Rachel and Andy Lee are the co-founders of Madelyn’s Fund. They met just after Andy graduated from the University of Pittsburgh while Rachel was a student at Clemson University. The couple married in 2007 and split their time between Greenville, SC and San Jose, CA while Andy played football for the San Francisco 49ers for 11 seasons. In the spring of 2015, he was traded and played one season each with the Cleveland Browns and the Carolina Panthers. He is currently playing for the Arizona Cardinals. They permanently settled in Charlotte in 2013 with their two boys Ryan (8) and Adam (6). Rachel enjoys shopping and dining at local spots in Charlotte, Bible study, and supporting and attending other philanthropic events. During the off season you can find Andy on the golf course at Charlotte Country Club or cheering on his boys at their sporting events. Both enjoy volunteering at Charlotte Country Day School where their boys attend and are members at Forest Hill Church.
Madelyn, their daughter who was born in 2015, spent 8 days in the NICU before she passed away after complications with an infection. “We created Madelyn’s Fund to honor our daughter’s memory by assisting families in similar situations. If we had not experienced a NICU stay or the loss of our daughter, we would not have known the struggles so many families face. By taking away some of that burden we are supporting families in crisis and blessing them with the ability to focus on their child. Being able to pay for the cost of funeral related expenses is something especially meaningful to us. We never knew how expensive funerals could be since we never considered having to bury a child. No one does. To be able to help a family properly memorialize their child who could otherwise not afford it is a gift we are honored to be able provide through Madelyn’s Fund.
Beyond that, we are a lifeline to families who experience a NICU stay and are able to help so quickly during extremely stressful times. We are so thankful to everyone who has supported us through our loss and now through Madelyn’s Fund.”
Dr. Stephen Chow is a physician and the Director of Hospital Medicine at Atrium Health Pineville. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and then attended Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine for medical school.
While he has no children, he’s the proud “dog dad” to Whiskey, Falkor and Colton. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he frequently did CrossFit workouts, but now he enjoys riding his Peloton bike and golfing. He also loves traveling for food.
While Dr. Chow has no personal experience in the NICU, he joined the Board after attending the Pink Bow Gala for several years and loved the mission of Madelyn’s Fund. He said he “hopes to find new people around the Charlotte area both in and out of healthcare who would be interested in contributing to Madelyn’s Fund.” He believes the most important way Madelyn’s Fund supports our community is by “helping people at their most vulnerable [moments] and assisting in expenses that no one would ever consider. I think that’s special.”
Nicole Sodoma has lived in Charlotte since 2000 with the exception of 18 months when she lived in Seattle. She attended College of Charleston and Cumberland School of Law at Samford University.
Nicole has three sons – Shepard, Maddix, and Bauer. Shep and Maddix both experienced time in the NICU. Her middle son, Shepard, lived in the NICU for 8 long weeks when he couldn’t breathe. We had no idea how sick he was and how hard his nurses worked and loved him until we had another baby boy, Maddix, who also lived in the NICU but didn’t need nearly the help that Shep needed. His stay was only 6 weeks. They both arrived when she was 32 weeks pregnant and wholly unprepared. But, unlike Madelyn, they both were able to come home and are now 9 and 12. Her three-boy family was complete, and her heart remains full. She says “I had big plans and ideas for how I could make a difference in the NICU because of what I experienced and what I witnessed of other parents who were also spending time praying and hoping for the best possible outcomes for their own children. Regrettably, three boys and a busy law practice, I let life get in the way of my intentions. Rachel and Andy did not let life get in the way of their purpose so it is an honor to help them serve in this organization that supports NICU patients and families.”
As a NICU mom of two out of my three sons, participating on the Madelyn’s Fund Board is particularly special to Nicole. “I learned quickly that the experience as a parent whose child is in the NICU is truly unique to that parent and family. Joining the board was a way for me to give back for those who supported my family. My goal is to raise awareness but also to make conversations around NICU experiences more hopeful and comfortable. NICU experiences with newborns in particular change whatever expectations you may have had in becoming a parent. Every effort to raise funds to support these families and give them hope is a priority for my participation on the board of Madelyn’s Fund. This organization makes a direct impact on families who are in the trenches. They work with experienced support systems and provide resources to parents who are in need. It can be as simple as a gas card and warm meal to car seats and glass bottles that their hospital may not provide” Nicole shared.
