Children of Winnipeg rejoice!
The Manitoba Children's Museum has received a much-needed donation as it nears the home stretch of a complete overhaul of its fun and friendly facilities.
Philanthropists John and Bonnie Buhler presented museum officials with a gift of $800,000 on Friday.
The donation, the largest in the museum's nearly 25-year history, will support the construction of the Buhler Welcome Centre.
When the museum reopens June 4 — it has been closed since September while it undergoes a $10-million renovation — the welcome centre will provide guests with upgraded admission amenities and visitor services.
"This was such an amazing gift," said Janet McLeod, director of development at the museum. "It enabled us to go about with our internal plans and increase our number of galleries from six to 12."
When asked why she and her husband were donating the money, Bonnie Buhler presented her granddaughter, Katherine, who has been volunteering at the Children's Museum for years. Another granddaughter, Michelle, wants to start volunteering as soon as the museum reopens.
"There has to be a connection when you make a donation. We're all about family," she said.
John Buhler said what attracted him to the museum was its policy of opening its doors to inner-city children for school visits, day camps, holiday parties and after-school clubs for free.
"That's incredible. We feel we're giving directly to inner-city kids," he said.
The Buhlers have focused much of their energy in recent years to their growing philanthropic endeavours. They recently gave $6 million to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and $4 million to the University of Winnipeg.
John Buhler said he and his wife have a "short list" of other worthy benefactors to whom they'll donate money this year.
"Bonnie does all the work, I just write the cheques," he said.
The Children's Museum, which has been located at The Forks since 1994, has 5,000 members. McLeod said it has raised $8.7 million of the $10 million it needs to pay for the overhaul. She said it's hoping to raise the rest before June.
John Buhler made his mark as the CEO of Buhler Industries, a manufacturer of farm and construction machinery he founded in 1969. A little over three years ago, 80 per cent of the company was sold to Russia-based Combine Factory Rostselmash Ltd.