The Children’s Museum will always hold a special place in my heart. When my children were little, we would caravan with friends to its prior location in an old school building on Navy Hill Drive for afternoons of climbing, painting and playing taxi, grocery store and dress-up. The kid-centric atmosphere provided the perfect haven for moms like my posse and me running short on ideas or supplies for fun and play that are the best tools for learning at that age.
Fast-forward some 12-13 years, and CMoR is one of the best run non-profits in RVA. Now residing in a much larger and more easily accessible facility next door to the Science Museum of Virginia, it has become the only children’s museum in the country to have outlying branches. The Chesterfield and Short Pump locations now bring CMoR’s resources to outer suburban families with small children who rarely venture downtown. These additional locations have been huge successes, and other children’s museums across the country look to our CMoR for advice and guidance.
The success of CMoR, especially through the recent recession, can be attributed to its CEO, Karen Coltrane, and the board who appointed her. In the interest of full disclosure, Karen is a friend dating back to T-ball days at Tuckahoe Little League, but even if she weren’t, I could not help but be impressed. Karen is an expert at seeing opportunities for partnerships and then pursuing them with common sense, integrity and financial strategies. Seriously smart, Karen is also delightful, and she shares her passion for the children of Richmond with anyone who will listen. Last year, Karen was honored by the Richmond YWCA with one of its 2012 Outstanding Women Awards.
In addition to adding new locations of the museum, she has hired specialized staff (like its Director of Parent Engagement, Liz Pierce) to bring unique programming to the Museum. Karen and the board want the Museum to serve all children and their families in the greater Richmond area. To do so, CMoR often provides reduced or free admission to its patrons who can’t afford the $8 general admission fee.
As you can imagine, keeping the doors of the Museum at its three locations open, as well as providing top-notch staff and programming, costs a great deal of money, especially when the Museum extends its summer hours in all locations to 7 p.m. The most recent example of one of the Museum’s win-win partnership solutions is this college tuition raffle that will appeal to a broad cross-section of the Richmond population. For $45 dollars per entry, a family can be entered into a raffle to win 4 years of college tuition from its partner, Virginia529. In Karen’s words,
Last year, the Children’s Museum was able to offer free or reduced admission to 57,000 of our 360,000 visitors thanks to support from the community. To reach even more, we are partnering with Virginia529 to raffle four years of college tuition – so one lucky family will get a free college education AND thousands of children and families will be able to visit the Children’s Museum of Richmond’s three locations over the next year.
With my son’s four years of college tuition looming come the Fall of 2014, I have already purchased my raffle ticket. Even if we don’t win, the cost of the ticket represents a small token of thanks for CMoR’s positive presence in the Richmond community and benefits to our family. If you are still facing the college tuition monster for your babies, why not take a chance? Spread the word to your friends in the same position, as well. Someone has to win the tuition. Why shouldn’t it be you?