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Start Today. Change Tomorrow. Start Early’s 2024 Annual Luncheon

Start Early President Diana Rauner shares a recap from our Annual Luncheon fundraising event and recognizes those who made this year’s program possible.

Diana Rauner June 27, 2024
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This month, we hosted our 22nd Annual Luncheon at the Westin River North, where we welcomed hundreds of supporters to discuss the life-changing impacts of the first five years of a child’s life. Through powerful conversations and presentations with experts in the field, parents, teachers and Start Early staff, we discussed the need for all children, regardless of their background, to have equitable access to the quality health care, early education and intervention services they need to thrive, from before birth continuing through early childhood.

If you were unable to join us, you can watch a recording of the full program below.

This year’s Luncheon theme Start Today. Change Tomorrow is a powerful reminder of the comprehensive and life-changing impacts of early learning and care on the young learners of today and their futures.

For more than four decades, Start Early has led efforts to close the opportunity gap with a laser focus on the earliest years. There is an enormous transformation that happens in the first 1,000 days of life setting the stage for a baby’s cognitive, social and emotional development.  A child’s brain is growing at an astonishing rate and changing in shape and size in response to the world around them. These early years are critical and lay the foundation to build resilience, agency and hope so all children can realize their full potential.

In our pursuit of sustainable change, Start Early champions equity and embraces innovation to address complex early childhood issues that many families face today – meaningful policy to improve access for children with disabilities, comprehensive supports for children and families who are unhoused and quality health care for parental and maternal mental health – to pave the way for a more equitable and just future.

We are grateful for the tremendous support and generosity of our donors and event sponsors who helped us raise $1.07 million. Every dollar raised helps our young families and sets the stage for them to thrive. You can still show your support by making a donation today.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to our Luncheon Chair James Reynolds, Jr., a leader in Chicago’s business and philanthropic community who shares in our belief that investments in high-quality early education can strengthen families and break the cycle of poverty.

When we come together and invest in early childhood education, we can transform the lives of our future generation.

Our children—and our future—will thank you.

About the Author

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Diana Rauner


Diana Rauner, Ph.D., is president of Start Early, a national nonprofit with over 40 years of experience advancing quality early learning and care to help close the opportunity gap.

More About Diana

2024 Annual Luncheon Sponsors

A special thank you to our corporate and individual sponsors whose commitment to our mission is helping more children reach their full potential.



The Hasten Foundation
Helen Zell



BMO logo DRW logo

Nancy & Steve Crown | The Crown Family
Diana & Bruce Rauner



Joyce Foundation logo Oberhelman Foundation & Cullinan Properties, 2023 Annual Luncheon Sponsor
Peoples Gas, 2023 Annual Luncheon Sponsor Related Midwest, 2023 Annual Luncheon Sponsor

Tom Gimbel
Cari & Michael J. Sacks
Diana & Michael Sands



Allstate Insurance Company
Noelle C. Brock, Brock Family Foundation
Kerri & Matthew Bruderman
Buffett Early Childhood Fund
Dave & Jane Casper
CME Group Foundation
Mary & Terry Dillon
Marilyn & Larry Fields
GCM Grosvenor
Cabray Haines & David Kiley
Harris Family Foundation
The Malkin Family
Charles & Brunetta Matthews
Northern Trust
Port Capital LLC
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Jeanne Rogers & Perry Sainati

Catherine Siegel
Linda & Michael Simon
Steans Family Foundation
Sunshine Charitable Foundation
Laura Thonn & Scott Sallee
Wilson/Garling Foundation



Ellen Alberding & Kelly Welsh
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Susan & Stephen Baird
Jimmy & Eleni Bousis
Sarah Bradley & Paul Metzger
John & Jacolyn Bucksbaum Family Foundation
the Chicago Bulls
Erikson Institute
Mr. & Mrs. Rodney L. Goldstein
Rachel & Devin Gross
Maxwell Gunnill
J.P. Morgan Private Bank
Learning Resources
Ron Levin/Goldman Sachs
Elaine & Donald Levinson
Sharon Oberlander
Barbara & Dan O’Keefe
Plante Moran
Isabel & Charles Polsky
Rothkopf Family Charitable Foundation
Halee Sage & David Friedman
Shah Family Trust
Cheryl & Craig Simon
Sterling Bay
Ken & Kathy Tallering
Anne & John Tuohy
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

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