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Support grows

By Michelle Kealey

Staff Writer

WESTFIELD The Discover Westfield Children's Museum (DWCM) and members of the community have planned a number of events to continue to raise funds for the Lend a Hand, Be a Star Capital Campaign, which was created early last year to expand the museum and its programs.

The DWCM board of directors was given a match grant of $1 million. The museum was challenged to raise $500,000 by the end of February and an additional $500,000 to create an endowment for the new exhibits.

The DWCM hopes to build a new museum on the grounds of Amelia Park and the Westfield Boys and Girls Club, which will create a children's campus.

The museum was created by teachers and parents in 1994 and it opened its doors in 1997, but has outgrown the space on Elm Street.

So far, the board has announced that the campaign has raised $460,000. However, Jennifer Kinsman, executive director of the DWCM, said that more than that has been raised thus far, but they are not yet announcing the exact number.

Kinsman said that DWCM has been "very fortunate" to have the amount of community involvement it has seen.

She said business owners have approached the museum staff and board looking to help with the campaign and that they did not realize the businesses were on the horizon.

"We did not expect to have donations without asking first," she said, adding that they all figured it was "part of the deal" to seek donors.

She said, for example, that the owners of Friendly Car Wash, Jim and Rick Porter, approached the museum with a donation.

She added that Applebee's will host a pancake breakfast to raise money for the museum.

"They don't normally serve pancakes," she said. "It is pretty phenomenal."

Kinsman said that events came at them that they did not have to plan, which she said was "wonderful."

A number of events have been planned for the spring and summer months.

Gerry Tracy, owner of the Tea Pot Gallery, I Zing Ting Art and Design and GET Heating and Air Conditioning, has coordinated a monthly 50/50 raffle to support the campaign.

Tickets are $2 each or $10 for a book of five.

Raffle tickets can be purchased at a number of local businesses throughout Westfield Amelia Park Ice Arena, Chad's Brothers Restaurant and Catering, Conners, Erin's Own Irish Imports, Lamberts RV and Marine Sales, Magical Spirit, Park Square Reality, Performance Music, Piece of My Art, Platterpus Records, Tea Pot Gallery, Westfield Athenaeum, Westfield Boys and Girls Club, Westfield Printing, Yankee Village Restaurant and the Discover Westfield Children's Museum.

The first drawing took place on May 19. Winners will be chosen once a month and will be announced on television at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays during the City Council meeting.

In addition to the 50/50 raffle, the following events will take place to support the museum's fund-raising efforts:

Applebee's Pancake Breakfast June 11 from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. Applebee's on East Main Street i hosting a breakfast. The event will include balloons and face painting for children. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids 10 and under. Tickets can be purchased at the restaurant and the DWCM.

9th Annual Golf Tournament to benefit the DWCM June 25 at Tekoa Country Club. A shotgun start will begin at 1 p.m. To register, call 572-4014.

Super Phipps Cans for Kids July 9 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Super Phipps Liquor Store will donate all of the proceeds from recycled cans and bottles returned on this day to benefit the Museum. Anyone may drop their cans off at the museum until July 9.

The Kids Exchange Consignment Shop Clothing Drive May through July 21. The shop, located at 6 Juniper Road in Southwick will donate a portion of proceeds from the sale of gently used baby and children's items to the DWCM. Call Aimee at 569-1199 or 562-0560 for store hours and free pick-up.

When the capital campaign began last year, the whole process felt less structured, according to Kinsman.

"It was tough to picture the building and what we would have in it," she said.

She said now, they have a good sense of what it will look like physically and the exhibits they hope to see inside.

She explained that there was a team of volunteers who worked together on the exhibits. The volunteers came up with a long list, which was narrowed down by a smaller group of people.

Kinsman said that the DWCM staff and volunteers quizzed children at length to figure out what the children would like to see in a new museum.

The museum will be built for children ages one through 12.

The ideas have been put out to bid to five designers.

"It's pretty exciting," Kinsman said. "We are getting figures and ideas back."

One of the exhibit that Kinsman and others would like to see in the museum is a space shuttle/rocket with a flight simulator and interactive science elements.

The DWCM is also looking at ideas such as a robotic arm that children could control to fix or manipulate a satellite.

An indoor track may also be part of the new museum.

According to Kinsman, the Boston Science Museum contains an indoor track.

She believes a track would fit into the space and it would allow children to get rid of their energy, which she said would be "better than a time out."

She added that there are definite plans for a multi-cultural exhibit.

All of the proposed exhibits do not exist at the current museum, which is 1,500 square feet.

The new museum will be about 10,000 square feet.

She said that the exhibits will be permanent, but there will be an area of the museum where special exhibits can be cycled through.

Many of the programs offered at the new location will include science, art and music programs. She said the three subjects "is what seems to get kids excited."

Kinsman added that the museum staff will work with local teachers to create programs that complement the curriculum.

Once the museum expands, it will have enough space to take in larger groups and field trips, according to Kinsman.

"We won't have any limitations," she said, adding that it will be easier to appeal to outside areas. "One of our goals is to become regional."

Kinsman said the number of daily visitors has increased since the campaign began last year. She also said that there has already been increased interest from people in other communities such as Agawam, West Springfield, Springfield, Holyoke and Southampton.

The museum will most likely expand its hours and will need a bigger staff when it opens, but Kinsman said those details have not been set. She also said that it has not been determined whether membership and admission costs will increase.

Kinsman said that a ground-breaking has not been set at this time, but believes it will take one year to build once the construction begins.

"It's been a whirl wind year," she said. "When we started we knew we would bring the project to completion."