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Start Early Annual Luncheon Brings Together Leaders to Address Maternal Health Crisis & Offers Solutions to Close the Opportunity Gap

Organization celebrated 40 years of making a difference, announced $10 million donation from MacKenzie Scott through Yield Giving Foundation

April 25, 2023
  • Start Early News
  • Press Coverage

CHICAGO – APRIL 25, 2023 – On Tuesday, April 25, Start Early hosted its Annual Luncheon and celebrated 40 years of working to close the opportunity gap through quality early childhood learning and care programs and services. The gathering of business, civic and philanthropic leaders called attention to the critical role of maternal health and investing in services that support the earliest years of a child’s life – before, during and after birth. It was also announced that the organization received a $10 million donation from MacKenzie Scott through her foundation Yield Giving, which provides Start Early a transformative opportunity to broaden its reach and serve more families with critical programs in communities nationwide.

“These funds will allow us to make deliberate investments to broaden Start Early’s impact and help ensure sustainability decades to come, further advancing our commitment to children, families and future generations,” said Start Early President Diana Rauner. “This unsolicited gift also serves as tremendous validation of the hard work and investments of our staff, our board and our philanthropic partners. We hope our guests’ knowledge from this event will trickle out into the community and supplement the work that Start Early is already doing to create a more equitable and respectful level of care for all women, birthing parents and their babies.”

Despite the continued advancements in medical care and technology, the country’s maternal and infant mortality rates are far higher than those in similarly large and industrialized countries. Women of color, especially Black women, experience disproportionate access to maternal health care, putting them at increased risk for poor maternal and infant health outcomes compared to their white peers. As lasting effects of the pandemic set in and new research demonstrates worsening realities for birthing parents, Start Early felt it critical to devote its annual event to address and offer solutions to the maternal health crisis. The program educated attendees about the systemic inequities impacting women of color and elevated innovative solutions for saving lives and improving those first experiences of new parents and their babies.

The program, which took place at Hilton Chicago on 720 S. Michigan Ave., featured an inspiring lineup of stories from educators, parents, corporate leaders and champions for early learning, including strategic advisor for children and youth in King County, Washington, Sheila Capestany. Capestany discussed the maternal health crisis and its root causes, highlighted its devastating data and proposed policy changes necessary for reproductive and health care equity.

Celebrating 40 years of impact, Start Early is a champion for quality early learning and care and has made tremendous strides toward closing the opportunity gap for our youngest learners. From its roots directly serving families and children on Chicago’s South Side and in rural Illinois to its work today impacting early childhood programs and policies nationwide, Start Early’s focus is grounded in the fact that starting early to nurture attachments between children and adults is essential to a child’s present and future well-being.

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