The Lyon Family Foundation has been a dedicated steward of philanthropic efforts in Chicago for more than 20 years. The foundation established by the late Robert H. Lyon, who was diagnosed with leukemia before his passing, was created to make a meaningful impact in the community while providing his family the opportunity to carry on his philanthropic vision after his time.
Continuing his mission of generosity and ingenuity, his daughter and Executive Director of the foundation, Alexandra Lyon Singer passionately drives the organization forward, and just last year, conceived and launched Lyon’s Way, a new undertaking to improve the lives of adolescents and young adults afflicted with cancer.
“As we fulfilled a one-million-dollar pledge commitment with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2020, there was an opportunity to pivot and pick another organization as an anchor for fundraising,” Singer says. At the time the foundation was thinking about their next steps, her family was unfortunately affected by leukemia again, but this time in the pediatric space. This got the family thinking.
“With my family, we were having conversations about the struggle the family unit faces as a cancer diagnosis comes in and what we can do to really push the needle forward,” she says. “We love funding research because there are so many positive benefits,” Singer says, “but we were really missing the interpersonal connection of funding something smaller that could make a strong individual impact on families one-on-one.”
After connecting with doctors at the University of Chicago, Singer told them her thoughts and ideas about assisting children and families affected by cancer, however, their pediatrics space already had a robust program. The doctors and researchers at the hospital redirected her vision into another age bracket in the young adult space, ages 15-39. “The university really believes there is a huge mental health gap happening within this age group, and they had been wanting to add a full-time psychologist for that patient population for years,” Singer says. “They thought this was a great opportunity for us to help them fulfill their bigger vision of being able to treat the whole patient—the social, emotional, and the physical.” Enter Lyon’s Way.
Now officially partnered with the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Oncology program, Lyon’s Way, through fundraising and grants, facilitates a full-time psychologist for patients and their families aiming to help address the profound short-and-long-term mental-health challenges patients face when up against cancer treatment, recovery, and remission. “We wanted to arm families with an amazing liaison— someone who would be able to get to know them and help them on a much broader scale through the cancer journey,” Singer explains. This includes understanding if the families or patients need any sort of resources or support that they may not be receiving from other nonprofits, or helping to address any issues that are creating barriers to treatment, such as difficulty getting to-and-from treatments.
“All the stars aligned because their patient population on a yearly basis is about seventy patients and that’s a pretty tangible number for us and, again, fulfilling our family’s desire to really go deep with the smaller subset of people.” Singer says. “From there, the initiative started to take shape and build momentum.”
“Lyon’s Way is designed to be multi-tiered, and we have plans to build out different initiatives to further meet the needs of the patient population,” Singer explains. For example, the Lyon’s Way Auxiliary Fund was established to remove financial hurdles for patients while they are undergoing treatment. It will take care of unexpected or extraordinary expenses, such as medical procedures that are not covered by insurance, transit to the hospital, and other expenses that impact daily life, like a utility bill or car repair. “The goal is to help eliminate the barriers that stand in the way of survivorship,” Singer says.
Lyon’s Way was officially launched in June 2021 at an intimate affair referred to as The Peony Party, with the aim of bringing together a strong, like-minded group of women to be part of the initiative as it grows. The event, and the Lyon’s Way mission, were so well-received that Singer re-conceived The Peony Party to be a fundraising event, which in June 2022 more than tripled in size, gathering over 150 women from Barrington, Chicago, the North Shore, Hinsdale, and south suburbs. Important to Singer is connecting a diverse group of women who might not meet otherwise, over the shared vision of supporting Lyon’s Way, and the mission it serves. “In many ways, this event is about women supporting women, as well as lifting others up,” Singer says. Guests of the event shared personal experiences with cancer during the Peony Panel, and many, entrepreneurs in their own right, had products featured in this year’s luxury gift bag for sponsors, including custom Deseda silk scarves, Romer skincare, and designer pajamas from Petite Plume.
Thanks to the incredible support from the generous women attending this year’s event, The Peony Party raised over $175,000 this year for the Lyon’s Way Auxiliary Fund, which will remove financial stressors for patients in the University of Chicago Medicine Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program so that they can focus on survivorship.
For more information, visit lyonfamilyfoundation.org/lyons-way/.