Photo of English Channel by Kurt Stepnitz
Founder and CEO
The idea of BARDEUM started with a swim across the English Channel. In 2012, I was training as part of a six-woman relay team to swim a double crossing of the English Channel (from England to France and back again) to raise money and awareness for ALS/MND (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Four months before our swim, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
Over the next 7 months I underwent surgery to remove the tumor; endured 16 weeks of chemotherapy; swam to France and back again - setting a new world record and raising over $120,000 for ALS research; had six weeks of daily radiation; and then… a routine CT reported an “incidental” finding of a brain aneurysm. I underwent a craniotomy to clip the aneurysm (48 staples); which per my neurosurgeon appeared ready to burst. So, ultimately, in a bizarre twist of fate, breast cancer saved my life.
It became crystal clear how quickly life can change. My husband and I decided we would no longer put off the things we always wanted to do. Our family began to travel. We went to dream destinations and checked the well-known tourist sites and museums off our list.
Unfortunately, we were sometimes underwhelmed by the experience. At historical sites like the Roman Forum, it was often difficult to distinguish one standing column or pile of rubble from another and at museums the paintings soon began to all look the same. Every so often, we would come across a wonderful tour guide who gave us a glimpse into what we were truly seeing. But tours can be expensive, difficult to find availability or fit into a time schedule. And, surprisingly, sometimes the guide gave inaccurate information.
To better prepare, I began doing research before we left on our trips. We soon realized the vast difference a little bit of knowledge made in our own experiences. Putting a place in context with fascinating events of the past allowed our family to see these sites in an entirely new way.
I began telling stories to my husband and children about real historical figures who had walked on the exact same spot of ground they were standing. We spent time trying to imagine what it would have been like to have witnessed those events: to sneak through those secret passageways at the Palazzo Vecchio and share state secrets with the Grand Duke of Tuscany; to be at the Doge’s Palace in Venice on the day Casanova escaped; or to stand side-by-side with Leonardo da Vinci as he crafted one of his masterpieces.
I realized that education given through entertainment (quality storytelling) was the key to making these experiences informative, valuable and satisfying. And the spark for BARDEUM was ignited…