Karen Ridlon, 1949 - 2023, Founder of KidVantage (Eastside Baby Corner)
Karen founded KidVantage in the spring of 1990. With a few small items, a broken playpen for shelves and an unheated donated storage unit, KidVantage began distributions to public health nurses in Bellevue and Issaquah and to the Issaquah Food Bank. Because of Karen’s tenacity and generous heart, this organization has assisted thousands of children over the last three decades.
The greatest tribute to the invaluable work Karen led for the last three decades is for us to honor her passion and help the countless children in need of her vision: Children deserve to have a healthy start in life because we never know what gifts that child is bringing into the world. It is our responsibility to make sure every child has sufficient nutrition, a secure ride, a safe place to sleep, clothes and books for school, and a family supported by the community.
One of the first certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioners in the United States (University of California, San Francisco, 1972), Karen worked as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in California and Washington, working in well-child care, newborn care, and newborn ICU support for a number of medical groups and doctors. Karen’s intent was to fill an unmet need for parents with newborns who lacked basic supplies for their children.
She conceived the model of collecting items to meet those basic needs from the community and redistributing them through a network of partner agencies (as opposed to direct service). In that way Baby Corner not only met the children’s needs, but also involved the community and provided a safety net to service partners.
A leader in the Issaquah community, Karen was recognized for her efforts with many volunteer awards, including receiving the Leadership Eastside LENi Community Choice Leadership Award in 2013, Distinguished Member Award for the Washington State Chapter of NAPNAP (National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners) in 2013, Issaquah Schools Foundation Golden Apple Award (2009), and chosen as a UCSF Distinguished Alumni.
Karen was devoted to her family, cherishing her children and grandchildren. She is survived by her husband Steve, her brother Dennis (Jennie), her son Chris (Anne), her daughter Susanne (Seth), her son Daniel (Katrina), and her eight grandchildren: Owen, Elsie, Isaac, Oliver, Isla, Ash, Parker and Stevie.
“The thing that makes EBC [KidVantage] work is joyful service–the joy that each of us receives by making it happen that a child has what they need; knowing that whatever part we play means that one more child is safe, and warm and has toys…the joy comes from knowing that we are saving lives and saving futures.”Founder, Karen Ridlon
I want to let you and all the KV staff, particularly those who knew Karen Ridlon personally, how much I admired what she established for the benefit of thousands and thousands of families. She was truly a visionary and created a living legacy.
Karen was an excellent mentor to the board, the staff, volunteers & partners. I always appreciated her kindness and patience when she was helping me. My heartfelt condolences to you all.
There are those people in life where it’s easy to assume they are so tough they will just keep on chugging ‘forever’. Karen was one of those people for me and her tenacity was certainly one of several of her key attributes that I so admired. Selflessness, humility, passion/energy and her emotional wisdom were others. I’m sure this has really impacted you and all of the staff. Her memory will continue impacting our community and the world – what an example she was to others.
I will often use Karen as an example of how a successful non-profit gets started. Someone sees a need in their community, they respond to that need act as a catalyst to bring others together to serve alongside. Our sympathies go out to her family and the KidVantage community.
She will be so missed by everybody who was blessed to know her.
…We are shocked and saddened, however it’s wonderful to know that someone like Karen has fulfilled her life’s purpose. KidVantage has become this amazing organization that has made a big difference in the lives of so many children – what a wonderful legacy.
… She was an incredible icon for our community, and we consider ourselves lucky for having the honor to get to know her these past several years…We will all remember Karen fondly, and we are grateful to have stood in her shadow for but a brief moment.