Lillian S. Wells Foundation Donates $5 Million to Top Off the Broward Performing Arts Foundation’s ‘Campaign for the Parker’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Lillian S. Wells Foundation has donated a $5 million gift to complete the Broward Performing Arts Foundation’s $30 million Campaign for the Parker that will provide capital improvements to the iconic Parker Playhouse.

“The Wells family continues to leave an indelible mark on our community and for that, we are incredibly grateful,” said Kelley Shanley, president and CEO of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which has managed the Parker since 2005.  “With their support and the support of all our donors, the reimagined Parker will serve as a cultural, entertainment and education venue for generations to come.”

The Lillian S. Wells Foundation has provided institutional support to the Broward Center for three decades. The Foundation’s first gifts were to the capital campaign that built the theaters 30 years ago. In 2014, a donation from the Wells Foundation created the Lillian S. Wells Backstage Plaza to provide access to excellence in entertainment and education at the Broward Center; and, most recently, its gift to the Campaign for the Parker brought that fundraising effort to its goal and named the hall at Parker Playhouse, the Lillian S. Wells Hall.

“My grandmother Lillian was so shy, I don’t know what she would think about having her name on so many buildings today,” said Barbara Wells, president of the Lillian S. Wells Foundation. “I will always honor the desires of my grandparents and father. I try to support everything they liked. But now, the Parker is for me, and I am really excited about it!”

Parker Playhouse will be transformed with upgrades, renovations and new spaces that will take the popular entertainment venue to the next level. The classic elegance of the Parker and popular continental seating configuration of the theater will be maintained. Many original architectural features will remain intact and the original façade of the building will come to life in the stunning new lobby. Upgraded systems, state-of-the-art equipment, advanced acoustics, and new hospitality experiences, with private donor and premium lounges and a signature bar area in the lobby, will elevate the Parker to a new standard.

“The heritage of the Parker and the legacy of the Wells family have been woven into the cultural fabric of Fort Lauderdale for more than 50 years,” said Richard Welch, chairman of the Board of the Broward Performing Arts Foundation. “Through their contributions, they have made our community better. Their spirit lives on in the Parker and the Broward Center.”  

After receiving funding from the City of Fort Lauderdale to kickstart the Campaign for the Parker, the lead gift came from S. Donald Sussman in whose honor the Sussman Grand Lobby will be named. JM Family Enterprises, Inc. donated $1 million and will be recognized with the naming of the Parker stage. Other million-dollar gifts came from The Peck Foundation, Milwaukee, and Linda Haller and they will be honored with the naming of the Bar in the Sussman Grand Lobby and the VIP Lounge, respectively.  Bank of America, through its community development grant program, provided a grant of $500,000 and will be recognized with the naming of the Guest Services area in the new main lobby. Other major gifts came from; Deborah and Gary Wendt, Mary Jane Harlow Charitable Trust, Dr. Nile and Bette Lestrange and the Slattery Family Foundation.

Renovations to the Parker have begun. As the project will be completed in phases, the entertainment venue is anticipated to remain operational during the renovation. For more information, visit

For more than 25 years, the Broward Performing Arts Foundation has been instrumental in providing support for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The Foundation was established in 1985 to deliver the required private funding to build the Center and create an endowment to sustain its operations. Over the years, the Foundation has successfully raised funds to support the Broward Center’s innovative and diverse programming, arts-in-education initiatives, community engagement activities and capital projects. Prior to the Parker campaign, the Foundation raised $60 million to complete the Encore! capital campaign to renovate, renew and revitalize the Broward Center

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