Peace Seeker Spotlight

Posted on: March 17th, 2014 by jeni No Comments

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Peace Seeker

Summer/Fall 2014

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Kelsey VanNostrand

Northboro, Massachusetts

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Mattie said that a Peace Seeker is someone who “wants peace” and who strives to “make peace an attitude.” A peace seeker chooses attitudes that are peaceful, not just in the good times, but in the tough times as well.

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Last year, Kelsey VanNostrand was searching for scholarship funds that would help her continue her career path towards a Master’s degree in a helping profession. She learned about, applied for, and received one of the four 2013 Mattie J.T. Stepanek Caregiving Scholarships sponsored by the Rosalynn Carter Institute and Johnson & Johnson.

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She then went above and beyond, by choosing to learn more about the person for whom her scholarship funds were named. She found out that ordering materials in our Peace Shop supports the work of Mattie’s Foundation, so she ordered a copy of his biography, “Messenger,” and shortly thereafter, her boyfriend ordered a copy of Mattie’s “Just Peace” book as a gift for her.

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Kelsey then wrote to Mattie’s mom, Jeni, to say that learning about Mattie and his message of hope and peace began as an scholarship search endeavor, but that his message had become a motivating force in her career path and in her personal life. She wanted to choose peace for herself, and to support children and their families who are facing medical challenges to experience peace as well.

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During Spring/Summer 2014, our Peace Spotlight Honoree theme is “Peace: Attitude to Action.” As we celebrate individuals and groups who give of their time, their talent, and their treasure, and who strive to move from attitude to action with peace, the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation honors Kelsey VanNostrand  – our Summer/Fall 2014 Peace Seeker Spotlight.

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Kelsey VanNostrand — Peace Seeker Spotlight Feature

Below are Kelsey’s responses to our Spotlight questionnaire.

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Spring 2014 Peace Seeker Spotlight Honoree Kelsey VanNostrand with her family on vacation to the Grand Canyon in 2009.

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Tell us a bit about yourself.

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My name is Kelsey VanNostrand and I grew up in Northboro, MA, a small town in central MA.

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I love spending time with my family and friends and am very fortunate to have such amazing people to support me.

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I enjoy traveling and will hold the memories of many family vacations very close to my heart.

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I attended Fordham University in New York where I studied Psychology and spent one semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia. After graduation from Fordham in 2011, I returned to Massachusetts and recently moved Brookline, MA.

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In the Fall of 2013 I began a graduate program in nursing at Boston College to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.

Kelsey with her classmates and instructor during their clinical rotation at Boston Medical Center in fall of 2013.

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Tell us about your career path.

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Throughout college and after graduation I assisted in conducting clinical research for pediatric patients with chronic medical conditions. This provided me with a deeper understanding of the significant impact hospitalization and lifelong medical care has on not only the child but also the entire family.

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I spent two years after graduation working with patients who have cerebral palsy at Boston Children’s Hospital. During this time, I was able to form valuable relationships with the families that I will always remember and learn from.

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From my previous work and volunteer opportunities, I was inspired to continue my education and strive to help make a difference for these families.

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In the Fall of 2013 I began a direct entry masters in pediatric nursing program at Boston College. Not only have I appreciated the advanced level of education I am receiving, but more importantly I have had the amazing opportunity to connect and form friendships with others who have similar aspirations and the desire to care for others.

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In all of my experiences, I have learned especially in a pediatric setting that the quality of life of children and families is often just as important as the medical care to help make the future hopeful and manageable.

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Kelsey at the finish line of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in 2011.

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What does “peace” mean to you?

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In the healthcare setting, I find that peace is often associated with end of life care. Not only does everyone hope to experience feelings of peace at the end of their life, but also a question is often on the mind of the caregivers. “Will he or she be in pain when they die?” is a very common concern for a family that is losing a loved one.

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As both Mattie and Jeni explained, it is often more difficult for family and friends to be at peace with death and dying than for the actual patient. Therefore, when working with families facing chronic illness, I think it is always important to hear and respond to these concerns and help them to cope and be at peace with a terminal prognosis.

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What kinds of peace activities have you been involved with?

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My previous work as a child life volunteer and as part of the Jimmy Fund  are some activities I have enjoyed that are related to peace. I have strived to improve healthcare outcomes and provide patients and families resources to approach illness and death, which are elements of peace.

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Improving quality of life in patients with terminal illness can in itself establish a more positive experience for the entire family. With this, the family is able to acknowledge concerns regarding death and enjoy timed spent with their loved one for the remainder of their life.

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Kelsey volunteering at a Boston Red Sox charity event in 2012.

Participating in the Jimmy Fund events and getting to know many of the families affected by cancer has allowed me to truly recognize how fragile life is and to never take anything for granted. Although sometimes heartbreaking to see, the families that have lost loved ones to cancer and then dedicate their time to helping others is incredibly inspiring.

