About Us


Identifying And Assisting The Families Of Micro-Preemies

Rae Friend was born prematurely on June 9th, 2016 at 24 weeks. She spent 115 days in the NICU with Loyola Medicine professionals and through their help she has blossomed into an incredible, strong, social, and wonderful person who continues to impact us every day. Our journey inspired us to find a way to contribute families going through the same plight as us. We seek to provide financial assistance and educational resources to these families; and informally, we make sure they are not alone in this journey.

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 families that either reach out to us or have been identified by the help of local medical organizations.

Who is Rae Strong?

Meet the team behind the Rae Strong Foundation.

Lorelee Smith grew up in Mishawaka, Indiana with two sisters and a brother. She married Daniel Friend in 2008 and they are the proud parents of Rae Friend. On May 29th 2016, Lorelee was admitted into the Loyola Hospital. Eight days later Rae Analyn Friend was born at the start of the 24 th week of gestation. This experience and the days, now years, following have compassionately touched the heart of Lorelee. There is a need for support, information and guidance throughout the life course of a
premature child. Lorelee’s anticipation as a board member of the Rae Strong Foundation is to offer assistance to families that find themselves in a similar situation.

Dan Friend – “I’m the current Head Men’s volleyball Coach at Lewis University located in Romeoville, IL.  The thought of creating the Rae Strong Foundation was the next step in finding a way to help people who will and are going thru the same life impacting event it comes with having a micro preemie.  Rae shows me every day me what it truly mean to be strong and embrace life.  I’m excited we can find a way to that same thing for other people.”

Rudi Balich – “The only real experience I’ve had with micropreemies is my role in Rae’s life- Lorelee’s assistant and a friend of the family. Because of the turbulent times that I witnessed first-hand, when Dan asked me to be a part of this team, I was sold. I help with the social media side of the foundation- hoping to get our name out there. I am excited to help families that will go through things similar to what my friends went through. Rae is my best friend.”

Cheryl Petty – “Both of my sons played for Dan at Lewis University.  Even after graduation, we stayed in touch with the Lewis “volleyball family”.  When Dan told me he was starting this foundation, I offered my help with the accounting end of things if he needed it.  Obviously, he took me up on my offer.  And there is another connection…..my oldest son and Dan share a birthday, while my younger son shares his birthday with Rae.”

Jake Walenga – “As a (now) former player of Dan Friend at Lewis, Rae has made more of an impact in my life than I ever could have imagined. From practice, to film in coach’s office, to team dinners she has always been around and been the comedic relief in the room when needed. It is a pleasure to help with this foundation in Rae’s name and give back to people in the community that may need it the most.”

Feel free to contact us with questions or intention to help!

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