Keith Mardak a longtime Boys & Girls Clubs supporter

Pay it Forward

Keith Mardak, Credit: Hal Leonard Corp.

Last updated on September 13th, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Keith Mardak
Chief executive officer
Hal Leonard Corp.
Nonprofits served: Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Service: Board member, philanthropist

When a Boys & Girls Club on Milwaukee’s north side was on the brink of closure at the start of the school year, Keith Mardak swooped in at the eleventh hour.

To see it shutter its doors, he said, would have been a tragedy.

Mardak, chief executive officer of Hal Leonard Corp., and a 24-year board member of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and his wife, Mary Vandenberg, had helped open the Daniels-Mardak Boys & Girls Club at 4834 N. 35th St. with a $1.5 million gift in 2014.

That gift was followed a year later by an additional $5 million contribution from the philanthropists to establish an extended learning day program in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools at the clubs, and additional donations over the years that brought the programming of First Stage, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music to the club’s youth.

So when a lease dispute threatened to close their club, Mardak and Vandenberg gave $300,000 to subsidize a portion of its operating costs and keep the doors open.

“It’s all about kids,” Mardak said. “The club is doing an incredible job of reaching those kids. Anything we can do to interest kids into music and academics is important to us.”

It’s that kind of personal connection that drives Mardak’s giving.

Take, for example, the couple’s recent $1.5 million gift to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to endow a chair at the hospital. The gift stems from the philanthropists’ personal connection to the hospital. When their granddaughter was four years old, she received care at CHW for a brain condition that ultimately required surgery.

“She recovered miraculously and lost nothing but a little peripheral vision,” Mardak said. “She is now a sophomore at Marquette … We saw what Children’s did for her and we hope that this endowment can do a lot more for other kids.”

Another recent gift – a $2 million challenge grant he issued in October to Glendale-based nonprofit ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis – reflects Mardak’s ties to the organization, which trace back to his decades-long friendship with its founder, the late Melodie Wilson Oldenburg, and her husband, Wayne Oldenburg. Mardak’s recent pledge, the largest single contribution to the organization in its history, will help ABCD expand its peer-to-peer support services.

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