Fritz and Tracy Souder: Kohl’s Benefit Beckons Kids to the Ball

Not many organizations would host a ball and invite 6-year-olds.

But then, not every organization is a world-class children’s museum that embraces North Shore families – whether that family member is a child age 6 or 106.

When Glenview-based Kohl Children’s Museum was planning its 25th anniversary celebration, Fritz Souder, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, asked himself: What do our kids think we’re doing when we get all dressed up for a black-tie benefit?

“Rather than try to explain giving back to the kids, we decided to include them,” says Tracy Souder, who co-chairs the gala with husband Fritz this year.

The Glenview residents are parents of twin boys, age 12, and a daughter, age 7.

“We first visited the museum when it was on Green Bay Road,” Fritz says. “The boys were just starting to walk and they loved it, as all kids do. The founder, Dolores Kohl, was challenging people to make it a community-funded museum instead of a family-funded institution. I knew the chairman of the board and made the mistake of calling him and saying I was happy to help in any way I could,” he laughs.

If the museum was to grow, it had to move from Green Bay Road in Wilmette, where traffic created safety problems for visitors that had to park, then cross the busy road.

While undertaking a successful $25 million capital campaign, the museum obtained a land lease in Glenview, at the Glen, on public property, and a new museum was born.

“The challenge was to show the community that we were not trying to do a North Shore playland, but an educational center, and a lab for kids and teachers and caregivers,” Fritz says.

On Oct. 15, the “Evening to Imagine” benefit will feature an elegant meal and dancing (“Our wonderful corporate sponsors don’t need to worry about kids throwing spaghetti,” Tracy laughs). Kids will have their own disco, with an instructor teaching them all kinds of dances.

“We want to tie the generations together, and reinvent the generations of giving,” Tracy says. “We’re hoping that every age comes.”

In a nod to its littlest guests, the benefit will be peanut-free, just like the museum.

“We’re going to raise $1 million,” says Fritz. “It’s our 25th anniversary, and we’re going to increase what we raised last year by 25 percent.”

“Fritz and Tracy Souder have been active and engaged supporters of the Museum for ten years,” says Sheridan Turner, the museum’s president and CEO. “We have enjoyed watching their three lovely children grow as they have helped the Museum to grow.  Their leadership in this year’s Evening to Imagine will be the culmination of their work on behalf of the Museum and will launch the Museum into a new era as we embark on the next 25 years. “

To attend An Evening to Imagine, visit www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org.