Nicole is an exercise junkie and tries to add fitness into her routine as often as possible – whether it is yoga, Pilates, biking, running or active meditation. Otherwise, you can find her at her law practice Sodoma Law. When she opened the doors of Sodoma Law in 2008, she was eager to build a team who would help every client navigate the hurdles of separation and divorce with empathy and determination – in and out of court. She wanted to surround herself with people who live and breathe family law like she does. Her practice is her passion; it not just her job, rather who she is. Outside of work, Nicole enjoys reading or writing about how to empower others through their own personal or professional journeys.
Bethany currently works at UserTesting as a Regional Sales Director. She is a graduate of DePaul University in Chicago where she studied Marketing with a concentration in Sales. After graduating college, she worked for 15 years as a National Sales Executive for Careerbuilder.com selling advertising and human capital software. Bethany has also worked for Zoom Video Communications, selling video collaboration software for 2 years.
Originally born and raised in Iowa, Bethany moved from Chicago to Charlotte in 2006 with her husband Andy. They share five children: Scarlett (11), Piper (8), Teddi (7), and twins Eliza and Oliver (4) and are active members at Myers Park Presbyterian Church. In her spare time, Bethany enjoys playing tennis, Barre training, and volunteers as a Sunday school teacher at her church.
Bethany first learned of Madelyn’s Fund while attending the Pink Bow Gala when she was 22 weeks pregnant with her twins. Knowing her pregnancy was higher risk and there was a greater chance her babies may need to spend time in the NICU, she was very sensitive to the information and stories that were shared during the event. She was moved by the help Madelyn’s Fund provided to families in need and was especially inspired by the Lee family in how they created such light through Madelyn’s Fund during their greatest moment of darkness.
Bethany’s goal as Board Member is to bring awareness to the everyday hardships a NICU stay can have on an entire family. Through sponsors and donations, she believes the Fund can make a real difference in lessening the burden of these challenges and let families focus on their child(ren) while they are in the NICU.
Originally from Herkimer New York, Abby attended the United States Military Academy where she earned her commission in the US Army. After serving as an officer in the Army, she was employed by Target Corporation for 17 years, ultimately obtaining the position of Group Vice President. Abby is also a former Board Member of the Second Harvest Foodbank of Metrolina. She has resided in Charlotte for 7 years and shares 1-year-old son Jonny with her husband Zach. Abby and her husband enjoy traveling to the mountains, hiking, spending time with extended family, and their goldendoodle, Lily.
In October of 2019, Abby and Zach were introduced to Madelyn’s Fund when their daughter Zoey, who was born at 32 weeks, passed away after a 14-day NICU hospitalization. Madelyn’s Fund offered support and covered Zoey’s funeral expenses. Inspired by this gesture, Abby was motivated to serve similar families in need, both during and after their NICU stay.
As a Board Member, Abby’s objective is to fully support the mission, vision and goals of Madelyn’s Fund by leveraging her many years of team leadership and experience as a NICU parent while collaborating with other Board members, social workers, and families associated with the Fund. Abby feels the most important way Madelyn’s Fund supports the community in addition to the financial assistance it provides, is the empathy shown for NICU families who experience infant loss.
Alston is currently the VP/GM of Commercial & Security at Snap One, a manufacturer and distributor of smart solutions for homes and businesses. After graduating from UNC- Chapel Hill, Alston began his career in finance, working for BlackRock and Jefferies prior to attending business school at UVA’s Darden School of Business. He then spent nearly eight years with the Boston Consulting Group in BCG’s Retail and Consumer practice areas before serving two years as Sr. Director of Enterprise Strategy at Lowe’s Companies, where he was responsible for supporting key strategic growth initiatives across the company.
Alston has lived in Charlotte for over eight years with his wife Jessie, with whom he shares three young children. Their oldest daughter, Haynes, was born at 33 weeks and spent nearly 6 weeks in the NICU at Levine Children’s Hospital in 2017. Alston and Jessie’s experience in the NICU inspired them to get involved with Madelyn’s Fund and gave them the opportunity to help other families who might not have had the same support they did when navigating the NICU experience. Alston hopes his experience in corporate development and strategy will shape the vision and goals of Madelyn’s Fund so it can provide long-standing support to the NICU community in Charlotte and beyond.
