we serve.
who we are
Liz Naylor (she/her), Founding Executive Director
Liz is the driving force and visionary of My-Vida. She has drawn from her own personal experience with her four children living with myotonic muscular dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disease, as well as her career as a birth professional, to create My-Vida, and its mission to help individuals living with chronic illness and their caregivers truly thrive in their lives and community. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Social Work degree from Tulane University, and will be completing her Master of Science in Disaster Resilience Leadership in the summer of 2022. She has spent the majority of her adult life working and running her own business, Enlightened Mama, providing birth doula services, education, craniosacral therapy, and lactation support to families, as well as training aspiring birth professionals. She believes firmly in creating balance in life and finds her own by incorporating her personal passions of cooking, travel, and yoga as much as possible into her busy, but abundant life. She resides in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area with her two sons and two daughters, who humble and inspire her on a daily basis.
Kelly Martinson (she/her), Secretary
Kelly is a freelance writer, living in St. Paul, MN. She’s also a mom to 4 kids–3 in high school and one in college. Her oldest was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 9, and the subsequent full year of treatment followed by the lifelong medications her son takes to sustain basic life functions have taught her more about the world of brain tumors than anyone who is not a neurosurgeon would ever want. She is a firm believer in sharing all that knowledge with anyone and everyone whom it could benefit. She is committed to My-Vida because she knows first-hand how hugely life-giving respite is and the importance of maintaining strong family bonds and doing life together as a family is, particularly in the midst of medical chaos. She brings a strong grass roots fundraising background as well as an innate ability to make things happen.
Jennifer Bratulich (she/her)
Jennifer Bratulich joins the My-Vida Board having worked in fundraising for the past 7 years. She currently serves as the Director of Development and Community Partnerships at AMAZEworks, a local non-profit whose mission is to create equity and belonging in schools and communities. With her experience in fundraising, a certified yoga instructor and trained doula, Jenni is committed to creating safe and nurturing spaces for people to be cared for and empower themselves. She is on a life-long journey of helping others develop self-compassion and self-advocacy and has always sought to help create, encourage, and sustain meaningful communities of belonging. Jenni has witnessed the impact of radical self-care in her own life and is committed to creating similar opportunities for caregivers through the mission of My-Vida. When she’s not working or with her family, Jenni enjoys spending time with friends, hiking, reading, and continuing to practice good self-care in her own life.
Brittany Block (she/her)
Brittany is currently the Co-Manager of SportClips in Woodbury, MN. She finds great joy in helping others look their best while leading her team to exceed their professional goals. Brittany’s journey of life has given her a wealth of knowledge and experience from her personal involvement and professional development as spokesperson with the Jeremiah Program, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization, and as Parent Advisor for Postsecondary Achievement and Innovation for The Aspen Institute. She is dedicated to serving others, especially those individuals who have, through no fault of their own, ended up living in cycles of abuse, poverty, and lack of access to education. Originally hailing from Colorado, she now lives and thrives with her young son in St. Paul, Minnesota. Brittany can be found in her free time doing Crossfit, where she finds strength in pushing herself to the limits.
Gretchen Pick (she/her)
Gretchen is the Executive Director of Young Dance, and an active dance artist and educator in the Twin Cities. Gretchen has been instrumental in developing Young Dance’s All Abilities Dancing initiative, programming that integrates individuals with and without disabilities as equal participants in dance. Through this work, Gretchen has met individuals and families who have exposed her to new ways of moving, thinking, and being in the world. Her world has been enriched by knowing so many individuals of diverse abilities. She is excited about My-Vida’s vision for supporting the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Gretchen lives with her husband and three children in South Minneapolis where they enjoy biking, running, cross country skiing and just plain playing!
Adrienne Caldwell (she/her)
Adrienne has been an educator for over 25 years. She has created content for the general public, expectant families, and professionals. She has been a professional massage and bodywork therapist for 15 years and takes a holistic and evidence-based approach to the care she provides. She is the mother of two children with unique abilities and medical needs and joined My-Vida because she knows the service and respite is needed for families like mine. Her excitement around My-Vida is the possibilities it opens up for families with chronically ill children to find community, care, respite, and support. Her vision for the organization is to normalize chronic illness, and bring out the best in our children to show the world how much they can contribute.