Twenty Years and Many Moms Make Dream a Reality
Twenty years ago, Fredericksburg resident Doris Ann Sullivan had a dream: a children's museum in Fredericksburg for her grandchildren.
"Doris Ann worked tirelessly on getting the ball rolling, "says Mindi Webster, past president of the Fredericksburg Area Service League (FASL), an early supporter of Sullivan's plan.
"We had an American Girl doll tea, an outdoor program on flight and put on the children's portion of the 225th anniversary celebration of Fredericksburg's founding," remembers Webster.
A Dream Deferred
Sullivan partnered with local organizations (FASL—in its first year at the time) and raised funds, which she eventually donated to the Fredericksburg Area Museum in hopes of a continued children's program. However, she was never able to secure a bricks and mortar location. Without a permanent location, the children's museum dream went on hold.
A New Vision
In 2010, a new group of moms picked up the vision. Childhood friends Jessica Halberg Beringer, Jenny Kelsey DePuy, Christine Palumbo Garman and Emily Williams had several girls-night dinners that led to the founding of the Explore It! Children's Museum board. Shortly thereafter, Kate DuMont, Brooke Kingsley and Kirsten Snead added their talents to the group.
The women did extensive research around the state and eventually created a series of Museum on the Go! exhibits that traveled to many area events. After several years of fundraising and location research, the committee found a new partner with the resources to make their dream a reality: The Children's Museum of Richmond
An Amazing Journey
In the next few months, the Children's Museum of Richmond will open the first Fredericksburg area children's museum facility in Eagle Village.
Fredericksburg Explore It! moms, Jessica Halberg Beringer, Christine Palumbo Garman, Kirsten Snead, and Emily Williams sat down with Fredericksburg Parent and Family last month and shared their amazing journey with us.
Q: When you started with the original concept, what was the vision?
Williams: What inspired me originally were my extensive travels around the U.S. with my husband, musician Keller Williams, and our two young children. For many years, before our kids were in school, we would travel together for weeks at a time on rented tour buses and we would wake up in various cities around the country looking for things to do with our kids during the day. We visited over 40 children's museums during that time frame.
Garman: My vision really came from wanting a place for all families and all children to learn and play together. As an early childhood special educator, I see a huge gap in safe, fun places for families of all types and children of all skill levels to play. Young children learn through play and I just felt that Fredericksburg needed a place for children to explore safely with their families
Q: What was your role in the original plan?
Williams: My original role was in bringing the idea to the table and asking friends and like-minded people to join in. I spent a lot of time on marketing and photographing the Museum on the Go! events. My particular passion was always in the creative side of things and I took the lead on creating our Museum on the Go! exhibits. This involved planning them, researching and purchasing items and working with a variety of tradespeople, such as Jason Gallant of Rappahannock Restoration. I coordinated with Jason to design and build the Build It! Exhibit, which was an under construction house. Jason also built our magnetic fruit trees and chicken coop for the Farm to Table exhibit.
Q: Where is the funding coming from?
Beringer: We have received several gifts from local community members and organizations including the Fredericksburg Area Service League. We have also developed partnerships with local businesses who will sponsor some of the exhibits in the children's museum.
Q: Is the new museum the same vision, or did it become something better or different?
Beringer: When Explore it! partnered with Children's Museum of Richmond, we made sure that our mission and vision were aligned. This was extremely important to us. They have experience and resources to open a satellite location, which is why we were fortunate to partner with them. The Explore it! board members were involved in the planning of our recent fundraiser, Twilight Carniball. We are also assisting with the capital campaign to raise the necessary funds to open the satellite.
Q: What is your goal for the Children's Museum?
Snead: My primary motivation for wanting to bring a children's museum to our community was to reach those children who don't have the opportunity or means to travel to museums in Washington, D.C., or Richmond.
Garman: My hope and dream for the children's museum is that it will be a good representation of our community. I hope that it has many community people involved and provides employment for locals while providing a rich learning environment for all children. After visiting several museums on this journey, I felt that my main hope was that the Fredericksburg Children's Museum would be unique and families would want to come back, not just for a play date but to really learn something new.