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Alicechandra Fritz

Tireless advocate wins PEPS spirit award

Fritz's at the Sounders Game
Alicechandra at a recent Sounders game with her husband Jeff and son

PEPS big kids in the snow
Five of the six “big kids” from Alicechandra's PEPS Group on a recent trip to Leavenworth

Fritz's PEPS group
Alicechandra's PEPS Group photo; [clockwise] Anya (purple shirt), Cora, Amelia, Liam, Luca, and Benjamin

Alicechandra Fritz believes in the power of PEPS. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, she says her PEPS group was “like a second family.”

Her son, Liam, was two, and her group was still meeting every other week. She remembers one Highs and Lows discussion when she was talking about the tough decisions she had to make, and one of the more reserved members of her group crossed the room to give her a much-needed hug.

Her group also made meals and offered play dates for her family after surgery and while she was undergoing radiation treatment. One couple from her group cared for her son while she was in surgery. They picked Liam up from daycare, fed him dinner and got him ready for bed, allowing her husband, Jeff Hazeltine, to stay with her until she was out of recovery.

“It was so comforting to have people who have become like family to watch my son when I was in surgery,” Fritz said. “I don’t feel super-confident that we would have been in such a good place personally without our PEPS group.”

Her group has been there for each other during good times and bad, Fritz said. They take a camping trip together every summer, and all went to Leavenworth this winter and they hope to do that again every year as well.

They made meals for each other when second babies were born and supported each other through health scares and job changes. One couple from the group has divorced, but both people still attend their PEPS meetings.

“That’s the power of PEPS,” Fritz said.

Fritz, a Senior Manager with Deloitte Consulting, has worked hard to give back to PEPS. She volunteered as a group leader and served for several years on the PEPS board, including as president.

She is a winner of the 2012 Spirit of PEPS award, given to volunteers who provide outstanding service to PEPS.

“Alicechandra’s passion for our mission and the countless hours she has given to our work has contributed to the growth of our organization and to the health of new parents and families in a way that is immeasurable,” said PEPS Executive Director LB Kussick. “She has been, and always will be, an inspiration to all of us at PEPS.”

Fellow group members describe her as a “tireless advocate” for PEPS, spreading the word about the organization, filling at least one table at the annual luncheon and convincing others to attend PEPS lectures and PEPSapalooza, the annual summer concert.

Several group members say her organization skills are a big part of why her own group is still meeting so regularly, as she sends out a calendar six months in advance, managing to juggle the schedules of six busy families.

She “has been the hub of our PEPS group,” Chris Lodwig, who also served with Fritz on the board, writes in an email nominating Fritz for the award.

Christina Fong, another member of Fritz’ group, said Fritz was her role model in deciding to volunteer, and has been a strong supporter of PEPS and her fellow group members.

“Alicechandra and her family support us in so many ways— from babysitting our hermit crabs when we go on vacation, to serving as our kids’ emergency contacts, to taking the kids for playdates,” Fong said in a nominating email.

Fritz wants to make PEPS a better program for everyone participating. In 2011, she and fellow board member Sarah Makar led a strategic planning effort along with Executive Director Laura Kussick, then-president Adrianne Keffeler and former board member Baird Johnson.

One of the goals of the plan was growing PEPS’ base. The team took a hard look at criticisms that PEPS hasn’t done enough to serve at-risk families. Fritz said they came to the conclusion that every parent is at-risk without a support network like PEPS in their lives.

“It helped us say that we want to serve as many parents as possible, regardless of age, income or economic status” Fritz said.

Instead, Fritz said, the focus should be on educating as many families as possible about the benefits of PEPS, relying in part on the strength of word-of-mouth from existing families, but also through marketing and communications programs. Like the designated “Outreach Ambassadors” who go out into the community and talk about PEPS—in places like doctors’ offices, and a recent parents event held at the University Village shopping center.

She said the planning effort also helped change the way the organization’s board members evangelize PEPS. Each now carries a stack of cards in their wallets with information about the organization, and they pass them along to pregnant mothers and new parents.

Fritz recently gave her own sister-in-law a PEPS membership as a baby shower gift— along with a pedicure.

The strategic plan also tackled the issues of making PEPS affordable for as many families as possible while also ensuring the long-term viability of the program; revamping the PEPS curriculum and improving the initial customer experience. Fritz said it can be confusing for exhausted new parents who aren’t sure when their group will meet or if they have even been assigned to a group, and that the PEPS team has made improvements to make sure that early communication is clearer.

Fritz said she appreciates the award, but that she couldn’t have done any of it without the support of her own PEPS group, her husband and the rest of the PEPS board and employees.

At a recent Moms Night Out, the moms in Fritz’ group were talking about their feelings about their kids starting Kindergarten this year. One of the moms suggested they should all meet up after first day drop-off for Bloody Marys and Mimosas.

“We’re all going to put that on the calendar,” Fritz said. “Brunch with beverages with the PEPS group.”

Fritz is one of three winners of the 2012 Spirit of PEPS award. The other two winners will be featured in upcoming newsletters.

About the Author

Shawna GamacheShawna Gamache is a former newspaper reporter and co-founder of the local blog Moms Alive. She is mama to Ruby, 22 months, and Quinn, 3. Her PEPS group still meets every other week.

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