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VIProfile: Danette Idlett

Story by Emily Robertson

Danette Idlett realized in a very real and personal way that life doesn’t always go the way you plan. Instead of sitting in her grief and sadness, Danette decided to channel her experience into something positive, and her life, along with the lives of many other local families, has been changed forever.

Danette grew up in Bowling Green, graduated from Western Kentucky University and married her college sweetheart, Aaron. The two lived in Nashville and had a son, Evan. When Evan was a year old, Aaron received a serious medical diagnosis that would change their family forever.

“Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma, called T-cell lymphoma,” Danette says. “We started down a ladder of treatment and started with the less invasive and then moved our way up.”

When several methods didn’t help the illness, Aaron began full body radiation treatments. “We made the decision after eight to 10 months of going through this to move back home,” Danette says. “In Nashville, we had great friends, but they just aren’t your family. We moved to Bowling Green, where my parents live, and much closer to Aaron’s parents in Bardstown and our parents basically took shifts caring for us.”

Eventually though, doctors told Danette and Aaron his cancer had spread and there was nothing more they could do. Aaron passed away on August 12, 2011, 18 months after he was first diagnosed.

Even within the immense grief that Danette experienced, she was thankful for the support system they had here. “Family support and friend support was always there,” Danettte says. “I never worried during treatments if my lawn was mowed, or if the dog was let out, if Evan could go to preschool or if Aaron was going to make it to doctor’s appointments, but it’s a lot of work to be sick. I remember looking around the room when we would be at the hospital and seeing people there by themselves and wondering how they would get home today.”

Danette had been involved with the Kiwanis Club of Bowling Green and went on to meet her second husband, Matt Idlett, there. He shared Danette’s heart for service and together they created the non-profit, Life’s Better Together, to ensure that no family had to go through illness without support.

“Matt and I went to a showing of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ at TPAC in Nashville,” Danette says. “We thought we were just going to a movie, but, we realized it was a fundraiser that a family started as a way to pool money and help families at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. That night, a light bulb went off for me and in January 2015 we launched Life’s Better Together.”

Their organization raises money for families battling illness and provides help needed, whether that is assistance in paying bills or simply bringing normalcy to parents and siblings. The organization receives referrals through their website, which are then vetted before they begin assistance. Currently, the organization is working with 12 separate families.

Matt and Danette made a commitment to cover administrative costs for the organization and the couple is proud of the fact that 100 percent of the money raised for the organization goes directly to families. LBT raises money in four major ways: the Miracle on College Street Mile Run and Walk that is held each December, Luck Casino Night in mid-March, partnering with Highland Stables for a portion of the profits from the Gypsymoon Marketplace and a continuous giving campaign, #25on25, which encourages donations of $25 on the 25th of each month. Danette works for the non-profit full-time, but does not receive a salary from the organization. Previously, she worked in insurance and enjoyed her job, but she realized it was time to go all in for LBT. “After losing Aaron, my perspective changed so much,” Danette says. “It shifted to really making sure I focus on what matters right now.”

In addition to LBT, Danette and Matt stay busy with school and sports for their four children: Matt’s two children Jackson and Luke, Danette’s son with Aaron, Evan Neel, and their daughter together, Ainsley. The family loves to support one another and Danette hopes her children learn to help others, whether that’s from serving with Life’s Better Together or other life experiences.

“We really want to raise good humans that love with their whole heart and give back,” Danette says.

“They play sports and we hope they learn valuable lessons about having a great attitude, no matter the circumstance. We always tell them there are only two things you can control: effort and attitude.” And Danette and Matt both practice what they preach with Life’s Better Together and in their personal lives. Exercise is important to the couple and for the last few years, both have hit major goals, in a momentous place: the Grand Canyon.

“Last year, Matt hiked from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other rim and then back with our friend, Dan Klein, who leads groups out there,” Danette says. “So I committed in 2021 to do a hike from one side of the canyon, to a ranch inside the canyon and then back out. We did it and finished 22 miles in 10 hours and 45 minutes and it was so beautiful and surreal. From the moment I got out, all I wanted to do was go back and take my brothers with me next time to experience the canyon.”

Danette’s life is all about service to others and bringing light to dark situations. She believes her biggest role model is someone she has watched her whole life give in big ways, her own mother, Donna White. “She has juggled so much in her life,” Danette says. “She is so steady and calm and she helps me think about things in different ways. She’s just a natural problem solver and can be in the middle of so much, doing so many things, but she’s in the middle smiling. And ever since the beginning, she’s been all in for Life’s Better Together. She’s so strong and I’ve always wanted to be just like her.”

With a life squarely focused on her family, as well as service and giving back to others, Danette is creating a legacy for her own family, as well as for so many others. “I love everything about what we get to do,” Danette says. “Being able to provide a network of support for people is so special, especially for families that are feeling like there is no other option.

With the recent devastation in Bowling Green, we have decided to add a branch of services to our organization specifically designed to assist local families affected by storm damage. We feel our experience in walking alongside families during a crisis can be put to good use as so many are in the process of rebuilding their homes and lives post tornado.”

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