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The Missoulian recently (March 28) ran an article announcing Missoula Children's Theatre’s launch of the “One Million Reasons to Say Yes” campaign. The article disclosed that my wife and I have pledged $250,000 as a challenge to MCT and the community to raise another $750,000.

For me, this journey began over 20 years ago when I became involved in MCT as a board member. My children had been involved in MCT activities and I was amazed at the impact it had on them.

After a few years, I became chairman of the board and assisted MCT the last time they had a capital campaign (over 17 years ago). At that time we were responding to the quest led by Jim Caron to find MCT a “home” for all of its wonderful activities. The fundraising committee was chaired by the late Hal Fraser, who gathered the board with his enthusiastic ways and collectively we took on the challenge of buying the vacated Central School and transforming it into the energy center for all things MCT. This included the intimate theater, which was designed specifically for children’s performances. The Missoula community responded enthusiastically and helped the Missoula Children’s Theatre “Reach a New Stage.”

Recently I was having a heart-to-heart chat with MCT Executive Director Michael McGill about the direction of MCT. A common theme I heard from McGill was, “We’d love to, Craig, but we just don’t have the resources.” MCT, like many other not-for-profits, had reached a point where growth wasn't possible as the time-strapped staff was at maximum capacity, and there weren't enough funds available to hire additional personnel or grow programs.

I was particularly dismayed to find that the rural communities across Montana were cutting back on MCT’s visits due to funding issues. Having grown up in a small farming community north of Great Falls, I knew that the MCT “little red truck” visit was the only theater program that many of these communities had.

What I heard was that MCT was kind of at a standstill. The ideas for growth were numerous, but MCT just didn't have the funds to instigate any of the ideas as they are already operating as leanly as they can. Since I knew the incredibly positive impact MCT has had and does have on so many people, I decided to do something about it.

That “something” was a quarter-million-dollar gift, but with a challenge to MCT to raise the additional three quarters. That is what led to the “One Million Reasons to Say Yes” campaign. The name also came about from my conversations with Cate Sundeen, the MCT development director. Sundeen and I were talking in the lobby of the theater and it came to us that more than a million people have been impacted by MCT and the theater.

It is my goal to complete this campaign so we can reach another million children over the next several years. It is very important to me and the board to continue the legacy of MCT for future generations. That is why my pledge is the biggest gift of my lifetime; I want to make an impact and help ensure MCT’s legacy. I am hopeful you will join me in this quest.

Craig Langel is a certified public accountant in Missoula and volunteer member of the MCT board of directors. He recently pledged to donate a quarter of a million dollars to kick off MCT's "One Million Reasons to Say Yes" campaign. 

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