Volume One


Northwestern Bank


Michael McHorney


Michael McHorney

Executive Director Michael McHorney believes in the power of play. It’s this passion for growth and learning that has led the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire to become a critical part of downtown revitalization, and encouraged him to start Together Chippewa Valley, a coalition of nonprofits dedicated to collaborating through tough times.

At the root of Michael McHorney’s success as a leader is one thing: his passion for helping others grow — both literally and figuratively.

In his role as executive director of the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, he believes in the formative power of play, which helps kids around the Chippewa Valley develop their bodies, minds, social-emotional regulation, executive functioning, and critical thinking skills. Amid the pandemic, McHorney learned that playing well together can lead to meaningful — and lasting — collaborations that help our community push through adverse times.

“To me, the success of this community means that our families can be successful,” McHorney said, “children can be successful, and the future of our community — but also of the world — can be impacted by that.”

Not only has McHorney spearheaded the children’s museum’s bold expansion project, but in the spring of last year, he played a critical role in organizing Together Chippewa Valley, a coalition of 19 local nonprofit organizations that collaborated to ensure their survival when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The coalition raised over $180,000 and has now blossomed into a lasting commitment to collaboration, creating tighter bonds across nonprofit organizations in the Chippewa Valley.

“It was really important to show that unity, that we were together in this,” he said. “Nonprofits have been so collaborative in this community for many, many years. And this was an opportunity to take that to the next level and really take a moment of misery … and turn it into really a moment of magic. And I think that’s really what we created.”

“We as people are always working toward making sure we do leave a lasting impact, wherever it may be… One way that I can make a difference in the world is to do what I do because of others.”

This isn’t the first time McHorney has created moments of magic in the Chippewa Valley. Since the Eau Claire native and UW-Eau Claire grad accepted the position of executive director in 2014, he has asserted the importance of children’s museums in the Chippewa Valley. According to McHorney, the children’s museum annually contributes $2.2 million back into the community. They attract visitors from 42 different counties in Wisconsin and from 43 U.S. states.

“The children’s museum can bring them together just by existing,” he said. “And it’s even neat to see when children come from outside of our community and meet children from this community, from all over the world.”

McHorney previously worked as center director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley and as assistant director of Literacy Chippewa Valley. If there’s one thing he has learned from his leadership experience, it’s that putting other people first comes first. “What drives me and what makes me wake up and get out of bed every day and go to work is me having the ability to make a difference for others,” he said, “and do work on behalf of others.”

McHorney lives by something his father would tell him: To leave things the same (or better) than how you found them. He takes that saying to heart with everything he does.

“We as people are always working toward making sure we do leave a lasting impact, wherever it may be,” he said. “For me, it’s one way that I can make a difference in the world is to do what I do because of others.”


Dr. Abel Zurob
Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton
Michael McHorney