A decade ago, the Kohl Children’s Museum occupied a retro-fitted bowling alley on Green Bay Road in Wilmette.
Today, it’s located on an 8.8-acre parcel of land in Glenview and has been named one of the ten best children’s museums in the country by Parents magazine.
Kohl would never have grown into such a grand, treasured North Shore institution without the help of Fritz and Tracy Souder, and Donna Sims Wilson.
“We first visited the museum when it was on Green Bay Road,” Fritz says. His twin boys, now 12, were just starting to walk, and they loved it, “as all kids do,” he recalls. At the time, the museum was transitioning from being Kohl-family-funded to community-funded, and Fritz was eager to get involved. A board member for the past 10 years, Fritz was a major force behind the $23 million capital campaign that allowed the museum to move to its current, Silver-level-LEED-certified building in 2005. He has chaired the board for the past two years.
“The challenge was to show the community we were not trying to do a North Shore playland, but an educational center,” says Fritz, managing director and a founder of the private equity firm RCP Advisors.
Another force behind-the-scenes of that capital campaign was Donna Sims Wilson, executive vice president of the investment banking firm CastleOak Securities. This fall, she’s taking over Fritz’s role as chair. She has served on the board since 2001, and for many years she put her business savvy to work as chair of the finance committee, modernizing the institution’s finances and “being a good steward,” she says.
Meanwhile, Fritz’s wife, Tracy, has her own philanthropic endeavors, serving on several boards. Together Fritz and Tracy are supporters of the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation and this year they chaired Kohl’s 25th anniversary “An Evening to Imagine” benefit in October.
Like the museum, the event was family-friendly, and children were welcomed. Tracy says, “We want to tie the generations together, and reinvent the generations of giving.”