Who Are We Wednesdays - Brittany Kidwell
BETHLEHEM - Brittany Kidwell considers herself a 'broke artist' and says her main purpose in life is to help people get on board with positive movements.
"I can't give too much monetarily but I can give myself and my service and educate people," says Kidwell.
Kidwell lives in Bethlehem but is originally from Emmaus, Lehigh County. She graduated from Emmaus High School in 2011 and Northampton Community College in 2015 with a funeral services education associate's degree. Upon graduating, she interned at Schantz Funeral Home in Emmaus. Overall, she has worked as a funeral director the past five years having spent the last two at Cantelmi-Long Funeral Home. Brittany says when she was around the age of 12 or 13, the funeral director who was overseeing her grandfather's services recommended she get into the business.
"I had settled a family dispute in the arraignment conference and (afterwards) the funeral director said, 'Come here young lady. Let me talk to you.' I thought he was gonna scold me so I said sorry I didn't mean to offend anybody and he said no look into this one day. I see something in you that I don't in a lot," she explained. The entire way home, Brittany says she and her grandmother laughed it off, not realizing this would later be her profession.
Nowadays, as a funeral director, Brittany says she sees families all too often mourn the loss of loved ones taken by cancer and admits her own family has done so as well. A couple years after her grandfather passed, Kidwell's grandmother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 77.
"It was hard," Brittany says. "She practically raised me since my parents were separated. She was my babysitter. We were close. When I just turned 16, my grandmother taught me how to drive by letting me take her to her chemotherapy appointments."
Kidwell remembers those drives as being difficult to bear.
"I didn't want to accept the fact of the inevitable. She also did not want me to know how sick she was," says Kidwell. "It not only gave me more of an appreciation of the time I did have (with her) but at the same time it was hard to watch someone's life be taken away from them."
Kidwell says since her grandmother's passing she has continued to monitor her own body. Brittany revealed back in October 2018, she had a minor scare when doctors found a mass on her ovary. Fortunately, biopsies revealed it was benign.
"Fear is a factor in how I've been affected by cancer," said Kidwell.
Kidwell has found different ways to raise money for different cancer initiatives. For years, she has teamed up with her childhood friend, Katie Hoch and the Hoch family taking part in Pennsylvania State University's 'THON,' which is 'a student-run philanthropy committed to enhancing the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer,' according to its website. The Hoch's lost their son, Colby when he was five-years-old to neuroblastoma.
"I can't tell you the feeling you get when you walk onto that floor (at PSU) and there are thousands of people with a purpose and a really good one," Brittany explained. "It brings chills to me because it is a small group of people doing a huge thing."
Kidwell also stood up for those affected by childhood cancer in Every Ribbon Counts' 2019 Knockout Challenge. Brittany was the 'Team Gold' representative, raising more than $1,400 for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley. ERC donated an additional $9,000 to PCFLV on top of Brittany's efforts.
"It is still a very high death rate (childhood cancer) and that is one reason why I decided to hop on board with the Every Ribbon Counts Foundation." said Kidwell. "If it is done in 'Happy Valley' we can do it anywhere. I take pride in helping (the cause) any way I can."
Kidwell says she is grateful ERC helped her cross paths with PCFLV Executive Director, Michelle Zenie and thinks the organization does tremendous work. Brittany credits Zenie for putting together a 'breathtaking night' and beautiful event last year called the 'Hearts of Gold Gala.' When it comes to Every Ribbon, Kidwell says she is also looking forward to taking part in the 2020 Knockout Challenge later this year whether it is to raise money for kids or another ribbon.
"It means a lot to me because I think it's so important to fight for the people that can't fight for themselves," she said.
Meanwhile, Brittany hopes the fight will not have to last much longer.
"I want to see a day when we win more battles than we lose. Then people will be like cancer? What's that? I know we are a long way from there but we're making progress," said Kidwell.
The progress continues because 'broke artists' like Brittany continue to give their time and emotional investment to enrich other people's lives.