When asked what he feels is the most important way Madelyn’s Fund supports our community, Alston says “being able to be close to your child when they are their most vulnerable is critical for the mental health of NICU parents and family. I believe enabling family to be more present during their child’s NICU stay has the ability to decrease the length of time of that stay” and the impact that presence has on the family will last far longer than the hospital stay itself.”
Elizabeth is currently a managing director in Wells Fargo’s Corporate and Investment Bank. Originally from Richmond, VA, she graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in Commerce. She moved to Charlotte in 2018 after spending 11 years in New York City working in finance at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Elizabeth and her husband Zach have 3-year-old twin daughters, Henley and Charlotte, who were born four weeks early. Charlotte spent 8 days in the NICU in New York. Their baby Grace was born in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020.
Outside of work, Elizabeth and Zach enjoy traveling and spending time with their family. They are active members of Christ Episcopal Church, where their twins also attend preschool.
When asked why Elizabeth joined the Board, she said: “Even with our brief NICU stay with Charlotte, it was a challenging time for our family, and we experienced first-hand the emotional difficulty that goes along with it. I am passionate about devoting my time to help ease the burden for other families facing NICU stays that may not be as fortunate as ours.”
Jessie grew up in Charlotte before attending the University of Georgia where she graduated with a B.A. in Journalism & Mass Communication. After college, Jessie moved to Atlanta for three years where she worked for Ogilvy Public Relations, an international public relations firm, and served a variety of Fortune 500 consumer clients. She moved to New York in 2010 where she continued her career in public relations before making the move back to Charlotte to be closer to family. Jessie is currently a senior vice president with Taylor Global, a sports and entertainment public relations and marketing firm, where she has worked for almost nine years.
Jessie and her husband Alston have three children. Their now three-year-old daughter Haynes was born at 33 weeks and spent nearly six weeks in the Levine Children’s Hospital NICU. Haynes is now a proud big sister to her two-year-old brother Hill and baby sister Jane Adair, born December 2020.
Jessie’s experience in the NICU inspired her to get involved with Madelyn’s Fund to help other families who might not have had the same support she had when navigating the NICU experience. Jessie hopes her personal connection to the cause along with her background in marketing and public relations will help raise awareness of Madelyn’s Fund and further its important mission.
Sara has been a registered nurse in the NICU of Novant Health’s Presbyterian Medical Center for 20 years. She attended Appalachian State University and then graduated with a B.S.N. from Gardner-Webb University.
Sara and her husband John have two daughters, Georgia Grace (10) and Stella (8), who attend Charlotte Country Day School. Sara currently works in the health room at Country Day as needed to make sure the school is safe and remains open during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sara is involved in the Charlotte community in several ways. She is an active member of Myers Park Presbyterian Church and is currently serving her third year as a Deacon. She is also the Marketing and Social Media Chair of the Presbyterian Women’s Council. She also serves on the Friends of the Arts board at Country Day, chairing Lower School Drama. Sara previously served on the Bee Mighty board, including co-chairing the Sponsorship committee and serving as the Gala Chair in 2019.
When asked about joining the Board, she said: “I absolutely love my job, and supporting babies and their families through Madelyn’s Fund is an amazing extension of that.”
Ryan is Founder of the Plancentric Group with Northwestern Mutual and is an active member of the Charlotte community. He is a member of Carmel Baptist Church, Charlotte Leadership Forum and Unpackin’ It Ministries, and he is an avid UNC Tarheel basketball and football fan. In his spare time, you can find him enjoying a round of golf, cheering on the Carolina Panthers, and spending time with his wife Alicia and their three children Savannah, Caroline and Drew.
Ryan joined the Madelyn’s Fund Board to help deliver and expand the Fund’s support to families in need and to help grow the reach by introducing new potential supporters.
Ryan says, “Madelyn’s Fund helps provide support during families’ ultimate time of need. I feel that means different things to each family, and Madelyn’s Fund has the flexibility and expertise to help in each situation. I feel blessed to have three healthy kids and the ability to connect others to support such a great cause.”
Sarah Turza joined Madelyn’s Fund in the fall of 2018 as the Program Manager. She grew up in the Charlotte area and graduated from Charlotte Catholic High School prior to completing her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte in Psychology and Early Childhood and Family Development. There she earned her Birth – Kindergarten licensure along with her North Carolina Infant-Toddler Specialist credential. Over the past 14 years she has served as an Early Intervention Child and Family Specialist for the Piedmont region of North Carolina, worked as a Family and Developmental Specialist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursery at Levine Children’s Hospital, and as a NICU case manager and Developmental Specialist for Mecklenburg County Children’s Services Agency. All of these roles afforded her the opportunity to work closely with families who have children with special medical needs, many of whom experienced lengthy NICU hospitalizations.
