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Access member attendance at Madison Children’s Museum more than doubles as museum launches Access for Everyone Spring Fund Drive

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Access member attendance at Madison Children’s Museum more than doubles as museum launches Access for Everyone Spring Fund Drive

An increasing number of families are taking advantage of Madison Children’s Museum’s Access for Everyone memberships as the museum launches its Spring Fund Drive.

The annual campaign (April 1 through 30) aims to raise funds to support Access for Everyone programming and other access, diversity and inclusion work, areas which have grown significantly over the last year.

This year, museum attendance by Access Members increased 215%. Roughly one quarter of the museum’s membership base, or nearly 1,000 member families, is composed of Access Members. Access Memberships are available for $10 to those who qualify by need, while a Family Membership for four regularly costs $125.

In addition, the number of school groups taking advantage of Access discounts increased by 18% over last year. In 2015, a group attendee paid an average of $2.49 to visit; this year that price decreased to $1.99. The rate for a group is affected by the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch.

“The kind of open-ended creative play we offer is essential to prepare kids for school and life,” says Deborah Gilpin, museum CEO. “In Madison, we have a long row to hoe to close the achievement gap – we’re absolutely committed to making the museum accessible to everyone to help do that. And while we’re clearly doing a better job partnering with communities and agencies to create a welcoming environment for all at MCM, sustaining our support of the growing number of families in need is critical. That’s why gifts from the community for our access programs are so important.”

Programming and initiatives

The Access for Everyone program includes a number of initiatives, in addition to Access Memberships and school group discounts, to increase access to and use of the museum: Free Family Nights, the first Wednesday evening of every month; $1 Access Admissions for those with need, no questions asked; and SPARK!, a suite of free monthly workshops designed to provide creative, stimulating activities for seniors facing early onset Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The museum offers the School Age Parent Program in collaboration with Madison Metropolitan School District. SAPAR provides tools teenage mothers need to become self-sufficient, independent members of the community—all while learning how to parent and play. The Teen Workforce Program provides low-income, minority teens with paid museum staff positions, job skills training and professional development.

The Access for Everyone program is part of the museum’s broader work around access, diversity and inclusion, which spans initiatives across the organization’s board, staff, volunteers and community partners. Sandra Bonnici, the museum’s associate director of

education, diversity and inclusion, explains just what those huge concepts mean to Madison Children’s Museum: “Access means that I (a visitor, stakeholder, staff, etc.) know where the front door is and I can get to it and through it. Diversity means that I see myself and my values reflected in the organization. Inclusion means that I have voice in helping the museum fulfill its mission.”

Though the Access for Everyone campaign looks to raise funds primarily for the museum’s most visible admission programs, Bonnici points out that, “these activities are part of the deeper work of reviewing and refining our whole organization’s work and process through a lens of equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Some of that work includes ongoing partnerships with organizations like the YWCA. The YWCA is located just 65 steps from the museum’s front door, but there are more barriers than cost to remove before families feel comfortable to visit.

The museum, the YWCA and other partners, such as Children’s Theater of Madison, have been working together on initiatives – such as extensive staff and volunteer trainings – that improve access, diversity and inclusion at all of their organizations. Last year’s successful Play and a Play program, for instance, involved all three organizations and more to bring families with need to Madison Children’s Museum for a play session and then to CTM to see a play.

Nancy Wrenn Bauch, the Third Street Program Coordinator at the YWCA, recently wrote a letter reflecting on her experience working with the museum and had this to say, “The leadership and staff at Madison Children’s Museum are committed to making an inclusive place to play, learn and work. It has been an honor to be a part of it and witness the change.”

How to contribute and enter drawing

Museum visitors can participate in the Access for Everyone campaign by making a gift at the museum’s front desk and then coloring a flower. Throughout April, the flowers will be added to a display in the museum’s front entrance, eventually covering the entire vestibule with a visual show of the community’s support for the museum’s Access initiatives.

From April 21 to 30, Roman Candle Pizzeria, a strong museum partner and operator of the museum’s Sparkler Café, will encourage customers to color flowers and make gifts to the museum at each of their three restaurants, located on the east side of Madison, Fitchburg and Middleton.

Gifts can also be made online at

All donors to the campaign will be entered into a prize drawing to be held at the close of the campaign. Prizes are a museum Family Membership, a year of admission to the museum’s 21+ Adult Swim parties, a year of pizza from The Roman Candle – and the grand prize, a package including all three prizes.

2016 sponsors and community partners

Sponsors of this year’s Access for Everyone program include: American Transmission Company; CUNA Mutual Group Foundation; Dean & St. Mary’s; Habush Habush & Rottier SC; John J. Frautschi Family Foundation; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Madison Community Foundation; Madison Rotary Foundation; National Guardian Life Insurance Co.; Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation; Robert M. & Anne W. Bolz Charitable Lead Unitrust; Rotary Club of Madison; The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.; The Roman Candle Pizza; US Bank Foundation; W. Jerome Frautschi Charitable Lead Unitrust; Walter A. and Dorothy J. Frautschi Charitable Unitrust; Webcrafters-Frautschi Foundation; Wells Fargo Bank; Wisconsin Arts Board, Dane Arts; Wisconsin Humanities Council; and Zendesk Neighbor Foundation.

To maximize participation and community involvement in these programs, MCM collaborates with numerous strategic partners, including: American Family Children’s Hospital & UW Health, Birth to 3, Children’s Theater Madison, Girl Scouts, Goodman Community Center, Madison Public Library, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Salvation Army, University of Wisconsin-Madison (17+ departments), Wisconsin Historical Museum, and YWCA Madison.

To learn more about how to support MCM’s Access for Everyone programs, please contact Dani Luckett at or 608.354.0534.

Founded in 1980, Madison Children’s Museum offers hands-on exhibits and programs that celebrate and encourage children’s imaginations and the power of play as the cornerstone of learning. MCM is a proud recipient of the 2011 National Medal for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and, in August 2015, began celebrating its 35th year serving the Madison area community.

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