Rite Aid makes $2M gift to Pittsburgh’s Fred Rogers Co.
January 15, 2016 12:14 AM
Brad Burmeister, left, and Craig Britcher place a likeness of Fred Rogers on a recreation of the TV set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” at the Sen. John Heinz History Center last January.
Rite Aid is donating $2 million to the Fred Rogers Co. that will be specifically used to underwrite “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” an animated series that airs on PBS Kids.
By Joyce Gannon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ken Martindale, president of Rite Aid Corp., wasn’t totally surprised when the chairman of Rite Aid’s Pittsburgh-based advertising agency, Tony Bucci, suggested the drug store chain consider making a charitable gift to the nonprofit Fred Rogers Co. which produces children’s programs for PBS.
“Everybody knows ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ ” said Mr. Martindale, who also serves as president of the Rite Aid Foundation.
But he wasn’t as familiar with recent shows developed by the nonprofit “and that kind of sparked our curiosity,” he said.
In the year or so since Rite Aid was introduced to the team at the Fred Rogers Co. and has spent time digging into the organization, Mr. Martindale said he has observed a commitment to young children’s development “that gave me real confidence these are the guys we want to partner with.”
Today Rite Aid, based in Camp Hill, Cumberland County, will announce a $2 million donation to the Fred Rogers Co. that will be used specifically to underwrite “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” an animated series that airs on PBS Kids.
The donation marks the first corporate foundation funding for the show launched in 2012, said Bill Isler, president of the South Side-based Fred Rogers Co.
An announcement was scheduled to be held this morning at the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” exhibit at the Sen. John Heinz History Center in the Strip District.
“This is a multi-year gift and we’re working very closely with [Rite Aid] to make sure ‘Daniel’ continues on PBS,” said Mr. Isler. “We were very happy when they came through with this amount of money.”
According to its 2014 federal tax filing, Fred Rogers Co. had net assets of $18.4 million and annual revenues after expenses of about $2 million.
In addition to production costs for “Daniel Tiger,” the gift from Rite Aid will support Web and digital promotions, and free streaming of the program on PBS, Mr. Isler said.
The show, whose title character is the son of the original Daniel Striped Tiger from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” has garnered a strong audience among preschool children and their parents since its debut.
It is the top streaming series on PBS Kids, said Lesli Rotenberg, general manager of children’s media at PBS.
A total of 65 half-hour episodes have already aired and Fred Rogers Co. is producing another 20.
“‘Daniel’ is one of the crown jewels of PBS Kids,” Ms. Rotenberg said. “It consistently ranks among the top programs on TV and across our digital platforms. We’re incredibly appreciative of this support from Rite Aid.”
For Rite Aid, which will be featured in an underwriting spot that will air before and after each episode starting later this month, the gift aligns closely with its foundation’s focus on children’s health and wellness, said Mr. Martindale.
The primary mission of the foundation, which reported assets of $21.4 million in its most recent federal tax filing, is to fund nonprofits that benefit children in communities where Rite Aid operates its approximately 4,600 stores.
Through the foundation’s KidCents initiative, customers enrolled in Rite Aid’s loyalty points program, wellness+ with Plenti, can round up purchases to the nearest dollar and direct the change to one of about 350 organizations that promote children’s health.
The foundation also supports the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
“We are becoming very much an overall health care company so we knew we wanted our foundation focus to be health and wellness related,” said Mr. Martindale.
The KidCents logo will be attached to streamed videos of “Daniel Tiger” and will appear on the show’s PBS Kids website.
Asked whether the proposed purchase of Rite Aid by drugstore giant Walgreens for $9.4 billion in cash would alter the Rite Aid Foundation’s support of Fred Rogers Co., Mr. Martindale said, “I’m not anticipating any immediate changes by any means.”
The Federal Trade Commission last month requested Walgreens supply more information about the deal so that the government can review potential antitrust issues. Walgreens, which operates more than 8,000 stores nationwide, said when the merger was announced in October that it would divest up to 1,000 stores if required to by regulators.
Joyce Gannon: email@example.com or 412-263-1580.
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