Gene Mueller's Higher Life: Bob Mikulay of Penfield Children's Center

“I came for a tour as a favor to a couple of friends, and that was ten years ago, and I never left,” Bob says of his passion for Penfield.

CREATED Nov 29, 2012

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Bob Mikulay isn't your typical board chairman.   After all, how many of that ilk gets down on all fours to chat up his clientele, or talk them through the making of a hand turkey?




Mikulay is the chairman of the board at Penfield--the clientele – ages birth to three – kids with developmental needs including autism, injuries like burns, children who simply need day care.

Penfield is a Milwaukee resource that many have heard of but whose mission they'd be hard pressed to define.  Mikulay is among its most visible, articulate advocates.

“Dr. Wilder Penfield, our namesake, said 50 years ago that there’s power in early intervention with children,” says Mikulay. “That’s commonplace today. We all know that. That was sort of breaking news back then. And our job is to help our kids with development needs – physical, emotional, cognitive – reach their full potential.”

The former miller brewing company exec got involved more than a decade ago.

“I came for a tour as a favor to a couple of friends, and that was ten years ago, and I never left.”

Staffers and some 200 community volunteers keep Penfield running--their campus at 26th and wells is admittedly getting full and there's talk of expanding. 

 Many of the kids are from the neighborhood but more are coming from other parts of town, some with very unique needs.

Metrics are kept so others can follow the Penfield model.    President/CEO Chris Holmes says the care continues after the kids age-off at three.

“We are offering our services to charter and choice schools and to different groups out in the community,” says Holmes, “so that we can extend our reach a little bit further and insure that the progress we have made with those children from birth to three continues on for a few more years.”

Penfield's doors are always open, and Mikulay says you're welcome to see what happens for yourself.

“As soon as you walk in here, every member of this staff is very open and welcoming, and they know the value of having anybody and everybody interact with our kids. And so they encourage that as soon as you walk in. And those kids melt your heart. It’s a very easy place to walk in to, and it’s a very hard place to walk out of.”

…especially for the chairman of the board…

“What happened to me happens to everybody who walks through this building and interacts with our staff and most especially with our kids. I tell people all the time, ‘Penfield Children’s Center grabs you by the heart, and then it never lets you go.’”