Please Touch Gets $3.25 Million Donation, CEO Stepping Down

It's halfway toward raising $10 million to get out of bankruptcy.

Memorial Hall, the site of the Please Touch Museum. Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Memorial Hall, the site of the Please Touch Museum. Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Today, the Please Touch Museum took a big step toward getting out of debt and emerging from bankruptcy — but also announced that its CEO will be stepping down.

The popular children’s museum has received a $3.25 million donation from an anonymous donor. Combined with $1.25 million in gifts back in September and smaller donations, the facility has received $4.86 million in just the past two months.

That means Please Touch has raised nearly half of its ambitious $10 million funding goal which has a deadline of March 2016. The museum had been saddled with approximately $60 million in debt after borrowing to move from its longtime 21st Street home to palatial Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park. In September, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and entered into an agreement that would pay bondholders just $11 million — some of which has already been paid back.

Strangely, all three big donors ($3.25 million, $1 million and $250,000) have remained anonymous. That seems odd considering that most people who give large amounts of money want to be recognized for it. Heck, for $3.25 million, I’m surprised they’re not naming a wing of the museum after the donor. Perhaps the donations are contingent upon the museum hitting its $10 million fundraising goal? Perhaps they’ll come forward when the fundraising campaign is complete? A museum spokesperson said he would investigate and get me an answer soon. Stay tuned.

“We are extremely encouraged by our progress to date, and Trish Wellenbach and I have many more meetings scheduled with potential donors to take us the rest of the way,” said Please Touch CEO Lynn McMaster. “We are also planning a grassroots campaign, affording the general public an opportunity to contribute and will launch that effort in early December.”

CEO Steps Down

The second announcement is that Lynn McMaster is stepping down as CEO. She’ll be replaced by Trish Wellenbach, who joined the museum two weeks ago as special advisor to the CEO.

McMaster has been with the museum since May 2012 and became CEO in 2013. Her husband recently accepted a job in Toronto, but she’ll stay on “as long as needed” after the bankruptcy ends as an advisor to Wellenbach.

Wellenbach has recently served as CEO of the Green Tree School & Services and president of the Sandcastle Strategy Group.

“Lynn has done an extraordinary job,” said Please Touch board chair Sally Stetson. “She took over the reins at a challenging time when we were making some very difficult decisions. Even now, with her desire to rejoin her family in Canada, she has agreed to see this process through to a successful conclusion.”