Prior to giving her time to Madelyn’s Fund, she served 4 years on the Board of the Charlotte chapter of the Family Support Network, serving as Board Chair for her final term. Efforts were focused on providing parent and sibling support for families who have a child with special medical and developmental needs. The biggest priority focused on linking families who have shared experiences and wish to provide emotional support and guidance to families that are earlier in their journey of learning about a particular medical/developmental diagnosis their child has received, how this might impact their child’s trajectory as well as helping them navigate what resources might be available in the community.
Working with the NICU population has always been a strong passion of Sarah’s, whether it is helping families learn to navigate a NICU stay, providing emotional support during the up’s and down’s many families experience in the NICU, or working with families after the transition home and beyond.
On her role with Madelyn’s Fund she says, “This gives me the opportunity to share all of what I have learned from my families and use their experiences to highlight where the greatest areas of need are in our community, and as a fund, how we might be able to fill those voids. Madelyn’s Fund is a unique community resource which strives to alleviate some of the financial stressors that can accompany a NICU hospitalization as well as increase community awareness of the toll an extended hospitalization can have on a family unit. Many families miss time away from work to be present and involved in their child’s medical care which can interfere with their ability to maintain basic household needs such as utilities, etc. and leads to additional expenses such as the cost of traveling up to 2-hours one way to be with their child. As part of the Madelyn’s Fund team, my goal is to continue building and strengthening our working relationships with local NICU Social Workers who are key in identifying families in need of financial support; whether it pertains to maintaining their household during a hospital stay or having the necessary means to be able to honor and celebrate their child’s life in the event they are unable to join their family at home.”
Outside of Madelyn’s Fund Sarah says, “I’m fortunate to have my mother and sister close and am enjoying being a first-time aunt to my little niece!”
Stefanie was born and raised in Columbia, SC and moved to Charlotte in June 2022. She is a graduate of Clemson University where she majored in Marketing through the College of Business. In college she was very involved as VP-Community Service in her sorority, Kappa Delta. This role introduced her to how to connect her marketing background to working in fundraising and showed her the passion she has for working in this area.
Stefanie says, “Madelyn’s Fund holds a very special place in my heart. My freshman year of high school (January 2015), my sister Rachel and brother-in-law Andy welcomed their daughter Madelyn. I will never forget coming home from school and being told Madelyn had passed away after 8 days in the NICU. It was truly the hardest day of my life and some of the toughest times. However, even though I never got to meet Madelyn in her 8 short days of life, the impact she has had on my life has been tremendous. Seeing Rachel and Andy create Madelyn’s Fund in her memory and seeing the impact it has had on so many people has truly been one of the biggest pride points in my life.”
“With the personal connection I have to Madelyn’s Fund, it was a no brainer to take on the role of Fundraising Director and it truly has been a dream job to help support this mission. I’ve always been so proud of the work Madelyn’s Fund does and to be able to be involved in this role really allows me to take the passion I have for the mission and turn it into something I get to work on making a difference for every day.”
In her role as Fundraising Director, Stefanie really wants to be able to diversify fundraising to more than just events. With writing grants, working on campaigns, developing community partnerships in Charlotte and beyond, and exploring different avenues and channels to fundraise, she hopes to increase awareness and raise more funds be able to provide assistance to every NICU family in need of assistance. “Seeing the growth we’ve had in recent years and being able to take that growth even further is something I’m excited about and motivated to see happen.
Through seeing Madelyn’s Fund grow over the years since the beginning to now working on the team, I’ve really been able to see just how important the work we do is to the families we assist. Hearing from families on how hard it is to go home without their baby and how Madelyn’s Fund made the difference for them to be able to be near their child is really so rewarding to hear. Hearing families speak about how Madelyn’s Fund allowed them to be able to honor their child who passed away has truly put into context how important the work we do is to families”.
When not working, Stefanie is a huge Clemson fan and loves cheering on the Tigers and at football games, enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends, working out, and is still involved with her home church, Eastminster Presbyterian.