2018 ISCU Picnic Event

Summer Fun for a Special Milestone

The last thing someone thinks of when welcoming a new baby into their lives is ending up in the intensive care unit.

But when it does happen, the dedicated and caring staff at Endeavor Health Evanston Hospital’s Henrietta Johnson Louis Infant Special Care Unit (ISCU) are there to help parents and their infants navigate that journey. The goal for all infants in the ISCU is to “graduate,” or to be discharged so they can be cared for in their homes. 

To honor and celebrate those infants who have grown up to enjoy happy and healthy lives, the ISCU hosts a reunion picnic each summer where families and children reunite with the doctors, nurses and staff from the ISCU who cared for them during a critical time and gave them a healthy start in life.

A happy tradition

An annual event for more than 50 years, the ISCU picnic typically attracts almost 500 attendees. The event was paused in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returned in 2023 at Endeavor Health Skokie Hospital, where a festive block party in the West Parking Lot welcomed back ISCU graduates and their families to celebrate their milestones together.

The event is organized through a partnership between the ISCU, hospital operations staff and The Associate Board of Endeavor Health NorthShore Hospitals. Since 2014, The Associate Board has led volunteer efforts for the ISCU picnic, including finding sponsorships and donations to make the event as fun as possible for the families.  

“The ISCU picnic is one of my favorite events of the year! While the Benefit is obviously very special, as Associate Board members, it’s great to see the patients and families that spent time in the ISCU reconnect with the wonderful team who took care of them,” said Nina Leutz, 2024 Associate Board president.

Associate Board members volunteer to help run the event with the ISCU and the Evanston Hospital Pediatrics staff. They also reach out to local grocery stores and contacts in the community to gather donated snacks and beverages for the event. For the last few years, healthy snacks and beverages were served courtesy of exclusive snack sponsor Mark Vend Co. In addition, Associate Board members gather donated auction items to raise funds that directly benefit the ISCU.

Since 2003, The Associate Board has raised more than $1 million for the ISCU and the Department of Pediatrics at Evanston Hospital through their various fundraising efforts, including their Annual Benefit. 

Philanthropy generated by The Associate Board has launched vital patient care programs, supported groundbreaking academic studies, and led to the establishment of The Associate Board Emergency Family Fund—which provides direct support to underserved families through Endeavor Health’s Perinatal Family Support Center.

Fun for the whole family

The ISCU picnic is set up much like a summer block party, with a bounce house, arts and crafts activities, free snacks and beverages, and no shortage of fun.

The event has often included participation by a local Culver’s, which gives out free scoops of vanilla frozen custard and lemon ice to attendees. The Endeavor Health “Simbulance”—an ambulance used for community outreach and other emergency training and prevention—also makes an appearance. And local libraries are often invited to bring story books and activities for the younger attendees.

“We truly enjoy reconnecting with our former ISCU families. Many of them stay in the hospital for weeks or months, so they become like family to us. This event is a great way to come together again and to see how much our ISCU graduates have grown!” said Lynn M. Weiler, BSN, RNC-NIC, Clinical Nurse Manager, ISCU and Pediatrics, Evanston Hospital.

The Associate Board organizes nearly two dozen volunteers to help make sure the festivities go off without a hitch. It has become The Associate Board’s signature volunteer event and one for which each board member feels grateful to contribute their time.

“We always have a great turnout of Associate Board volunteers because this event is so significant to the families and the ISCU staff members,” said Madelie Walker, current Associate Board Benefit Co-Chair and a previous Associate Board Events & Volunteering Co-Chair. “We’re happy to provide extra hands and help make it a fun day for everyone.” 

To learn more about The Associate Board of Endeavor Health NorthShore Hospitals, please contact Monica Neururer, Manager of Associate Board & Communications, at 224.364.7618 or mneururer@northshore.org.