Barbara Unell

Barbara Unell, Ripple of Kindness Finalist

Barbara C. Unell

2024 Ripple of Kindness Winner

Barbara Unell, entrepreneur, author, adjunct professor, and parenting/health educator

A devoted mother and G’Ma, Barbara is an entrepreneur, author, adjunct professor, and parenting/health educator promoting social justice and healthy living through her multi-faceted approach to developing innovative community-based programs, multi-media communications, including Kid’s Stuff, TWINS Magazine, Caring ParentSafety Net, LEAP, Kansas City Parent, and Friday Mornings; and 18 books, including Discipline without Shouting or Spanking, co-authored by Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.D., and translated into 27 languages, with over a million copies sold worldwide.

For more than 40 years, Barbara has been committed to the emotional value of written communication and the positive difference it can make in people’s lives. She wrote her first book with her best friend when they were 8 years old—Barbara Coleman’s and Barbara Beeson’s New Word Dictionary—a foreshadowing of 18 more books that she would be fortunate to author. During these years, she also treasured precious relationships with mentors and heroes, researchers and fellow journalists, and friends who have entrusted her to help people nurture their relationships and translate scientific research into experiential learning programs and more.

As a lover of learning and a curious problem-solver beginning in childhood and throughout her career, Barbara has always taken every underreported story as a personal challenge. Over 20 years ago, when she discovered game-changing scientific breakthroughs about preventing cancer recurrence and improving quality of life after cancer…. and data about how to enrich our lives to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease…and research about ways to prevent and lower the risk of children’s lifelong health, learning, and behavior problems, it was impossible for her to walk away. She told herself: The “people” have to know this life-changing news!

This desire to inform and educate the public about this settled science resulted in her being part of the team who co-developed the “Baby Buffer” website through a 2013 grant to the Kansas Chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics from the national nonprofit organization, The American Academy of Pediatrics. 

And, likewise, Barbara’s passion for “taking this knowledge to the people” led her to navigate uncharted waters in 2015. That year, she collaborated with a dedicated team from The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center to co-develop and edit the first guide to “LEAP”—Lifestyle Enrichment for Alzheimer’s Prevention—smart aging workshop series.

Over the past 25 years, she has joyfully been committed to launching and leading two novel grassroots nonprofit organizations, Back in the Swing (www.BackintheSwing.org) and The Raised with Love and Limits Foundation, (www.behaviorchecker.org); each energized by the urgent need to communicate the game-changing facts noted above. It is in her work with brilliant and passionate people, and collaborations with partner organizations, that she has been able to co-create and co-implement innovative tools to spread these evidence-based messages that have been scientifically demonstrated to systemically (and joyfully!) change people’s lives for the better. She is grateful for the privilege to be able to follow her passion.

Barbara is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and has combined her passion for activism and innovation with her degrees in psychology and journalism. She utilizes a collaborative, consumer-based approach in partnering with local and national organizations. In so doing, the innovative projects she fosters are designed to fill a gap and solve problems, all to serve the greater good. These entrepreneurial ventures are designed to lead to permanent, personalized, and practical solutions that become systemic to organizations, filling a gap and meeting a need in more effective and efficient ways to foster positive family relationships and physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Barbara works to translate science into new ways to prevent health, learning, and behavior problems through accessing practical “tools we can use”.

In 1997, Barbara opened the Daniel L. Brenner Family Education Center, to honor the legacy of her uncle and mentor, the distinguished judge and lawyer Daniel L. Brenner, her role model of philanthropy, family support, and lifelong learning. The Center’s signature character-building program, “Uncle Dan’s Report Card”, (www.UncleDansReportCard.org is based around her uncle’s actual 1914 Kansas City, Kansas elementary school report card.

Barbara C. Unell Full Bio