South Carolina Aquarium Receives Largest Donation in Organization’s History

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$3M Gift from Zucker Family to Support New Fundraising Initiative the Watershed Fund

The South Carolina Aquarium has received the largest donation in the organization’s history. The $3M gift from the Zucker family was made to the Aquarium’s newest fundraising initiative, the Watershed Fund. The Watershed Fund is designed to position the Aquarium for future growth in the areas of conservation and education while also providing an improved guest experience. The gift will be used toward transformational learning through the expansion of the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, and education programs provided by the Aquarium.

“We’ve only been able to take a limited number of visitors at a time into our Sea Turtle Hospital behind-the-scenes tour,” said Kevin Mills, president and CEO. “Now, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Zucker family, all of our guests and visiting school groups will be able to share in the very moving experience of seeing sea turtles in various stages of recovery. We will also be able to increase our patient capacity and continue to develop innovative new therapies and treatments that already have positioned us as one of the world’s foremost resources for sea turtle rehabilitation. We are thrilled that the Zucker family’s generous gift will allow us to expand our service to school children, and effectively reach 70 percent more students annually throughout South Carolina. We provide an indispensable and complementary resource to the formal classroom experience, and the Zucker family has been a long-time champion of science education in diverse environments.”

The Zucker family has supported the Aquarium since before its opening; Jerry Zucker was a founding board member of the South Carolina Aquarium in 1992 and served as chairman of the board from 2006 to 2008, playing a pivotal role in retiring the Aquarium’s debt. Jerry’s wife, Anita Zucker, was instrumental in developing the Aquarium’s education master plan upon the facility’s opening. Their son, Jonathan, also inspired by his love for the ocean, joined the board in 2009 and was recently elected chairman of the Aquarium’s board of directors. The Zucker family hopes this gift will inspire others in the community to invest in the expansion of the Sea Turtle Hospital and education programs offered by the Aquarium.

“My personal experiences around, in, and under water truly played a role in sparking my love for science and the natural world,” said Jonathan Zucker, South Carolina Aquarium chairman of the board. “The Aquarium plays a very important role in continuing to demystify and expose the seemingly alien creatures and habitat of the marine world -- and the science that makes it tick. It has played such an important role in shaping my adult fascination and has been a tremendous source of inspiration and education for my own children. Needless to say, the South Carolina Aquarium is very near and dear to my heart and my family’s since its founding. We believe that the science-based education found at the Aquarium is critical for inspiring young people, and through this education, helps open the doors of opportunity.”

A portion of the gift – $2.5M – will be used to expand the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital, bringing part of the facility to the first floor of the Aquarium. The hospital is part of the Sea Turtle Rescue Program which rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured sea turtles found along the east coast with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. The expansion will expose guests to the expertise staff provide in caring for sea turtles.

The remaining $500,000 will be used to expand the Aquarium’s current education programs. Program goals include increasing the impact of the award winning paid High School Internship Program, growing the Structured School Program to serve more than 10,500 students annually with free standards based science curriculum, offering paid college internships to expand access for low-income students and increasing community access by extending open admission programs and multiplying the community cares fund offering qualifying audiences free access.

Support for the Watershed Fund is fundamental in helping the Aquarium, a non-profit, continue to grow in its vision of leading the way to connect people with water, wildlife and wild places. Gifts made to the Aquarium are tax deductible and carefully planned gifts can offer significant estate tax and income benefits. For more information on making a gift, contact the Aquarium’s Director of Institutional Advancement, Courtenay Speir at (843) 579-8502 or cspeir(at)scaquarium(dot)org. For more information on the Watershed Fund, visit

Fast Facts:

  •     Zucker family Makes $3M donation to the South Carolina Aquarium.
  •     Gift is largest in Aquarium history and benefits the Aquarium’s new fundraising initiative, the Watershed Fund.
  •     The Watershed Fund donation will support the expansion of the Sea Turtle Hospital and education programs.
  •     Donations to the Aquarium are tax deductible and can offer significant estate tax and income benefits.
  •     For more information contact Courtenay Speir at (843) 579-8502 or cspeir(at)scaquarium(dot)org.

For all media inquiries, please contact Kate Dittloff at (843) 579-8660 or kdittloff(at)scaquarium(dot)org.

About South Carolina Aquarium Watershed Fund:
This six-year campaign, scheduled to run from April 2014 through April 2020, is designed to drive the Aquarium into the future by focusing on our core competencies and key institutional priorities of becoming a fresh voice for Conservation, improving the overall Guest Experience, scaling and sustaining our Education programs, the construction of a new Sea Turtle Hospital, and securing the future of the Aquarium through an Endowment Fund. For more information on the Watershed Fund or the Watershed Society, please contact Samantha Mills, Gifts Officer, at 843.579.8628 or smills(at)scaquarium(dot)org.

About the South Carolina Aquarium:
The South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston’s most visited attraction, features thousands of amazing aquatic animals from river otters and sharks to loggerhead turtles in more than 60 exhibits representing the rich biodiversity of South Carolina from the mountains to the sea. Dedicated to promoting education and conservation, the Aquarium also presents fabulous views of Charleston harbor and interactive exhibits and programs for visitors of all ages.

The South Carolina Aquarium, a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Aquarium is closed Thanksgiving Day, half day Dec. 24 (open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Dec. 25. Admission prices are: Toddlers (2 and under) free; Youth (3-12) $17.95; Adults (13+) $24.95. The Aquarium plus the 4-D Theater experience is free for Toddlers, $22.95 for Children, $29.95 for Adults. The 4-D Theater experience only is $6.95 for Children and Adults, and free for Members. For more information call 843-720-1990 or visit Memberships are available by calling 843-577-FISH.

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