What is Rae Strong?

Our History

Unbeknownst to Daniel Friend and Lorelee Smith, June 5th, 2016 became an unimaginable day for them both. Daughter, Rae Analyn Friend was born at 24 weeks, which classifies her as a micro preemie. A micro-preemie is a baby born weighing less than 1 pound, 12 ounces or before 26 weeks gestation.  “Unimaginable” is a word that encompasses an array of emotions experienced over the 115 days Rae spent in Loyola Hospital’s NICU. For the family, this meant one hundred and fifteen days of blood draws, blood tests, x-rays, EKGs, eye exams and blue light treatments. One hundred and fifteen days of ventilators, oscillators, feeding tubes and incubators. One hundred and fifteen days of monitoring her heart, lungs, brain and physical growth. One hundred and fifteen days of crib side nurses, hourly doctor visits, twice daily mom and dad visits, weekly therapists, extended family and friend visits.

From a few days leading up to Rae’s birth, through September 18th, the day they were able to take her home, a plethora of thoughts were had, feelings felt, and emotions experienced. Feelings of positivity, hopelessness, worry, angst, unquestionable love, disbelief, happiness, excitement, anger, and gratitude were just a few felt monthly, daily, and sometimes even hourly. Both Dan and Lorelee live day-to-day for the majority of Rae’s first few months of life.  The things they relied on were each other and knowledge gained from nurses, doctors and other families.

In 2018, The RaeStrong Foundation was created as a means to help provide support for individuals and families in similar situations. Dan and Lorelee are working to build an environment that fosters the incredible atmosphere that was given to them where any family with a micro-preemie can feel the hope and joy that comes with a miracle happening in front of you. Through the RaeStrong Foundation grants are awarded to individual families, hospital NICUs and preemie supporting organizations on a yearly basis.

Both Dan and Lorelee coach college volleyball at Lewis University, located in Romeoville IL. The roots of the RaeStrong Foundation began with their volleyball teams and have expanded since. One match from the women’s 2016 season schedule and one match from the men’s 2017 season schedule were highlighted as fundraising events. All admission proceeds, donations and preemie t-shirts sales were collected and then donated as a whole back to the Loyola NICU, which is the exact location that cared for Rae just a few months prior. Since the 2016/2017 school year, one match during each season has been dedicated to “preemies”.

Slowly, the Foundation has evolved outside of Lewis University’s gym and entered other venues across the country, beach volleyball tournaments, grass volleyball tournaments, poker tournaments and other fundraising engagements.

Dan and Lorelee are enjoying parenthood with their daughter Rae who is learning, growing, and thriving each day. Her kind, confident, spunky, imaginative, and bold personality is a daily reminder of how important this Foundation is to their hearts, and how important it can be to the lives of others.

The Rae Strong Foundation is looking to fundraise to help support families of micro preemies that are in need. Grants will be given out to those families, as well as non-for-profit organizations that assist in the needs of micro preemies and their families.

Supporting The Families Of Micro-Preemies

%d bloggers like this: