Kye Gardner was born and raised in southeast Idaho, a land of soaring mountains and active wildlife. But for many, the pursuit of adventure turned dark; crystal meth and opioids were embedded in the community. The drug even wormed its way into Kye’s family. “I only knew that my family had become more distant in some areas, and I found myself alone quite a lot,” Kye said. “I wished for something better for all of us.”
Unfortunately, this problem wasn’t a central theme of conversations at that time or in that place. But the struggle with drugs and the lack of open dialogue did something good for young Kye – it forged a deep interest in finding solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. It shaped an enduring interest in healthcare and a commitment to helping others through a local youth coalition.
Middle school for Kye brought a move to Wilmington, North Carolina, where they continued to be involved with community service, including the Cape Fear Coalition for Drug Free Tomorrow. Conversations here were more open. Kye, their friends, peers, and mentors talked about a myriad of health issues and how they converged in the lives of those who struggled. Kye learned even more valuable information through community involvement and conferences, but drugs continued to impact their life. Kye’s brother struggled with an addiction to opioids and heroine, and they eventually lost them this year amid the Coronavirus pandemic as overdoses skyrocketed.
In the heat of Kye’s learning and tumultuous family dynamics, which were tightly intertwined, they were mentored by a professor in Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. With that guidance, Kye was able to see – and shape – personal struggles and professional interests and take more deliberate steps toward a meaningful future for themselves and the whole community. “Losing my brother and my mom’s recent cancer diagnosis made my path very clear; I wanted to use my experience and my passion to make a difference in others’ lives,” Kye said.
Blaze Advisors offered Kye the opportunity to apply those life experiences and interests to help close the gap between behavioral health providers, primary care providers and community hospitals. Kye is now contributing to the success of Blaze through day to day operations of the company and projects, coordinating the company’s presence at virtual conferences, assisting on the Blaze website and social media, and helping to sort, configure, and manage data for the benefit of clients and the people served.
Outside of work, Kye enjoys gaming and rebuilding PCs, watching their favorite movies and TV series (with a bent toward Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror), listening to music, and providing their own creative spin on things. Kye’s three rescue cats aren’t always appreciative of being volunteered to dance and sing together.
Kye spends a lot of time caring for their mother, who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Lung Cancer. But with this new challenge, Kye is older, wiser, and better prepared for the road ahead.
“I am very grateful that my personal and professional lives have been so carefully woven together to channel passion and commitment in the same positive direction,” Kye said.
“Kye is a great addition to the team. We didn’t realize how much we needed Kye until they arrived and provided the glue!” said Kathy Smith, chief operating officer. “Welcome, Kye!”