For nearly five decades, Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM) has raised more than $23 million for various Evanston and Chicago-area charities. Next year, students will lace up their shoes and dance the night away March 3-5 to raise vital funds for Little Heroes League, NUDM’s primary beneficiary for 2023. The nonprofit organization provides care coordination services to the most medically complex babies born in Chicagoland.
“Given the current healthcare system, it is very difficult for families to be able to afford quality care, even for those who do have health insurance. Little Heroes League ensures that these families are supported in having care coordination services, which is why NUDM is so proud to partner with them,” said Amy Fan, one of the NUDM 2023 executive co-chairs. “Alleviating the financial burden for care coordination is huge and gives families security in knowing that their children are receiving the best care, leading to the best possible outcomes.”
Little Heroes League’s care coordinators act as a “quarterback,” managing the medical and social services that ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and their families. The organization provides streamlined care in both the inpatient and outpatient settings, resulting in earlier discharge from the hospital and lessened readmission rates.
“Our goal is to get all medically complex kids home,” said Little Heroes League Executive Director Brenden Etue. “As we went through the journey with our medically complex daughter, Livi, it was very quickly apparent to us that there was a big gap in care for children like her. It was left to my wife and me to manage Livi’s care both outside and inside the hospital, where you would assume there’s a care coordinator or someone in charge. The reality is, there’s not, at least not without our philanthropy.”
Helping babies and their families thrive
Beginning with inpatient care while the child is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), care coordinators with Little Heroes League act as a single point of contact between the family and the various care providers in the hospital. They help organize clinical activities, procedures and care conferences with multiple specialists. Coordinators also connect with non-clinical hospital support, such as social workers and child life specialists.
Not only do the care coordinators prepare Little Hero families for discharge, but they also administer services in the outpatient setting. After the Little Hero’s homecoming, the care coordinators help schedule and attend appointments, identify community and government resources, and administer at-home assistance when necessary.
Little Heroes League works to provide care coordination to underserved families with extensive medical expenses. About 90% of Little Hero families are on Medicaid, and therefore, significantly benefit from the free and high-quality care services.
Expanding the program’s reach
NUDM’s financial donations will help Little Heroes League further develop and expand their services to more families across the Chicagoland area and beyond. The NUDM grant will directly go towards funding an additional care coordinator for Little Heroes League, who will be able to serve up to 30 new babies per year.
“We are so thrilled about this, and it will ensure that we are going to maintain this program for years to come,” Etue said. “We’re always looking for ways to expose this gap in care coordination services to more people, so that they understand why the service is needed and why our philanthropy makes sure that these kids and their families achieve their best lives.”
The beneficiary reveal event on June 3, 2022, was sponsored by Cottingham & Butler, the 25th largest insurance brokerage in the U.S., and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, the top-ranked children’s hospital in Illinois and one of the top-ranked in the nation.
“Lurie Children’s has been a proud partner since [Little Heroes League’s] inception, and we are excited for the impact that this generous gift will have on the lives of all the Little Heroes,” said Brian Stahulak, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Lurie Children’s Hospital.
The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) will serve as NUDM’s secondary beneficiary for its 26th consecutive year. ECF ensures that Evanston thrives by funding local grants to deserving individuals, families and organizations.
The 49th annual NUDM will be held March 3-5, 2023, on the Norris University Center East Lawn. NUDM is one of the largest independent student-run philanthropies in the country, raising more than $23 million for more than 30 different charities.