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Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announces $6 million commitment to Explore & More Children's Museum


Wed, Feb 14th 2018 02:15 pm
A look inside the press conference.
A look inside the press conference.
Donation will help support ongoing facility construction at Canalside, provide endowment funding, launch 'challenge grant' matching program within Western New York philanthropic & individual donor community
Renamed Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children's Museum scheduled for late-2018 ribbon-cutting & soft opening, with full building, program access expected in 2019
On Wednesday, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced a $6,000,000 "challenge grant" capital and endowment gift to Explore & More Children's Museum. Half of the gift will support ongoing construction of the nation's newest children's museum within the City of Buffalo's burgeoning Canalside district, and the other half will be allocated to an endowment fund to help ensure Explore & More's future sustainability. The challenge grant will allow the foundation to match future capital or endowment contributions made by other public, private and individual contributors on a one-for-one basis.
"Explore & More is humbled by the creativity and commitment that the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, its trustees, staff and, of course, its namesake have displayed with this monumental gift," said Michelle Urbanczyk, CEO at Explore & More. "This is truly a watershed moment for our organization and the children and families of Western New York. And it is also the very latest and largest sign that our project continues to gain unstoppable momentum as we work with the community to bring our new museum to the finish line."
"We are thrilled to introduce the renamed Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children's Museum, and couldn't be more honored to be part of such a critical initiative that will positively impact children and families from across the region," said David O. Egner, president and CEO at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. "The foundation continues to believe that strengthening community is a team sport - and this project demonstrates that fact."
"This is a watershed moment for Buffalo's children, waterfront revitalization within our city, and, of course, Explore & More," said David McNamara, chairman of the Explore & More "Play It Forward" capital campaign. "This contribution from the Wilson Foundation positions us well to raise the additional dollars needed to complete the 'Play it Forward' capital campaign, while also strategically placing funds into an endowment, which will help make sure that the museum's doors stay forever open. I'm also very excited about how this challenge grant will motivate the Western New York community to get behind our project even more. We plan to begin focusing on individual donors with the more public-facing component of our capital campaign later this summer, and will have details of that effort released in the coming months."
The historic funding announcement was made at a ceremonial name unveiling and press event held in the Lexus Club at the KeyBank Center. Notable attendees included various elected officials, community, business and philanthropic leaders, private donors, as well as staff, board members and trustees of both the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and Explore & More. The event's special guests included New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and a delegation of students from the BPS Waterfront Elementary School.
"This generous donation by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation will expand exhibits and programs for students at the Explore & More Children's Museum, providing critical learning opportunities for young people," Hochul said. "The expansion project continues the waterfront development of the Canalside district and is yet another investment that is helping to shape the new Buffalo."
Scheduled for a soft opening in the fourth quarter of 2018, Explore & More will house seven educational play zones, each offering hands-on activities and exhibits that tell the stories of Buffalo for present and future generations. The project is expected to bring more than 250,000 (estimated) new visitors annually to Canalside and Western New York's waterfront.
"This project touches on so many of the critical service areas that our foundation is dedicated to," Egner said. "Explore & More - The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children's Museum will be an economic contributor and anchor to the expanding Canalside district, while also creating educational and early-learning experiences for children through play, camaraderie and connectivity."
To learn more about Explore & More Children's Museum or how one can donate to the "Play It Forward" capital campaign, visit exploreandmore.org.
Celebrating its 24th year in operation, Explore & More Children's Museum provides an environment for creative play and learning through hands-on exhibits, activities and programs that inspire creativity, curiosity and imagination. Explore & More is currently located at 300 Gleed Ave., East Aurora. For more information, or to contact the museum, visit exploreandmore.org or call 716-655-5131, ext. 20.
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Wilson's devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Wilson requested a significant share of his estate be used to continue a lifelong generosity of spirit by funding the foundation that bears his name.
The foundation has a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires Jan. 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Wilson's desire for the foundation's impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information, visit rcwjrf.org.

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