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

CHICAGO, April 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — 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 will provide 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 continue to broaden Start Early’s impact and help ensure long-term sustainability for 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. As our event speakers made clear, there is much more work to be done, and the Start Early team is prepared to build on what is being done today to ensure all families have access to programs and services that they need to thrive.”

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 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. and was co-chaired by Start Early Board Members Sam Yagan, co-founder and managing director of Corazon Capital, and Suk Shah, chief executive officer of The Monarch Collective, featured an inspiring lineup of stories from educators, parents, corporate leaders and champions for early learning. Particularly, strategic advisor for children and youth in King County, Washington, Sheila 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.

More information on Start Early is available at

About Start Early
Start Early (formerly known as the Ounce of Prevention) is a nonprofit public-private partnership advancing quality early learning and care for families with children, before birth through their earliest years, to help close the opportunity gap. For 40 years, Start Early has delivered best-in-class doula, home visiting, and Early Head Start and Head Start programs. Bringing expertise in program delivery, research and evaluation, professional development, and policy and advocacy, Start Early works in partnership with communities and other experts to drive systemic change so millions more children, families and educators can thrive. Learn more at



SOURCE Start Early