My name is Jaden Risner, and I’m the CEO and cofounder of Family Proud®. I spent 12 years active-duty Navy as a helicopter pilot, and I am still in the Reserve. So now I’ve been in the Reserve for, gosh, three to four years, so about 16 years or so in service. Actually, I left active duty to become a caregiver for my mother. So the inspiration for Family Proud is for us to transform how we serve our loved ones and help bring that peace of mind to families as they navigate caregiving. Family Proud® is a community platform that helps ease the burden of caregivers and their families through technology. We’ve been at it for a little while and you know, they always say surround yourself with people smarter than you are and certainly those who are mission aligned, and I appreciate the opportunity.
We officially, legally founded it in 2018, but that was in our MBA program; we’ve been working on it officially since about 2019. Of course the last couple of years have been [filled with] challenges in many ways. But it’s been a couple of years now, and I am thankful to have a great group of people around me as well.
I became a caregiver for my mother who went through a number of health challenges. Then I met our cofounder Clay in business school. Clay is a Marine Corps veteran; he was a staff sergeant, and when he was in the service, he was diagnosed with cancer. He overcame it, but it came back a second time, terminal. And so thanks to the 10th degree of separation, someone happened to know Lance Armstrong’s doctor. That network of family and friends happened to know someone who was able to look at his lab results –Lance Armstrong’s doctor– and identified a clinical trial here in San Diego that ended up saving Clay’s life. It’s really a remarkable story. Clay and I quickly became brothers in business school and said, “Yep he’s got the understanding of the patient and the advocate, I have the understanding as the caregiver.” Our loved ones deserve more than a Facebook group and a Go Fund Me … what can we do?
The technology itself ultimately helps answer the question “how can I help?” So you may not be in San Diego but that doesn’t mean you don’t care about myself or my family. And oftentimes there’s all these amazing people in our community and our network who always want to serve, want to help. They just don’t know how, depending how close they are. The platform actually makes smart recommendations of how you can be a stronger supporter based on who the family is and what they’re going through, and really focus on the family-community aspect. There’s a lot in the clinical space which we certainly recognize, but we actually see value and , “how can we empower and strengthen the support network around the caregiver, the family?” whether that’s emotionally, financially, or logistically.
When we say smart recommendations, what does that mean? It means that you’re able to create this Care Circle that you invite your loved ones and friends into, and ultimately [the Care Circle] makes it as simple as possible to receive and provide support. That could be updates, clear updates, which there are a number of platforms that do that, but where it becomes special [at Family Proud®] are other product services that [say], “you may not know about [this service], but here they are that have helped other families similar to yours.” Maybe that’s a local resource or [if a friend is far away], I can’t support you, I can’t bring dinner to you tomorrow night, but I can help pay into a product service that’s vetted specifically around the care for your family.So we partner with organizations that serve our families, these communities of families.
For us, the focus has been around military families as well as cancer related. We’re looking at a number of other segments like aging of course, but really the focus has been around the military family aspect. We picked up some grants through the Air Force and our family resiliency programs. That’s been an amazing effort through the SBIR program and then partner with the number of mission-aligned organizations.
And as much as you Go Fund Me, you could say yes, there’s monetary [help], but we also have seen families that are on their fifth, sixth Go Fund Me campaign. We know that the probability there is that it’s so hard to ask for help; we know that’s even from a cultural behavioral aspect and so we always keep it around service. Here’s how we can share lessons learned to help pay it forward to other families. And we also know that’s not really sustainable support and lack of transparency to where those funds are going versus, for example, we have a Family Proud® liaison service. And so it’s important to mention even though we are a technology, we know there’s an empathy aspect that can’t be truly replaced by technology and you can’t ever replace a hug, you can’t replace that discussion talking to another mom that’s been through that experience. So the Family Proud® liaisons who we have on staff are individuals who have gone through different circumstances and can themselves say that they’ve been patients, survivors, caregivers. Ultimately, at the end of the day, just to talk to a family and talk to someone who’s looking for that support, but it can be facilitated through the [Family Proud®] technology as a tool. And so, you know, the empathy piece is a huge element.
For example, if someone’s going through a specific journey and they’re in need of a specialized meal plan, if 10 people chipped in $10 a month, they’ll pay for a nutritionist that we have vetted to work with the family. Now the family has this amazing service and support that they wouldn’t have had otherwise, and that’s completely separate from the realm of what is covered by insurance or other things [provided] there.
WHAT WOULD HE DO WITH THE SECOND SERVICE FOUNDATION GRANT?
So for us, we are really focused on product delivery. There are a number of organizations that we’re looking to support, [but] we’re a small team. The ability to put that [grant] towards our marketing and our product delivery efforts is really where our focus is. [Our focus is]: “How can we serve more families and then continue to kind of keep the momentum, and building in that direction?”