Erikson raises more than $1 million at annual luncheon

More than 540 friends of the Erikson Institute came together in October to celebrate the impact we are making here and across the globe to improve the lives of young children.

At the second annual Children at the Forefront luncheon, leaders from Chicago’s civic, business, and early childhood communities joined our extended Erikson family to rally around our work that for nearly 50 years has influenced best practice in the early childhood field.

The event helped raise more than $1 million to support our expanding efforts to improve the lives of young children and their families through education, research, service, and advocacy.

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“It’s only when we all speak up and speak out on behalf of young children and the early childhood experience that we are truly able to keep children at the forefront,” Erikson President and Chief Executive Officer Geoffrey Nagle said to guests.

“Erikson can’t do this alone. Together, we will make a great impact,”

Michelle L. Collins, Erikson’s board chair, welcomed all to the mid-day gathering, which was co-chaired by trustees Sabrina Gracias, Cari Sacks, and Sandy Sterling.

A special moment in came when Barbara Bowman, one of Erikson’s founders and the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development, introduced her former student and longtime friend Carol Brunson Day, who received the Spirit of Erikson Institute Award for her contributions to early childhood.

Bowman fondly described her former student as a “spirited young woman who was determined to change the world.”

“I was fortunate to find Erikson Institute,” said Day, whose career now places her in a leadership role for more than 70,000 early childhood professionals as President of the National Association for Young Children. “I felt the impact of how it feels to have a wonderful childhood,” Day told luncheon guests. “I have always felt greatly rewarded by the experience, but more than the experience…Erikson has been a critical support for me all these years.”

A few years after she graduated, Day said she was invited to give a college lecture that was announced with her photograph in a local newspaper. She sent the clipping to her alma mater with this note:

Dear Erikson Institute,
See Carol.
See Carol work.

What she received back, she said, today hangs over her desk:

Dear Carol,
We saw.
We saw Carol.
We like what we saw.
Isn’t that college lucky?
Isn’t Erikson Institute smart?

Love,
Barbara Bowman

The neurological development of social emotional skills in lives of young children and adults, such as gratitude, kindness, mindfulness were the themes touched upon by keynote speaker Professor Richard Davidson, the William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and founder of the Center for Investigating Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Chicago-Madison.

“Well-being is a skill,” Professor Davidson said, noting that there is benefit when it is practiced, similar to how we practice sports. Just one day of meditation, he said, can make positive changes in the brain.

“We are highly influenced by experience,” Professor Davidson told the luncheon guests, adding that this includes the expression of our genes.
“The way an infant is treated by parents will directly influence how children develop.” Davidson said.

“Why is it that certain children, as well as adults, when they face life’s slings and arrows are vulnerable and why others are resilient?” Davidson asked, noting evidence of the benefit focusing on non-cognitive (better to use social-emotional because even those require brain work) skills in the younger years.

The generosity of attendees was enhanced with a challenge grant from the Sun-Times Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust.

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