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Along with this I have learned the importance of acknowledging my biases towards certain situations and understand that there are multiple ways to approach similar situations. I have found this to be especially profound when working with vulnerable families who are facing frightening diagnoses and treatments for the first time.

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How did you learn about Mattie and his Foundation?

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I originally learned about Mattie through a typical scholarship search before starting school. I found and applied for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Caregiving Scholarship offered by the Rosalynn Carter Institute.

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During the application process I was able to learn more about Mattie and was truly inspired by his work. Although it was disappointing that I had not learned about him until after he passed away, I am that much more motivated now to carry on his messages.

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How has Mattie or the message he shared impacted your thoughts on peace?

 

Since learning about Mattie I have definitely strived to appreciate each day as fully as possible. Although I have always tried to appreciate how fortunate I have been thus far, I have developed a new realization of the day-to-day interactions that I often overlooked.

 

I have since tried to appreciate the conversations with each encounter and use them as an opportunity to learn about and understand different perspectives.

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Do you have a favorite Mattie book, poem, or quote?

 

Upon recognition of the caregiving scholarship, I wanted to learn more about not only Mattie but also Jeni and everyone their family touched. I first read “Messenger” (Mattie’s biography by his mom) and loved how Jeni was able to allow readers into such a trying and emotional time for her in a very beautiful memoir.

 

I wrote to Jeni after reading her Messenger book to say:

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Wow — what an incredible book. You and Mattie truly are two of the strongest and most inspiring people. I feel terrible that I had not been aware of the amazing things both of you were doing up until this year but I am so lucky to have both of your stories to motivate me through the next two years of nursing school.

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I haven’t been able to stop talking about the book and your lives with everyone around me. I was talking to my aunt from Buffalo, NY the other weekend, telling her about the book and being chosen for the scholarship, and she asked, “Are you talking about Mattie?!” She heard about him on the radio a number of years ago and purchased one of his Heartsongs books.  I was so excited to hear this and know that Mattie really is passing on his messages all over the world.

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After quietly sobbing through the last chapter of Messenger while on the beach with my boyfriend, he surprised me with a copy of Mattie’s Just Peace book the very next day. It is very interesting to hear Mattie’s thoughts on the same events that you had discussed in Messenger. I cannot thank you enough for your decision to write Messenger and to also take on publishing Just Peace for Mattie after he passed away. Neither book could have been easy to work on but both are portrayed as beautiful tributes to an incredible family.

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I feel so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to learn about and carry on Mattie’s messages, which began when I learned about him when applying for a scholarship. I would love to come meet you and see Mattie’s Park (which from pictures looks incredible) next time I am in Maryland. And if there is anything that I can help you with, whether it be helping out with anything for MDA or Mattie’s Foundation, or anything else please let me know!  

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So, I don’t  really have a favorite book or Mattie poem, but I I very much enjoyed these books, and love the message of hope and peace I have learned.

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Kelsey during her trip to Sydney, Australia.

 

Your Spotlight theme is “Peace: Attitude to Action” – do you have any reflections to share? 

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I think that I, like many others, often acknowledge that certain things need to change but choose to do nothing about making those changes. The theme this month “Peace: Attitude to Action” encompasses this practice entirely.

Unlike myself, Mattie never waited for changes to happen and took the initiative to do what he can to make positive changes. It is with his example in mind that I will strive to identify and develop ways to improve pediatric healthcare while continuing to deliver compassionate care to children and their families.

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Anything else you would like to share? 

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I am very honored to be recognized as a Peace Seeker by Mattie’s Foundation and I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on aspects of my life that are often not discussed. I really feel fortunate that I was able to learn about Mattie and his family and appreciate the Foundation’s support in my nursing educations and future endeavors as a caregiver. I cannot thank you enough for this honor!

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Thank you, Kelsey,

for being a Peace Seeker.

Congratulations!

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Read the Foundation’s Summer 2013 News story
about the RCI Scholarship recipients here…  

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Return to main Spotlight page

 

April Spotlight

In-Kind Support

Celebrating our "in kind" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with services and materials. Thank you ezStorage, Montgomery Printing, Parcel Plus, and Potomac Valley Brick! Read more...

Nourishment Support

Celebrating our "nourishment" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with food and services. Thank you Botanero Restaurant, Fontina Grille, Safeway, Coffee Republic, and Red Hot & Blue! Read more...

Community Support

Celebrating our "community" sponsors and advocates -- who support Mattie's Foundation with commitment and participation. Thank you City of Rockville, King Farm Citizen's Assembly, Kick's Karate & Mix 107.3! Read more...

Champion Support

Celebrating our "Foundation Champions" -- sponsors and volunteers of all ages who support Mattie's Foundation through donations, brick sponsorships, participation in our activities and events. Thank you!!! Read more...

- Mattie J.T. Stepanek