VB Gives Back


Penny's Flight Foundation

When Kate Doerge’s daughter Penny was four months old, she rolled off her parents' bed and broke her leg. The injury led to a diagnosis of congenital pseudarthrosis, which is associated with neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that affects how nerve cells form and grow. From the very beginning, the Doerges chose to respond with positivity and joy—starting with bedazzling Penny’s cast. Later, when NF caused the glioblastomas that ultimately took her life at age 16, Penny made sure to schedule treatments around birthday parties and family vacations.

“Penny had seven leg surgeries and seven brain surgeries. She wore a leg brace every day of her life,” says Kate. “Through all of that, she maintained her big, bright smile and never complained. It’s crazy to look back on because this girl went through so much.”

Penny’s Flight Foundation is an extension of that choice, and a celebration of the way Penny lived her life. Founded only a few weeks after Penny’s passing, the nonprofit is on a mission to make much-needed advances in NF research and to inspire others to find beauty in imperfection, positivity in the face of challenge, and faith over fear.


“She was the brightest light with the biggest heart.”


Penny’s positivity inspired everyone around her, including Veronica Swanson Beard and Veronica Miele Beard, who are longtime friends of Kate’s. “We are so proud to support this incredible cause and our friend Kate Doerge in her mission to end NF,” they say. “We hope you’ll join us.”  

As part of our VB Gives Back partnership, a portion of each and every veronicabeard.com/en-ee order through the end of June will benefit Penny’s Flight Foundation. And to kick off the partnership, we’re donating $50 from each Penny loafer sold in April to this incredible cause.

Why This Matters

NF is the most common single-gene disorder in humans, occurring in one in 2,000 births worldwide. It’s also chronically underfunded. One reason may be that the disease manifests so differently from patient to patient. While some people never know they have NF, others have debilitating and life-threatening symptoms. There is no known cure.

For most of Penny’s life, the Doerges focused on her main symptom, congenital pseudarthrosis, a bone disorder that caused her body to think there should be a joint in the middle of her tibia. Later, they turned their attention to the glioblastomas. Many of their friends didn’t even realize Penny had NF.

It was only after Penny passed that the family realized they needed to focus their efforts at the top of the funnel, and they quickly educated themselves on NF. “Most NF families can relate to what we went
through, which is to just focus on what is at hand,” says Kate. “Launching the foundation, we decided that we’ve got to find a cure for NF. No child should have to go through this.”

How Your Donations Help

Founded in late 2022, Penny’s Flight has since raised over $2.5 million for much-needed scientific research to find a cure for NF. In partnership with the Robert I Schattner Foundation, they have funded a $1.1 million project at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory that will do novel research on the relationship between immune cells, nerve cells, and NF related tumor cells. They are also sponsoring the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s (CTF) research on the use of skeletal stem cells in conjunction with MEK inhibitors to correct the effects of NF-related bone conditions such as congenital pseudarthrosis.

Another priority for foundation is the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Penny Doerge Adaptive Academy (PDAA), a program allowing individuals with acute physical challenges to participate in a wide variety of sports and activities. Penny was a longtime patient at the hospital, and “her resiliency, positivity and courageousness are all qualities that the Academy works to promote in its participants,” says Kate.

How To Get Involved

While medical research is a large focus for Penny’s Flight, the foundation is also committed to spreading the joy, positivity and inclusivity that Penny demonstrated throughout her life. After the Doerges launched the foundation with 10 pop-up events at nearby schools, people started
reaching out to Kate to host events like Pucks for Penny, Painting for Penny, Pizza for Penny and Puppy Yoga for Penny. In March of 2023, Veronica Beard held a shop-for-a-cause event at New York’s UBS Arena, home of the Islanders hockey team.

Eventually, students began launching chapters of Penny’s Flight at high schools and colleges across the country. The events they host are not only fundraisers, but vehicles to encourage community and positivity. Ultimately, Kate says, “The theme is bringing people together.”

Keep an eye out for events benefiting Penny’s Flight at your local Veronica Beard store during the month of April!

From now to the end of June, we will donate a portion of proceeds from every single veronicabeard.com/en-ee order to Penny's Flight Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to funding research of neurofibromatosis and celebrating the life of Penny Doerge.