Grand Rapids museums fundraise for Newtown children’s museum


The EverWonder Children’s Museum hopes to open a space in Newtown, Conn. where children can think, inquire and wonder about the world around them through hands-on exhibits and demonstrations. Photo via

Children from Sandy Hook Elementary School and the surrounding community have a long healing process ahead of them after the tragedy that took place in December.

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum want to help aid that process.

The three organizations are joining forces to raise money for the EverWonder Children’s Museum in Newtown, Conn. Not yet built, the town is in the fundraising stages for the planned museum. 

GRCM and GRAM plan to donate $1 from of every admission price on Saturday, Jan. 26 to the EverWonder Children’s Museum building efforts, and Grand Rapids Public Museum will also be collecting donations for the project from patrons the same day.

Due to the increased national interest in the museum project, the museum should be built in the next couple of years, said Kristin Chiriatti, president of the EverWonder Children's Museum.

Plans for the EverWonder Children’s Museum include permanent and rotating exhibits on a variety of topics, including electricity and light, motion and sound, weather, space, the human body and life and preserving the environment.

“We are deeply touched and extremely grateful that Robert Dean and the Grand Rapids Children's Museum reached out to us and are working hard to help us achieve our goal,” Chiriatti said. “Mr. Dean's actions have inspired other children's museums to do the same.

“While this has been, and continues to be, a devastating and difficult time for our community, we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support," she said. "And we truly appreciate everything that Grand Rapids is doing for us.

“There was a need for a children's museum in Newtown prior to the events in December, but now that need has grown tenfold," Chiriatti said. "EverWonder Children's Museum will be a safe, cheerful place for our children to play and explore — a place where they can be innocent kids again and where they can associate learning with fun, not fear."

The idea to help collect donations for the EverWonder Children's Museum came after a Grand Rapids child contacted Dean asking how Grand Rapids could help the children of Newtown.

“On the afternoon of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I received a phone call from the nine-year-old son of our board president,” said Robert Dean, executive director of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. “He asked, simply, if there was anything we could do to help.

"We had a board meeting a few days later," Dean said. "‘What could we do that would have a lasting effect?’ challenged one board member. Another spoke about how this event reminded her how much we all need children’s museums and other places where kids can just be kids.

"We talked about the powerful healing, which comes from play," he said. "If we could give them what we have, then, maybe, it might help — at least some.”

The EverWonder Children’s Museum has been in the midst of an awareness campaign for the project and plans to launch its capital campaign this spring. The project has already raised $25,000 through some initial fundraising efforts.

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