A New Name for a New Reality: The Ounce is Now Start Early Read More

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Fundraising Event

Virtual Annual Luncheon

April 22, 2021

12 – 12:45 p.m. CT
Join us for a virtual, complimentary program of inspiring stories that speak to the transformational power of starting early.

Join us for a virtual celebration of the transformational power of starting early through inspiring stories from families, educators, corporate leaders and early learning advocates.

This year’s complimentary program will demonstrate the lasting impact that early learning can have on molding the future of our youngest children and confirm that starting early matters to all families — regardless of race, background, geography or income. We hope our virtual 2021 Luncheon acts as a reminder that when we come together and invest in early childhood education, we can transform the lives of our future generation.

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Our Event Program

Start Early &

Preview our inspiring lineup of speakers and hear their encouraging stories on the power of early learning.

Start Early & the Importance of the First Five Years

Michelle Obama headshot_Start Early branded

From the earliest moments of Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s life, her mother instilled in her a love of reading and the importance of education. Over time, it has become more and more evident to Mrs. Obama that much of her success is thanks to her earliest teachers… her parents. Hear how the first five years continue to be a priority focus of Mrs. Obama’s.

Start Early & Empower Fathers to be Their Child’s First Teacher

Clinton Boyd Jr._Start Early branded

In Dr. Clinton Boyd Jr.’s work, and as a father himself, he continues to see that African American fathers have a unique opportunity to influence the trajectory of early childhood development in their communities. Yet, he also sees that all too often, policies and programs overlook the unique needs of young parents in the Black community.  Hear how Clinton believes we can make systematic change that supports fathers and promotes positive parenting practices.

Start Early & Create Powerful Teacher-Parent Partnerships

Michelle Morris_Start Early branded

Just a year ago, the doors of Michelle’s school closed unexpectedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupting her and her colleagues’ ability to deliver learning experiences to their students and their families. Michelle immediately recognized that remote instruction was going to be a challenge for parents. Hear how she and her team developed creative solutions to stay connected to parents and support their new, unfamiliar roles in the home.

Start Early & Celebrate the Differences That Make Us Unique

Danielle Jordan headshot_Start Early branded

For Danielle, the ongoing pandemic and last year’s racial unrest was an opportunity to bring joy and wonder into the homes of her young students, while also supporting their social emotional development. Hear how Danielle brought diversity, inclusion and equity into the early childhood classroom with activities that helped her students celebrate and develop confidence in their personal and social identities, while also engaging families to help their children process their emotions and understanding of what was happening in the world. 

Start Early & Every Child Can Reach Their Full Potential 

Diana Rauner headshot_Start Early branded

With a passion for children and expertise as a developmental psychologist, Diana knew the critical role the first five years play in a child’s development would make young children, among the most vulnerable during the pandemic. She also worried our fragmented system of early learning and care — where every parent on their own and caregivers are underpaid and undervalued — meant families would struggle to find high-quality care for their children. Hear what motivates Diana to continue advocating for our youngest learners and how we can emerge from the pandemic with a stronger, more equitable early childhood system that ensures all children can reach their full potential.

Start Early & Rebuild Child Care Systems That Transform Lives 

Diana Sands headshot_Start Early branded

Diana’s commitment to helping all children and families access quality early education began with her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. to attend graduate school and to provide Diana and her brother with a good education from their earliest years. Diana will share her experience and why starting early is one of the most effective and important investments we can make.

Start Early & Demonstrate the Power of Early Learning

Kelly King Dibble headshot_Start Early branded

From our roots directly serving families and children on Chicago’s South Side and in rural Illinois, Start Early and board members like Kelly have always stood with children and families who have faced the trauma of discrimination, food, and financial instability and community unrest. As COVID-19 magnified existing inequalities and stressors for children and families, early learning leaders responded to their immediate needs with examples of innovation, heroism and resilience. Kelly will share examples of strength and dedication that reinforce how critical early learning and care is for our youngest learners, especially in the first five years.

Each year, our Annual Luncheon is made possible by our generous Luncheon Chairs, who provide thoughtful guidance, fundraising support and audience building opportunities. Thank you to Diana and Kelly for their leadership and commitment to the 2021 Start Early Annual Luncheon.

The unparalleled challenges of the last year have put a spotlight on the inequities so many children and families face every day - especially those living in communities left under-resourced by decades of historical and institutional racism. Our youngest children urgently need our help – we have an ambitious goal to raise $1.2 million by April 22.

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It’s Good Business to Invest in Young Children

When we come together and invest in early childhood education, we can transform the lives of our future generation. Learn about our Annual Luncheon sponsorship opportunities and benefits.

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Thank You to Our Generous 2021 Annual Luncheon Sponsors!



LaSalle Network logo Zell Family Foundation text treatment



BMO Harris Bank logo Peoples Gas logo Related Midwest logo

Nancy & Steve Crown
The Crown Family
The Hasten Foundation
Diana & Bruce Rauner



Satter Foundation logo

Doug & Diane Oberhelman
Diana & Michael Sands
Catherine Siegel



Susan & Stephen Baird
The Boeing Company
Noelle C. Brock
Brock Family Foundation
Buffett Early Childhood Fund
Marilyn & Larry Fields
Mr. & Mrs. Rodney L. Goldstein
Cabray Haines & David Kiley
Harris Family Foundation

Linda & Bill Friend
Caryn & King Harris
Stephanie & John Harris
Toni & Dr. Ronald Paul
Pam Friend Szokol

The Malkin Family
Alexandra C. & John D. Nichols
Nicor Gas
Northern Trust
Julie & Brian Simmons
Sunshine Charitable Foundation
Ulta Beauty
Wilson Garling Foundation







Alberding Family Foundation
Jessie & Nick Alberding
Ellen Alberding & Kelly Welsh
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s
Hospital of Chicago
Boston Consulting Group
Jimmy & Eleni Bousis
Sarah Bradley & Paul Metzger
Joan & Bill Brodsky
The Burns & McDonnell Foundation
Dana Hirt Parenting
DiMeo Schneider & Associates, L.L.C.
Terri & Bob DiMeo
Erikson Institute
Vicki Escarra
Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation
Fifth Third Bank


Maxwell Gunnill
Irving Harris Foundation
J.P. Morgan Private Bank
Justine Jentes & Daniel Kuruna
Gerri & David Kahnweiler
Sandy & Andrew Killion
Learning Resources
Elaine & Donald Levinson
Sharon Oberlander
Plante Moran
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Cheryl & Craig Simon
Ken & Kathy Tallering
Anne & John Tuohy
Susan & Robert Wislow
Zebra Technologies