Get to know Kevin & Arvy
I’m Kevin Barnett, co-founder/director of CoolxDad, and I'm originally from New York City -- Brooklyn, to be exact. My history and my today are all about working to make something better for myself and my family -- and that work is present in what CoolxDad is aiming to improve the health of the American household.
I grew up fast as a kid. As the child of a single mother, living in a single-parent household, I knew early what I didn’t want to come of my life, namely because I didn’t have my dad in the house. Sure, we’d talk from time to time, and he’d tell me that he was going to come for me, but oftentimes, I was left alone, waiting. And, I knew the pain of my mom seeing me in pain was enough to make her feel worse about all of the broken promises, so I masked my truest and deepest feelings. Stoic, stone-faced, I didn’t let on that those missed times when I wanted him to come and spend time with me affected me much at all. But, I wanted my father. I wanted my dad.
I made it out into the world, though. I went to school, college, graduated, and made something of myself. I held good jobs, made good relationships with friends and VIPs, and ended up using that grit from having to make some way out of what felt like no way into becoming an entrepreneur, a businessman, working with some of the most esteemed clients in the entertainment business. My work took me from New York to Atlanta and to Houston, but in my journey along those stops, I was still searching for peace and reconciliation in my life. I still wanted to have union with my father.
Along the way, as I was continuing on in my career, I met Arvy Lim. We were competing for the same job, but out of that competition, we became colleagues, and then friends. From our friendship, we began to share our worlds with one another, and I soon learned that the same void that I had felt in relation to lacking a close relationship with my father is something that he too had been feeling. Friendship became kinship.
Soon, I found the woman who would become the love of my life and I became a father and a husband, and my entire world began to change drastically. I found that I could start having the conversations about how I felt about myself and what I wanted out of life. I could be vulnerable. I could explore the factors in my life that had informed me of who I was, and I began to see that all the things that I was pursuing, in the end, led me back to the desire to provide for my family in ways that they would never have to lack for anything. That my family would always have each other and be loved and have their needs abundantly met, both materially and immaterially. Between conversations with Arvy and my wife, I learned to look reality square in the face and see where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do next.
All of this came to my vision of building a community of fathers and father figures that would be able to change the epidemic of fatherlessness in America’s households. So that someone like my child wouldn’t go through what I went through. So that another mother wouldn’t go through what I went through. So that someone like my brother from another mother, Arvy, wouldn’t go through what he went through. We came together to make CoolxDad a vehicle of love to encourage fathers who are in absentia to be present with their offspring, and, to bring father figures who are parenting their children even closer to their flock at home.
CoolxDad isn’t just about me -- it’s about everyone who needs a father in their life to have the unique love that only a father figure can provide. CoolxDad is about abundant provision.
I’m Arvy Lim, co-founder/director of CoolxDad. I’ve lived in Houston, Texas for the vast majority of my life, but came to the United States as an immigrant from the Philippines, as a native of a city named Iloilo.
CoolxDad is a personal expression of my desire to both serve children all across this country and to leave a legacy for my children and my children’s children -- a life story that my family can be proud of when they remember my life in the future.
When they say “it takes a village to raise a child,” it’s a literal translation of my life growing up. My parents left the Philippines to make a better life for me, my older brother, and little sister, but I didn’t really get to know them for the first eight years of my own life. As they worked to earn enough money here in America to send for me and my siblings, I was left in the care of my grandparents, and other extended family members who loved on me and gave me a great sense of belonging in their own expressions of love.
That all being said, when I finally came to the United States at age 8, I was totally a fish out of water. I didn’t know my parents all that well, and that was tough. Being an international kid is tough enough, and then my parents, my older brother, and I all had growing pains in becoming a nuclear family, really for the first time. And, though I obviously loved my family, it took some getting used to the fact that I had to learn who my parents really were as people in a domestic capacity. They believed in different things and felt certain ways about the world that I didn’t particularly agree with, and so, growing up as a teenager with them was difficult at times. But, we all were just doing our best.
Getting through middle school and into high school, I made sure I had a community outside of my home, so popularity was a big deal for me. I was friends with everyone, with kids from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures, and being Filipino I’m sure made me stand out a little bit more. I was a triple-sport athlete, voted “Best Dressed”, and people liked me. I had a girlfriend and began a relationship that feels like it came out of a story book -- we were prom king and queen, and that same queen eventually became my wife and the mother of my two children today.
In all this, however, I learned some powerful lessons about life that stirred me early. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have my parents in the first eight years of my life living in the Philippines, or that I’m an immigrant. I learned through the death of a high school classmate that life can quite literally be here with you and leave you in an instant. I learned that people that you love will staunchly disagree with you if you don’t fit into their cultural standards for what is appropriate as a ‘good Filipino’. I learned that I can’t take my mortality for granted and that it’s easy for a child to have a difficult time when their parents aren’t present. These are all just a few of the lessons I learned.
CoolxDad is about family. It’s about diversity and empowering underserved communities. It’s about making families safe and secure. CoolxDad is about seeing the future and breaking generational curses today. CoolxDad is about fathers living up to their potential.
Through Kevin, the future of CoolxDad is limitless, and I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d want to build this organization. Kevin is a real brother who pushes me, and someone for whom I have high respect. This thing is special, and I know that through our own sharing of lived experiences and through our shared story of ups & downs and lessons & hard knocks, CoolxDad is the vehicle through which we can serve the world and make an impact on families both near and far & wide.
CoolxDad is about relationships.