Michael and Suzi Coghlan kept vigil for close to 70 days, 12-24 hours a day, in a Chicago neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while their daughter began her life after being born very prematurely and only weighing two pounds.
“Those early days were very tough, but we always had faith that she would be OK,” said Suzi Coghlan. Inspired by profound gratitude after their daughter’s recovery, the Coghlans wanted to give something back to the NICU where they had formed a tight bond with staff. But the hospital’s development director said they offered no program to target contributions to specific units: donors simply gave to a general fund.
Instead, the Coghlans worked directly with the doctors and nurses from the NICU and purchased equipment and supplies they requested. “The NICU had specific needs due to the stressful and intimate nature of the unit,” Suzi said.
In 2002, they created the Coghlan Family Foundation to focus their philanthropy and personal passions: mainly family and children. Then, an idea was conceived while Michael and Suzi attended a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program with one of their daughters.
“I was amazed by this roomful of fifth graders running around in their DARE shirts,” Michael said. “They were so excited and happy. I wondered what happens between fifth grade and high school where many of them start experimenting with drugs and alcohol.”
Because they had a long-standing relationship with Chelsea Community Hospital, Mike and Suzi decided to work with the Hospital on their idea. “They left the door wide open, working with us to make it happen,” he said.
In 2008, the couple made a significant donation to Chelsea Community Hospital to help start a coalition that addresses substance abuse and destructive behavior in 10-15-year-olds, which is known today as SRSLY Chelsea. “They really listened, and we just found an area that they felt pretty passionate about also, they wanted to do something that really benefitted the community,” Suzi said.
The total commitment was for 3 ½ years and about a half-million dollars. Michael, a successful private investor, retired at 37 from Chicago’s financial district. He considers the investment with Chelsea Community Hospital a solid one.
“This is a significant commitment, and we’ve never had any doubt,” said Michael, “because Chelsea Hospital became the stewards and they are accountable. We would have never done this without a structure like the hospital. They were willing to invest a lot of time and their top people.”
“I think a lot of people just like to give a donation and walk away, and that’s great,” said Suzi. “But if you’re the type of person who really wants to be involved, be accountable and put your money where your mouth is, then Chelsea Community Hospital is definitely the place to give.”