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Explore & More Children's Museum is $1 million closer to moving to Canalside

Explore & More Children's Museum is $1 million closer to reaching its fundraising goal.

The Paul A. Saffrin Foundation announced Monday it will give the seven-figure sum for the museum's Play It Forward capital campaign to build a new museum at Canalside. The donation will go toward sponsorship of the Being Good Neighbors educational play zone — one of seven — planned for the new facility, which is scheduled to open in the second half of 2018.

“Those of us fortunate enough to call the City of Good Neighbors our home understand the importance of being good neighbors," said Paul Saffrin, a foundation trustee. "I can think of no better legacy to leave my children, and all of our children, than the opportunity to discover the world around them and all of the things that make our hometown special.”

Project costs rose from $18.3 million to $27 million following the decision to move the museum into a standalone building at Canalside. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. will pay $9 million to erect the building's shell. The museum is currently in East Aurora.

Private donations have included $1 million each from Delaware North and Wegmans and $250,000 from the Rich Family Foundation.

“Paul Saffrin’s generous gift takes the museum two-thirds of the way to its $27 million project goal," said David McNamara, who chairs Explore & More's capital campaign. "This is a game-changing investment in a once-in-a-lifetime project, which will mean so much for the region’s children today and for generations to come.”

[Denise Jewell Gee: Explore & More Children's Museum at Canalside is about access]

The announcement was made Monday during a program with fourth-grade students at Eggert Road Elementary School in Orchard Park.

“Every year our students benefit from the hands-on learning experiences that Explore & More provides, either at the museum or right here in our school," said Terry Tryon, the school's principal. "Explore & More’s programs expand on what our students are learning in the classroom, providing a much richer experience through our partnership than what any school can do on its own."

Groundbreaking for the new children's museum is scheduled in March.

[Explore & More CEO: Downtown museum will bolster education for city kids]

"We feel a great responsibility to be part of the solution for moving the needle on school readiness and achievement for the 50 percent of the city’s children who start school at a remedial academic level – while also making a positive impact economically and socially,” said Douglas Love, CEO of Explore & More. “It's a monumental task, with an even greater impact – and it's good neighbors like Paul Saffrin that are helping to make this dream a reality for Western New York’s children."

Saffrin, the CEO of Tonawanda Coke and president of Vanocur Refractories, an affiliated company, also gave $1 million to Daemen College and its Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement last month, the largest private donation in the college's history.

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